Full Time Pastor, Part Time Clergy

Earlier this month, I had a late dinner at Denny’s with good friends in the ministry.
We talked about our ministries and things we are witnessing in the faith community and things that we like to see happening, not only in our churches, but the faith community, overall.

We reflected on the fact that too many pastors lock themselves in their offices. The early Methodist movement grew and grew with the circuit riders. But the face of Methodism changed when the pastor changed his horse for a house. Now people expect pastors to be in their study. Don’t get me wrong, I feel that having office hours are extremely important. But it bugs the heck out of me when pastors and parishioners sit and discuss about how to reach “outsiders” without ever engaging people outside of the church campus. If you want to know what “outsiders” are looking for in a church, don’t you think it’ll help to engage an “outsider” in a conversation?

We then talked about the financial problems that many churches are facing, like the declining of funds and demands of pastor’s salary.
Someone then said, “Maybe I should find a full-time job and do ministry part-time, to help both the church and personal finances.”
He didn’t mean that he’d go find any other job, but a job that will help his ministry. A job that would force him to interact with people of the community and non-church goers, or members of other churches and faiths. A job that would get him in the community, not chain him to the church office.

The conversation has been echoing in my mind here and there.
I mean, after all, that was Paul’s way of doing ministry, wasn’t it? Paul was a tent-maker. It wouldn’t be far-fetched to think that Paul was preaching while making someone’s tent.
He was able to reach many more people by not containing himself in the synagogues and looking beyond the Hebrew people. And probably and easy way into conversations with Gentiles.
“You need a tent? I can make you a tent, and while you wait, I have a story for you to listen to…”

Jesus was a carpenter. He knew all about getting specks of sawdust in your eyes and planks of wood.

Paul was a tent maker. Jesus was a carpenter. Peter was a fisherman.
And today, we have professional clergy…

One thought on “Full Time Pastor, Part Time Clergy

  1. I have had that same thought. Often. And I can see the day coming. While there is an important role for clergy to be available for community things, visitation, family… the expectation that it has to be clergy and not a layperson ministering is part of what is handicapping the church. It would mean a dramatic change in the way the UMC works…one I am not sure we are willing to make. We have too much pride in our educated clergy and the churches that have working pastors tend to not have preachers with MDivs. We kinda look down on that even though I think we would have a great foundation to preach from if we did that. The argument that it is easy for the pastor to do ministry because that is his/her job would be a lot harder to make. Can we envision a way of functioning that would make this possible? Would our lay people step up?

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