- 17 churches
- 18 pastors
- 87 individual congregants (16 when grouped)
The call to pastoral ministry and education
What constitutes “the call” is never a simple answer, nor is it usually a straightforward path. One might feel the call at a young age, but not seek it out until later in life. While others may not feel the call until they’re adults with families and careers. For others, it’s not a simple step by step process, but a gradual one. There was great diversity in the responses regarding the call. One pastor said that they had the call at an early age but they weren’t “worthy of having”, and didn’t head it until they were “saved” later in life. Another worked with Catholic nuns in Latin America, but eventually sought out ministry work outside of the catholic Church, because she couldn’t be ordained as a priest. Another felt the call after praying to God if their bills were fully paid, then they would serve him. Surely enough, all of the bills were paid off and they began the path of ministry. These are just a few of the examples of the personal experiences shared by the pastors.
Of the 18 pastors interviewed:
- 11 (61%) felt the call as an adult
- 6 (33%) felt it as a child
- 1 (6%) stated that it was a gradual process.
- 4 (22%) didn’t even originally plan to go into Parish ministry .
The training and education needed to go into ministry was also diverse, but more evenly distributed:
- 7 (38 %) earned an MDiv after college
- 5 (27%) earned an MDiv after a Masters or Doctorate
- 4 (22%) didn’t have an MDiv, but were recorded or otherwise had continuing education classes
- 2 (11%) had degrees in Theology, rather than Divinity
Other Jobs and hours
The other aspect of the pastors more diverse than the details of their calling and education were their secular jobs. Almost everyone had some sort of other job or career that they divided between their time at their respective churches. Some worked full-time; others part-time; and others had odd jobs or were once bi-employed in the beginning of their ministry. Some worked at their own schedules and others had 5 day a week 9-5’s.
- 5 (28%) worked in retail (management, food and customer service)
- 3 (17%) worked in healthcare
- 2 (11%) worked in education
- 1 (6%) in administration/networking
- 1(6%) is in finance
- 1(6%) is in sales
- 1(6%) is in communications/media
- 1 (6%) is a stay at home parent
- 1(6%) has no secular job, but works in multiple churches
- 1(6%) volunteers at a museum while collecting SS and retirement from a former church
- 1 (6%) was bi-vocational in the beginning of their ministry, but currently doesn’t work
Of these jobs:
- 5 (28%) considered themselves part-time
- 7 (38%) were full-time
- 2 (11%) were salaried
- 1(6%) said their job was project based
- 2 (11%) stated their hours fluctuate.
Time spent at their respective churches :
- 2 (11%) spend 5-10 hours weekly
- 2 (11%) spend 10-15 hours
- 3 (17%) spend 15-20 hours
- 5 (28%) spends 20 hours or more
- 5 (28%) didn’t definitively answer (Ie: hours depend on what’s needed, certain things like driving are not counted towards ministry, etc.)
- 1 (6%) said that they spent 8-12 hours any given week.
One thing to note is that while they are all considered part-time, many stated that they realistically work closer to full time; primarily in pastoral care, running errands for the church, and preparing sermons.
In regard to the congregations, virtually everyone knew of their pastors other jobs and were generally very understanding of the challenges that come with having a bi-vocational pastor, which will be discussed later.
The congregations (as a whole, not individually) on the time they think their pastors spend on ministry:
- 1 (6%) said 5-10 hours
- 1 (6%) said 10-15
- 9 (56%) said 20 hours or more
- 5 (31%) didn’t definitively answer
Priority ministry tasks and shared responsibilities
Everyone, both the pastors and the congregations, firmly believed that there are certain tasks and aspects related to ministry that were most expected of a church leader.
Among the pastors
- The most common task answer was preparing a sermon/pastoring/worship, with 12 (66%) of the pastors stating it.
- The second most common was Pastoral care with 9 (50%)
- 4 (22%) answered with being a leader/pastoral relationships
- 3 (17%) did not give examples
- 3 (17%) answered with outreach
- 2 (11%) with administration
- All of the following had one each: Eucharist/communion, teaching, creating a good church environment, funerals and marriages, making one accessible to the congregation, finances, and prayer.
Among the congregations (as a group):
- Preparing a sermon/pastoring/worship was the most common with 12 (75%).
- Pastoral care with 9 (56%)
- Being a leader with 6 (38%)
- 3 (19%) congregations did not answer
- 2 (13%) said outreach
- 2 (13%) said administration
- All of the following had one each: prayer, making one accessible to the congregation, attendance, self-care, dedication to the youth of the church.
With the exception of one church with co-pastors, all of the churches didn’t have someone who could take care of all ministerial responsibilities. As such, the majority of the churches had members of the congregation (as individuals) who took on various tasks if the pastor wasn't able to do so.
- 11 (13%) were in administration
- 9 (10%) were in outreach
- 9 (10%) worked in education (sunday school, etc.)
- 8 (9%) were currently or formerly a deacon
- 8 (9%) were currently or formerly a treasurer
- 8 (9%) worked as a secretary
- 8 (9%) of the interviewees had no role in the church/are regular church attendees
- 7 (8%) were a part of the ministry and council
- 7 (8%) worked in music
- 6 (7%) assisted with pastoral care
- 6 (7%) assisted the pastor (writing sermons, occasionally pastoring, sunday worship, etc.)
- 5 (6%) worked in maintenance/groundskeeping
- 5 (6%) are on the church committee
- 5 (6%) handled funerals and marriages
- 4 (5%) worked on the boards of trustees
- 3 (3%) were Vice moderators
- 3 (3%) assist with general church help
- Other roles taken on by only one or two people included roles like communications, media, announcements, newsletters, superintendents, board member, and kitchen staff.
