Bivocational or biprofessional ministry has always been part of Christian ministry. The idea of serving as a minister while earning a primary or secondary income is nothing new, but the concept has been more common in some eras than others. With the declining revenues in many churches and denominations, some are asking such questions as, “Can the church andminister afford each other?”
Biprofessionalism is one alternative that many churches consider. Those ministers who are biprofessionalism understand both the positive and negative aspects of the practice. A new paradigm requires new ways of thinking. One challenge is helping the church to transition to the idea that the pastor can longer give his or her full-time to the congregation. On the other hand, the trend provides opportunities for lay leaders to reclaim significant ministries in the life of the congregation. This is the topic I want to address.
Lay leaders may be asked to take on increased responsibilities for pastoral care, worship, age-group leadership, and community ministry. Although laity have been key participants in these ministries in the past, when the minister becomes part-time, how will their roles grow?
In the past, denominations took the lead in training lay leaders through conferences, retreats, and consultation. These resources have diminished significantly and often the churches must look elsewhere for training opportunities for lay leaders.
Ministers often assumed this equipping role in the local church or parish, but as more ministers become part-time, their time and resources to do this are limited.
Where does theological education fit into increased use of laity in roles that ministers might have filled previously? This question deserves serious consideration. This is a door of opportunity for theological institutions. If seminaries and theological schools wish to serve the needs of local churches, this is an emerging need--the formation of laity to assume increased responsibilities for leadership of vital ministries. In subsequent blogs, I hope to unpack these opportunities further.