In the current issue of Congregations magazine, Jeff Woods suggests some alternative pastoral models. He points out that churches want a called and equipped pastor, but it is more difficult today to provide the financial support for such a minister while carrying other institutional expenses. Woods suggests a number of alternatives that go beyond the typical bi-vocational or bi-ministry (serving two congregations to make a full-time package) models.
Woods’ comments encourage us to think creatively about church staffing not only for the pastoral ministry but for other ministries as well. Several years ago a friend resigned his church to become an itinerant minister of missions. He long had a passion for involving laity in the congregations where he served in mission and ministry projects. In his new role, he actually serves about a dozen congregations in several states as their “minister of missions.” As he comes to understand the unique gifts of each church, he helps them to identify activities in which they can be involved. These projects may be connected to the denomination to which the church belongs or they may be work with another organization or entity. My friend is available not only to organize and train but to preach and teach in order to share a missions vision with the partnering congregations.
Such a model could also work in other areas such as Christian formation. Perhaps there are several churches in a city or county that could enter into a partnership and employ a person as a Christian educator or developer who would work with each of them to meet their particular needs. With e-mail, web sites, Facebook, and Twitter, congregants could be in regular touch with the Christian formation leader. He or she could also visit each church on a regular basis, lead appropriate training activities, and suggest the best resources for each church.
Tighter financial budgets encourage us to use our resources in more effective ways. By taking advantage of the 21st century communication, a practitioner can be in touch with those served even when he or she cannot be physically present and provide materials, training, and information at the touch of a button. Challenging times open the door to new approaches.