Tony Pappas: The Bivocational Congregation

What qualities do successful bivocational congregations share?

Anthony Pappas, a retired Baptist pastor, is a church consultant, writer, and editor and formerly served as the Executive Minister of The American Baptist Churches of Massachusetts.

This is one of a series of video posts from the authors of Bivocational and Beyond: Educating for Thriving Multivocational Ministry (forthcoming April 2022). This book is an edited volume for church leaders and those that teach and support them. Contributors include bivocational pastors and other reflective practitioners as well as theological educators and researchers.

In Chapter 11, “The Bivocational Congregation,” Anthony Pappas, Ed Pease, and Norm Faramelli address the question: What is the shape of tomorrow’s church? The authors answer this question by offering ethnographic case studies of five very different churches to illustrate certain qualities of bivocational congregations: healthy team functioning; a high commitment to being a ministering presence in a particular place; a willingness to die to self, if need be, in the cause of serving others; an acceptance of bivocationality as a full expression of the church, not a second-rate, temporary, expedient form of the church; and a willingness to experiment and trust that a higher power has something wonderful in store for tomorrow. The authors conclude that a congregation does not necessarily have to have a bivocational pastor to exhibit the positive qualities of a bivocational congregation. More important is the dual calling of the congregation to fresh understandings of mission and function. In an epilogue, Pease offers advice on how to prepare a congregation for bivocational ministry.

For resources on bivocational and multivocational ministry, see the book’s webpage.

Kris Bentley: Pitching Our Tent with Bivocational Ministry

It’s not all the same story. Diverse narratives reveal the varied experiences of congregations and ministers in bivocational ministry.

Kristen Plinke Bentley, an ordained minister with the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), is director of the Thriving in Ministry program at Lexington Theological Seminary.

This is one of a series of video posts from the authors of Bivocational and Beyond: Educating for Thriving Multivocational Ministry (forthcoming April 2022). This book is an edited volume for church leaders and those that teach and support them. Contributors include bivocational pastors and other reflective practitioners as well as theological educators and researchers.

In Chapter 7, “Pitching Our Tent with Bivocational Ministry,” Kristen Plinke Bentley compares Paul’s model of self-supporting ministry with narratives of bivocational ministry today. Based on surveys and interviews with Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) ministers serving congregations in Kentucky, Bentley observed three primary narratives about bivocational ministry. Some leaders pointed to economic challenges for congregations, seeing the model as “a sign of the times.” Others perceived the missional potential of bivocational ministry, describing it as “on the cutting edge.” Others, particularly those in African American and Hispanic/Latinx contexts as well as those in rural communities, saw bivocational ministry as “the way we’ve always done ministry.” These narratives reveal the varied experiences for congregations and ministers related to bivocational ministry. They also demonstrate that some congregations have long-term experience with bivocational pastors that could help others build capacity for well-being and thriving in ministry.

For resources on bivocational and multivocational ministry, see the book’s webpage.

Susan Ebertz: Seeking Information Mastery in Multivocational Ministry

How can multivocational ministers keep up when information needs are continually changing?

Susan J. Ebertz, a member of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), is Associate Professor of Bibliography and Academic Research and Director for the Reu Memorial Library at Wartburg Theological Seminary in Dubuque, Iowa.

This is one of a series of video posts from the authors of Bivocational and Beyond: Educating for Thriving Multivocational Ministry (forthcoming April 2022). This book is an edited volume for church leaders and those that teach and support them. Contributors include bivocational pastors and other reflective practitioners as well as theological educators and researchers.

In Chapter 18, “Seeking Information Mastery in Multivocational Ministry,” Susan J. Ebertz adopts a model by Hubert Dreyfus to frame the importance of continual learning to achieve mastery in multivocational ministry. This chapter focuses on learning about information rather than learning specific facts: how to determine what information is needed, where to find it, and how to evaluate it. The author then walks through challenges, such as finding time for learning, countering algorithmic bias in internet search engines, and discerning trustworthy and knowledgeable sources. The author concludes by inviting the reader to share what is learned with their congregations, ministry colleagues, and community. Such collaboration brings one in contact with diverse voices, promoting innovation and allowing for creativity in thought and practice. Through careful and efficient research and collaboration with others, multivocational ministers can continue their learning in ways that support effective ministry.

For resources on bivocational and multivocational ministry, see the book’s webpage.

Ron Baard: Mentored Practice for Bivocational Ministry

Bivocational ministry often requires learning on the job. Through mentored practice, the congregation participates in the learning and growth, too.

Ronald W. Baard, an ordained minister in the United Church of Christ, is Dean of the Maine School of Ministry and teaches at New York Theological Seminary.

This is one of a series of video posts from the authors of Bivocational and Beyond: Educating for Thriving Multivocational Ministry (forthcoming April 2022). This book is an edited volume for church leaders and those that teach and support them. Contributors include bivocational pastors and other reflective practitioners as well as theological educators and researchers.

In Chapter 17, “A Mentored Practice Approach to Bivocational Ministry Education,” Ron Baard discusses some of the strengths of a mentored practice approach to the formation and education of bivocational ministers. Mentored practice is a type of field education integrating classroom work with the practice of embodied ministry in a particular context. The author draws on his experience as the Dean of the Maine School of Ministry, a non-degree program of the United Church of Christ. Two extended case studies illustrate the mutual benefit to pastoral interns and congregations. For bivocational ministry students, this approach to formation provides deep personal and professional integration through service in the church as a parish pastor. For teaching congregations, mentored practice provides an opportunity to grow in faith along with the pastoral intern. The mentored practice approach to forming ministers provides an alternative to the still dominant residential seminary-based model.

For resources on bivocational and multivocational ministry, see the book’s webpage.

Ralph Wright Jr: Changes in Bivocational Ministry

How has bivocational ministry changed since the 1960s? How has ministry changed during this time?

Ralph B. Wright Jr., an ordained minister in the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), spends his retirement in Patchogue, New York.

This is one of a series of video posts from the authors of Bivocational and Beyond: Educating for Thriving Multivocational Ministry (forthcoming April 2022). This book is an edited volume for church leaders and those that teach and support them. Contributors include bivocational pastors and other reflective practitioners as well as theological educators and researchers.

In Chapter 3, “Changes in Ministry and Bivocational Ministry Since the 1960s,” Ralph B. Wright Jr. presents personal reflections based on 45 years in bivocational ministries in the United States as well as overseas. He observes a crisis of decline among White, mainline churches within a context of increased secularization in North America and suggests that bivocational pastors, offering a broader set of skills and talents than traditional, univocational pastors, are often well positioned to meet the changing needs of congregations in the twenty-first century. Addressing issues of racism, ethnocentrism, classism, and patriarchy, Wright draws on his own experience to show how bivocationality can provide new opportunities for ministry within the larger community. Bivocational ministry can be an opportunity to revitalize the church in mission to the community at large, particularly majority-White congregations that have lost touch with the changing communities around them. He concludes with a plea for increased collegial and judicatory support for bivocational pastors, especially women in ministry.

For resources on bivocational and multivocational ministry, see the book’s webpage.