Church

The Clock Is Ticking

I have a friend for whom the clock is ticking at her current job. Her position is transitioning to part-time in less than a month, and she is urgently looking for another full time gig someplace else. She’s 15 years into this gig.

I feel like the clock is ticking for all of us. I know teachers who find out in May whether they’ll have a job come September. I know architects moonlighting as Uber drivers because projects have dried up. It’s not about the particular circumstances of this or that job, but about a large shift taking place in the nature of work itself wherein a “job” is not going to provide the stability it once did. That includes church jobs.

In the church we talk about “tent-making” and “bi-vocational” pastors, those in our profession who aren’t drawing a full-time salary from a congregation but who have a non-church profession that allows them serve the church part-time. The problem with that arrangement is that, while the church job description may be “part-time,” the work rarely is. Ministry has a sneaky way of claiming all of you.

I don’t think bi-vocational is the next paradigm for the church to pursue. Instead, I’m wondering more and more if the pattern of freelance work can’t help both pastors and churches in this era. Even those of us in full-time installed calls will benefit from the ownership and urgency demanded of freelance work, the need to always be hustling and creating new work that meets real needs and adds real value.

I guess I’m wondering about the relative importance of the work of pastoral ministry compared to the role. Secure roles are disappearing from work life everywhere, and I don’t think the church will (or should) be immune from that change.

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17 thoughts on “The Clock Is Ticking

  1. Interesting concept! When I started at my first congregation (troubled, conflict-ridden), I structured my supply salary there on an hourly contracting basis. Meaning, pay for deliverables and billable hours only, with bi-weekly invoicing. That model can work. Then again, there’s the reality of consulting, in which competition for contracts is a significant factor. How would you see that impacting pastoral collegiality?

    • I’m working on a youth ministry project with several colleagues in which we all share ownership and all are “pastors” to one another’s students. It’s the most collegial thing I’ve ever been a part of. But it started as an extra project for all of us.

      • That sounds most excellent, Rocky! And if it were not “extra,” but primary income? As with so many things, it is the Spirit of the endeavor that matters.

  2. Very true! And it’ll take helping our COM’s and Presbyteries shift in their responses to clergy. For example, many clergy can’t make ends meet on a FT call with the minimums as they are. But taking on other work is frowned upon from COM’s and Presbyteries and congregations. How do we shift these mentalities. And also address our living wage issues? Part of the big soup of thinking on all of this.

  3. Donna Supinger says:

    I think you’re wrong. In our churches (Baptist, non denominational) we’ve seen a lot of Pastors who have to work other jobs and they can’t devote their full time and attention to their flock. If at all possible financially churches should have full time Pastors who don’t have to work other jobs.

      • Blair Bertrand says:

        You don’t think that this post might relate to your reading post? As in, the long obedience in the same direction that Peterson advocates for, the kind of patient working the angles, requires a secure set apartness which is antithetical to freelancing?

  4. I’ve started to think of that long obedience in the same direction that Peterson is so famous for articulating less in terms of a particular pastoral position in a single church and more in terms of a body of work. Also, I’ve started to doubt that “in the same direction” is the best counsel for church leadership in an era that is demanding experimentation as much as this one is.

  5. Pingback: Should Pastors Embrace The Gig Economy? Should Churches? | YoRocko!

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