Multisite and Bivocational Ministry

One of the topics we discussed when I met with some local pastors yesterday was the megachurch-and-branch-campus model used by churches like Saddleback and North Point. (This model is also important to Menlo Park Presbyterian Church, as discerned by Christianity Today but — curiously — not the PC(USA) in its own reporting.)

None of the pastors I met with were very enthusiastic about this model. We can look at a John Ortberg or an Andy Stanley and recognize what great preachers they are, but it’s hard to be enthusiastic about being a “campus pastor” with modest or minimal opportunities to preach. (This emphasis on sermonizing is reflected in the polity of the PC(USA), where pastors are “teaching elders” — and before that, “ministers of Word and sacrament.”)

But the pastors I met with were all full time ministers. There are reasons to believe we are not the wave of the future. Rather, the church seems to be moving toward a model of bivocational pastors, where pastors have a day job to pay the bills, in addition to their vocation as a pastor, as described last year in the Presbyterian Outlook. This week, the Atlantic wondered about this trend:

Working multiple jobs is nothing new to pastors of small, rural congregations. But many of those pastors never went to seminary and never expected to have a full-time ministerial job in the first place. What’s new is the across-the-board increase in bi-vocational ministry in Protestant denominations both large and small, which has effectively shut down one pathway to a stable—if humble—middle-class career.

What happens when you combine this trend with the multi-campus, multi-venue model with the trend toward part-time ministry?

(This article is cross-posted from Pastor Luke’s blog.)

One Future for the Church

I admit I haven’t followed the UMC Conference as closely as I probably ought to have. I’m still learning, well, pretty much everything about the United Methodist side of Jewel Lake Parish, and denominational activities aren’t at the top of my list. Still, it’s something I have some interest in, so I tried to pay at least a little attention to news about the conference.

Here is a video that was shown as part of the GC2012 Connectional Table Presentation:

(The program is about three quarters of an hour, so unless you’re really interested, I’d recommend you scrub forward and watch the two minutes that begin at 40:15. Or you can go directly there by clicking this link.)

The video is concerned especially with the future of the UMC, or one possible future for the UMC, but it could be about the PC(USA) just as well.

That doesn’t have to be the future of the church, but for two many congregations, it will be. God is doing amazing things in the world—not just overseas, but in our country as well. But God won’t force it on us. If we refuse to be part of it, God will use other churches. So the question for us, and really every church, is whether or not we are willing to move forward into God’s great adventure.