Six Reasons Why Many Full-time Pastors Will Soon Be Part-time

Let’s begin with some prefatory comments. There is a saying so common that it has almost become cliché: There is no such thing as a part-time pastor.

I get it. Many bi-vocational and co-vocational pastors feel like they are on call 24/7 regardless of their employment status. For this article, I am referring to compensation rather than hours on the job. Many full-time compensated pastors will soon receive part-time compensation. Here are six reasons why this trend is accelerating.

1. Declining church income. This reason is the most obvious, but it is a reason that is becoming more common. And the number of churches unable to afford full-time compensated pastors since the pandemic has grown significantly. The number of bi-vocational pastors is already growing rapidly.

2. The pandemic caused pastors to re-evaluate their priorities. Sam Rainer refers to our current reality as “the great reshuffling.” The pandemic prompted many people, including pastors, to evaluate their lives and priorities. Many pastors are already choosing to become co-vocational (choosing to be part-time compensated even though the church can afford full-time compensation).

3. Greater priority on their families. This reason is a subset of number two. As pastors reflected on their priorities during the pandemic, many came away with a commitment to spend more time with their families. For a number of pastors, this move required an intentional decision to work part-time at the church.

4. Technology and side gigs have made other part-time vocations more accessible. I’ve known pastors to drive for Uber, deliver groceries, coach, teach online, code software, and many other vocations that were not available in the recent past. In many of these side vocations, pastors can set their own schedules.

5. There is a growing trend of hiring part-time staff. These part-time staff can pick up many of the responsibilities of pastors if the pastors choose to move part-time. I know several churches that are adding part-time staff who work as little as five to ten hours a week.

6. Many pastors desire not to be dependent on the church for all of their income. Frankly, many churches are fickle. They can demoralize or dismiss pastors for the most absurd reasons. One pastor was threatened with termination if he did not change his eschatological view of the millennium even though his position was not contrary to the church’s doctrinal statement. Pastors no longer want to be at risk of losing all of their income just because an influential member doesn’t like them anymore.

We at Church Answers will continue to monitor this trend. It is definitely a growing trend that will change the way we lead churches and do ministry.

Posted on April 11, 2022


With nearly 40 years of ministry experience, Thom Rainer has spent a lifetime committed to the growth and health of local churches across North America.
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13 Comments

  • Daniel Schultz says on

    I was bi-vocational for 17.5 years of being a lead Pastor. It was hard, but doable. My prayer is that we don’t all become hard core work-aholics trying to make ends meet but that our needs be met with a healthy work-life balance. And that we have great impact into the kingdom of God.

  • Dear Rainer,
    Thank you for the information. It is true, there is a “Great reshufflement” in church ministry, particularly the pastoral line. There is a down turn of income and if a pastor solely depend on the church for income, there may be tendency where he may be stranded.
    However, I am of the opinion that God’s work receives God’s pay. The pastor should not depend on the church for pay but ask God for a guide for he should be doing to aid in meeting his needs and not to be a liability
    Thank you so much.

  • Dan Birchfield says on

    Great list, brother Thom. I transitioned to bi-vocational six years ago at age 54. Number 6 on your list was an issue, but allow me to add a 7th; extreme ministerial burnout. After 30 years of ministry I was beat down and burnt out to the point of quitting the ministry. However, the call to preach the gospel prevailed. I now work full-time for our local school system and pastor a small congregation that could not afford a full-time pastor. God has done a wonderful work in my life and in the church where I am pastor. Bi-vocational ministry has been an awesome experience. God bless you all.

  • I totaly agree that pastors becoming part-time, but in our society this has now led to many of them nowadays performing fake miracles on the pulpit for them to be paid so as they can continue up lift their part-time businesses hence grieving the Holly spirit,I think we should just believe in the word that”seek yee first the kingdom of God……”in this we shall be proved faithful.

  • Bob Myers says on

    I see this trend. And I can see the benefits of it. But how do you help churches who can no longer support a full-time pastor face reality? That has to be a tough pill for a congregation to swallow.

    The second question I have is how does a church that is transitioning from a full-time pastor to a bi or co-vocational position attract a pastoral candidate, especially when there are so many open positions? Does the congregation assist in finding additional part-time employment? In fairness to the pastor, who picks up the tab for benefits – health, disability, and retirement?

    • The first is a difficult critter to wrangle. A church that has had full-time clergy forever will have trouble moving to part-time support. What it takes is a pastor who is able to help the congregation take more of the day-to-day parts of the ministry on.

      The second question is tough. In my experience, and mostly anecdotal, the benefits will have to be negotiated on a case by case basis. It’s not unlike my present situation: I have health benefits as a retired military member and under the Veterans Administration, I negotiated with my parish that would not pay healthcare for me. My choice and, while I could demand healthcare, the ~$20,000 for insurance would mean that I could not answer their call. As with most things, in a bi-vocational position it is incumbent on the minister to be their own advocate and know what are deal breakers. But, because I am in a denomination there is no option on disability and retirement – those are a standard rate for all clergy (and not cheap either – 18.5% of my salary) paid to our denominational insurance and retirement folks.

      As for employment, that is a tough nut to crack. I can’t imagine having my church try to find part-time employment for me.

  • I agree with this article 100%. This is why myself and another pastor friend of mine have started the EntrePastors platform (entrepastors.com). We want to help pastors position themselves to be prepared to not only “survive” this coming trend, but to THRIVE, both for the health of their families and the churches they lead.

  • Reginald Gabel says on

    Retired at 63 after being FT for years…. Retired for stressed related issues… (no regrets of serving – just hurt for the church) After getting my health back to somewhat normal, I began serving a small rural church that could not find anyone to come. Typical rural church as for size, There are 4 other Baptist church each about 5 to 7 miles from our church in each direction. The several that came and preached would not come for the amount they could pay, and yes it is low. We average 25 each Sunday with 44 regular attenders. We have several who are truck drives, several who work shifts at a nursing home and several factory workers who work every other weekend. In our association we have 85% bi-vocational pastors, and it is going. But we are not an ‘elderly church’. I am the 2nd oldest person in the church at 68, my wife is the 4th oldest at 64. We have at least 6 kids under 12 each Sunday… of course we would have 14 if they all came the same Sunday. We are having to minister and do outreach in a different way to get people involved…. it is hard but, they are willing to try new things… I am basically leading them through a revitalization and they are willing.

  • Paul Ladd says on

    The last one is a pretty big factor. My dad was a minister for more than 40 years, and was often “one elders’ meeting or disgruntled old biddy” away from being fired. (His words.) A couple times, that’s what happened. My mother admonished me never to “be dependent on the church for your income,” and she had a good point. In churches with no accountability, that kind of thing can happen, and often does.

  • Lanuwapang says on

    Thank you sir for sharing about this trend. And we believe it will be for the good of the people of God because He is good all the time.

  • Thom, another reason is the apparent dearth of trained young pastors coming up through the ranks. Some of us older guys are not ‘hanging on’ but are moving in to fill pulpits or continue to lead and help the churches and people we have grown to love along until they can find a new pastor with more youthful vigor. Not an easy task for a small or midsize assembly. We do not want to be full-time anymore, the full load to keep the assembly moving forward advancing in mission and vision post pandemic. But my experience allows for the opportunity for me to continue to lead or support local lay leaders until someone comes along who can fill the role. And if -as you suggest- he/she may choose to be part-time (and if it proves agreeable to the new senior leader) they may keep some of us around to assist and support for a season to allow them to focus their time and energy to review, realign, retrain, reshape, renew the vision and forge ahead with freshness in local ministry.