The Value of Part-time Pastors

I have attended a variety of churches over the years, and one of the common things I see is that the church is almost always lead by a full-time pastor.  These men and women tend to be people who have spent four or more years in college to learn the business of reading and interpreting the Bible, growing a congregation, and techniques of preaching.  This isn’t to say they don’t study a lot of other things, but they do tend to turn the church into a business.  There are secretaries, lead and assistant pastors, boards, etc, etc, etc.

I have been blessed to spend a few years, now, in a church where we only have a part-time pastor, who works a full-time job as well.  Yes, I said “blessed”.  When was the last time your pastor had to deal with foul-mouthed co-workers?  How often does your pastor risk losing a million dollar contract if a deadline is missed?  How often does your pastor get sent out of town at the last minute for reasons that have nothing to do with the church?  There is value in having a pastor who experiences the same things you do in daily life.

The thing that strikes me as odd is the fact that Paul was also a part-time evangelist.  His day job was tent maker.  He traveled from town to town, making tents and preaching the gospel.  This is very different from modern times, where you may have a traveling evangelist, and there’s either a fee to get this person to stop by your church, or their is an offering collected.  Don’t get me wrong, I think that someone who travels shouldn’t have to lose money in order to help people out.  On the other hand, when we send missionaries overseas, we never expect the people they’re visiting to fork over the cost of travel, food, and lodging.

At some point, it seems that we changed the church from being a body of believers to an organization.  I think part-time pastors may be a good way to shift away from that.  If the lead pastor simply doesn’t have time to do everything, the body starts coming together to fill in the gaps, and a congregation becomes a body, rather than a couch potato.

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4 Responses to “The Value of Part-time Pastors”

  1. Sentinel Says:

    You make valid points, and I agree with a lot of what you say about the dangers of the church becoming too institutional. I would suggest a few ideas as counters, though:

    There is a value in having a pastor wholly committed to his ministry and able to focus completely on it. If it’s a full-time occupation, then you’re not caught between demands of work and ministry.

    In a 2005 survey in the UK which asked Christians “What’s wrong with the church?”, the number one issue was insufficient pastoral contact. Decreasing the hours that a minister can spend visiting and discipling other members of the church will only exacerbate this problem.

    That being said, however, I think experience of the day-to-day troubles of other church members is valuable. I find it deeply ironic that, for instance, a celibate Catholic priest is called on to give marriage counselling. I’m not knocking the Catholic church at all, btw, I’m just saying that I think there is an important role for both part-time and full-time ministry.

    • WingedPanther Says:

      I agree that a part-time pastor would need to work quite actively to ensure that the body is functioning as a whole. I’ve seen instances where a full-time pastor is expected to be someone who knows how to deal with EVERY situation. The fact that they have the time to attempt this doesn’t help things.

      I’ve got good friends who are Catholic, as well as those who are Baptist, Presbyterian, etc. From what I’ve seen, all branches of Christianity have their strengths and weaknesses. I agree, as well, that there are some very definite advantages to having a full-time paster.

  2. Sentinel Says:

    As another thought:

    I moved country in July last year, and thus I also moved church. I’m really impressed by our vicar at my current church: he’s an extremely capable man, but very much content to stay in the background and fill in when needed. If someone in the church has an idea for a ministry that they are inspired to do, his response will generally be: “Great! Make it happen. Let me know if you need support on anything specific, but you take charge of it.” In the same way, he’ll often fill in for worship on whatever instrument is needed (guitar/piano/drums) but never leading worship: that is an area where other people take responsibility.

    I hope I’m not giving the impression that he takes a back seat – that’s not the case. But he does have a great knack for encouraging members of the church to get involved and feel personally responsible for all aspects of the church’s ministry. It’s really been an extraordinary model of empowering leadership, and the result is a much closer and more involved community of believers – as well as less chance of personal burn-out… 🙂

    • WingedPanther Says:

      What you are describing is a man who has the gift of serving. It’s a wonderful gift, that rarely gets much recognition, but is incredibly valuable to the body.

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