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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