Several years ago, Intuit published its 2020 Report. One of the key observations was, “By 2020, 40% of American workers will be independent contractors.” A significant part of the population will be contingent workers who will piece together various paid opportunities in order to make a living. Since 2020 is almost here, we should be asking the question, “What does this mean for the church?”
From the perspective of how the church operates, this means we will see more of the following:
First, outsourcing of non-ministerial services such as accounting, marketing, and cleaning to independent contractors. This relieves the church of providing benefits and assures that someone with specialized knowledge or ability will meet a need that is important but does not need to be done by a paid staff member.
Second, increased use of outside consultants, which is another type of outsourcing. We already do this with capital campaigns and the model can be applied to other church activities. I have a friend who serves as missions consultant to several churches. He works with each church to discover the interests and abilities of their congregants, arranges a place where they might serve, provides orientation, handles travel plans, and is available during the project for support. In addition, he consults with churches on community mission opportunities and missions education.
Third, increased use of part-time staff--bi-vocational and shared. We already have many bi-vocational or bi-professionals serving churches, but more congregations are adopting the Methodist arrangement of a two- or three-point charge or the Baptist “circuit rider” model where one person preaches in several churches. The same could be applied to Christian formation, music, and age-group ministries.
What will be the skills required of these bi-professional ministers?
- They will need to have a strong sense of ministry calling and a solid spiritual grounding in order to accept and pursue this challenging task.
- In life manner, they will have to be highly motivated to thrive in this work, but we already see this in many bi-vocational ministers who have a full-time secular job and still put in 20 plus hours a week in a congregational setting.
- They will have to be prepared through rigorous theological training that is appropriate to the present context of ministry. They must have knowledge, excellent people skills, and solid ministry competencies.
- They will have to be agile, able to make good choices and pursue them with little hesitation. Both personal and congregational ministry opportunities will arise in unexpected ways, and these ministers will need discernment to detect the “wind of the Spirit” as it blows.
- These ministers will need to be technologically savvy. We may complain about our “high tech” world but, when used properly, our gadgets and information systems can free us up for a “high touch” ministry. We can spend less time on administrative detail and more time on personal ministry.
When will this happen? It already is happening, and we are lagging behind.