As the economy continues to stretch budgets, more churches are turning to bivocational pastors—those who hold a second job in addition to ministering—to meet their needs.
According to Ray Gilder, national coordinator for the Southern Baptist Bivocational and Small Church Leadership Network, bivocational pastors play a crucial role in the church by ministering to churches that can’t afford full-time pastors, and their numbers are growing.
Gilder, who was meeting with bivocational pastors at the Southern Baptist Convention’s annual meeting last week in Orlando, Fla., told USA Today that about half of Southern Baptist churches currently rely on bivocational ministers. Almost all of these are small churches, often in out-of-the-way places that don’t get the spotlight.
Many of these preachers had already established careers when they felt called to ministry. Andy Courtney, pastor of Bledsoe Creek Baptist Church in Bethpage, Tenn., has been a truck driver for 16 years and a pastor for 4-1/2 years.
"I drive a truck to pay the bills," he said, "but my job, my calling, is the pastorate."
But with the tough job market for pastors, Gilder is also telling young pastors looking for their first jobs to be prepared for bivocational ministry. He tells them to make sure they have a marketable skill that will allow them to take ministry positions that may not be full time.
Many of these pastors do not consider their positions to be temporary, though. Bivocational ministry has a biblical precedent in Paul, who built tents in addition to preaching and starting churches.
"Bivocational ministry is a calling," said Bo Brown, who works for the Social Security administration in addition to his role as pastor of Community Baptist Church in Maylene, Ala. "It's not something that you do until your church gets bigger and you don't have to do it anymore." [usatoday.com, 6/20/10]