What doesn’t get done and Conflicts
However, even with the best efforts of the pastor and congregation, not everything is able to be done; sometimes with the pastors secular job causing conflict with scheduling.
- 5 (27%) stated that there were no conflicts between their job and their church; often sitting job schedule flexibility
- 5 (27%) did not answer the question
- 4 (22%) said there are some scheduling conflicts, but that there is usually someone willing to take on a task at the church.
- 1 (6%) said there was in the beginning, but not anymore
- 1 (6%) said the conflict mostly comes from the secular job and not from the church
- 1 (6%) said that there was in their previous job, but not currently.
The congregation answers were rather unique, as most said that there was no conflict between their pastors ministry and their jobs (usually due to letting them know if they are going to miss anything or having flexible hours); but most who said they did have see a potential conflict usually referred to the pastors well being of balancing two vocations. Or about their pastor’s general demeanor and style.
Congregation responses (as a whole, not individually)
- 10 (63%) said there were no conflicts
- 2 (13%) did not answer
- 1(6%) said that the pastor wants to be full time, but they are worried about them burning from already having a full-time job
- 1(6%) said that their pastor was too serious in their vocation
- 1(6%) was worried that their ministry could potentially take away time from their family
- 1(6%) stated that they thought their minister was putting too much focus on non-ministry tasks and personal life.
As aforementioned, there were tasks that the congregation felt that, despite the minister's best efforts, can’t realistically be met.
- 5 (31%) did not give an answer
- 4 (25%) said that there wasn’t much that couldn’t get done
- 3 (19%) said that there was limited communication between the church and the pastor
- 2 (13%) said general time/schedule constraints
- all of the following had one each: limited outreach, pastoral care, business/finances, limited church and social events, no youth group, no bible study, lack of mentorships
Advantages and Disadvantages of being bivocational
As time goes on, the need for ministers to have a second job in addition to their call is growing. The fact of the matter is, changes in church attendance and public religious identification greatly affect the probability of one being a full time minister. Even Southern Baptists, the largest Protestant denomination in the United States at around 16 million, increasingly have the need for bivocational ministers. With bivocation comes both advantages and disadvantages with one's ministry; as well as what seminaries ought to do to prepare their studn=ents with the reality of bivocation.
Advantages of being bivocational among the pastors:
- 9 (50%) said that having a secular job enhances their ministry (“real world” experience, meeting people out of their church, etc.)
- 2 (11%) said schedule flexibility
- 2 (11%) said being a part time minister is easier on the church
- 2 (11%) said being bivocational forces one to be honest about their abilities (what they can and can’t realistically do)
- 1 (6%) said working in multiple churches gives the opportunity to expand ministry
- 1 (6%) said that being a part time minister increase the availability of other churches.
Disadvantages of being bivocational among the pastors:
- 9 (50%) said there was some schedule/time management conflict
- 3 (17%) said lack of time for church
- 2 (11%) said financial compensation for ministry
- 2 (11%) said lack of time with family
- 2 (11%) said there was a lengthy commute
- 2 (11%) stated general stress
- All of the following had one each: limited outreach, didn’t like their secular job, worry for the future, didn’t answer, and that there was no disadvantage with being bivocational
Advantages of being bivocational according to the congregation members
- 10 (11%) said that the minister having a secular job enhances their ministry
- 8 (9%) said having a part time minister is easy on the church financially
- 3 (4%) said having a part time pastor makes the congregation as a whole more active in the church
- The following have 1 answer each: pastor uses limited time proficiently, schedule flexibility, the church has greatly improved with the pastor, didn’t answer, views part time ministry as a stepping stone into full time ministry, no work overload for pastor, having co-pastors is equivalent to having 1 full time pastor, being part time shows that the pastor really wanted to be there.
Disadvantages of being bivocational according to the congregation members
- 7 (8%) said stated lack of time for church/limited schedule
- 4 (5%) didn’t answer
- The following had one response each: pastor has a lack of time for family, not having someone full-time, lack of age diversity at church, lower expectations of pastor since they’re part time, lots of pressure on pastor, limited payroll, limited outreach
What seminaries should do to better prepare students
- 7 (39%) said being honest about the realities of ministry (the future of the church, lack of payment, etc.)
- 4 (22%) said that the schools should bring in bivocational pastors to tell of their experiences
- 3 (17%) said that there should be an emphasis on counseling, support, and mentorships for the students
- 2 (11%) said to find a non-religious job while one is in seminary
- 2 (11%) didn’t answer
- The following had one answer each: student’s individual experiences should be embraced, teaching time management, bivocation doesn’t mean one is a failure, finding a job that compliments ministry, enhancing one's secular resume to show valid pastor experience, self-care, teaching more practical lessons and less theory.
- 3 (3%) said to find a job willing to be flexible
- 3 (3%) said time management
- 2 (2%) said there should be more emphasis on outreach
- 2 (2%) said that the secular job should be part time
- 2 (2%) said that there should be an emphasis on building communication skills
- 2 (2%) said there should be an internship along with studies
- The following had one answer each: expand the meaning of ministry, be open about the pastors needs and demands, the pastor should know about the congregation's expectations, that what is going to work greatly depends on the congregations geographical location, learn practical people skills, learn a vocation alongside seminary, realizing talents that can make a living, prayer, organizational skills, the schools should ease any nervousness about being bivocational, the pastor should learn to set limits, that ministry is not merely a job but a calling, teach about handling finances, and didn’t answer