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.

Jessica Young Brown: Black and Bivocational

Why are we not looking to Black bivocational ministers to inform our understanding about what it means to thrive in this context?

Jessica Young Brown, a lay member of the American Baptist Churches USA, is a Licensed Clinical Psychologist and teaches in the areas of Christian education, spiritual formation, and pastoral care and counseling.

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 4, “Black and Bivocational,” Jessica Young Brown provides deep insight into bivocational ministry based on empirical research with Black pastors and ministers. Noting that Black pastors have been engaged in this ministerial dynamic for a long time, she asks, why are we not looking to Black bivocational ministers to inform our understanding about what it means to thrive in this context? Thus, this chapter looks to Black bivocational clergy as exemplars for navigating bivocational ministry. Based on survey and interview data, Brown explores issues of gifts and call, finances, self-care, professional responsibilities and boundaries, as well as challenges, such as patriarchy. She observes, among other things, that women may need additional resources and sources of support than men in bivocational ministry. She concludes that the Black church must reckon with the expectations that are placed on ministers in general and bivocational ministers in particular, and suggests a scaling back of the functional expectations placed on ministers to hold sacred space, allowing for their human limitations and sense of wellness.

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

Ben Connelly: Spiritual Growth in Bivocational Ministry

Pastors rarely become bivocational in order to grow spiritually. Yet, they often find bivocationality an unexpected path of personal, spiritual growth.

Ben Connelly, founder of The Equipping Group, is a church planter and part of the servant leader team for Salt+Light Community in Fort Worth, Texas.

In Chapter 10, “Bivocational Ministry as a Path of Unexpected Spiritual Growth,” Ben Connelly shares results and insights from a survey he administered to bivocational ministers regarding their motives and outcomes related to ministry. Motives were grouped in three categories: finances, mission, and convictions. Reported outcomes of bivocational ministry revealed several themes: growth in humility and dependence, a deepened need for a team, and growth in sanctification. Connelly’s own experience in bivocational ministry and working with other bivocational ministers in various contexts revealed a pattern of unexpected personal spiritual growth within the bivocational minister. This pattern was supported by the research. Those surveyed entered bivocational ministry for one or multiple reasons, rarely related to their personal spiritual growth. Yet, nearly every minister surveyed shared personal spiritual growth as an outcome, which they did not expect but which came through this unique form of ministry. Regardless of motives, bivocational ministers often find this a path of personal, spiritual growth.

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.

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

Jo Ann Deasy: Multivocational Plans of Theological Students

How can seminaries respond to the reality of multivocational ministry? Learning about the multivocational plans of seminary students is a good place to begin.

Jo Ann Deasy, an ordained pastor in the Evangelical Covenant Church, is Director of Institutional Initiatives and Student Research at The Association of Theological Schools in the United States and Canada.

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 15, “The Multivocational Plans of Students in Graduate Theological Education,” Jo Ann Deasy challenges seminaries to respond to the reality of multivocational ministry, based on data from student questionnaires. Since 2013, the Association of Theological Schools in the United States and Canada (ATS) has tracked the bivocational plans of entering and graduating students among member schools. In 2019, ATS revised the questionnaires to better understand the nature and scope of bivocational ministry, expanding the idea of bivocational ministry beyond paid ministry. The ATS data reveals a complex landscape of multivocational students and graduates navigating work, ministry, vocation, and education in a wide variety of ways. In response, theological schools have the opportunity to rethink current educational models to focus more on integration and life-long learning, to attend to the broad financial ecology of ministry, and to create a more just system designed to equip and support those preparing to serve in multivocational and volunteer ministry roles.

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

Steven C. Van Ostran: Incarnating Christ through Bivocational Ministry

How can the incarnational church enable holistic mission in the community? What are the incarnational beneifts of bivocational ministry?

Steven C. Van Ostran, an ordained Baptist pastor, serves as Executive Minister of the American Baptist Churches of the Rocky Mountains and previously taught at Ottawa University.

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 9, “Incarnating Christ through Bivocational Ministry,” Steven C. Van Ostran encourages the church to reframe its understanding of bivocational ministry as a positive way of incarnating Christ. First, he offers the “incarnational church,” based on 1 Corinthians 12 and Luke 10, as a model of holistic mission. Then, he presents four benefits of bivocational ministry that might lead churches and pastors to engage in bivocational ministry even when a full-time ministry is possible. The incarnational benefits of bivocational ministry include breaking down the sacred-secular divide, creating community and relationships outside the local congregation, uncovering new opportunities for ministry and mission outside the walls of the church, and reducing the dependencies of the pastor that hinder authentic leadership and prophetic action both in the church and in the community. This chapter draws on Ostran’s experience as a pastor and as an Executive Minister in the American Baptist Churches, as well as experiences of the many bivocational pastors he knows personally.

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

Financial Basics for Church Leaders

Spreadsheets. Budgets. Fundraising. Debt. If you’re a church leader, lay or ordained, a new four-part series Financial Basics for Church Leaders helps you get more comfortable with these aspects of your ministry. The series is offered by the Pennsylvania Academy of Ministry at Lancaster Seminary. Take all four classes in the series for the price of one, and earn 10.3 CEUs. First class starts Feb. 17. Get the details: https://tinyurl/PAMseries

Phil Baisley: Preparing to Teach Bivocational Ministry

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.

Phil Baisley, a recorded Friends minister, is Professor of Pastoral Studies at Earlham School of Religion and serves as pastor of Greenfield Friends Meeting in Indiana.

In Chapter 16, “Preparing to Teach a Bivocational Ministry Seminary Course,” Phil Baisley shares the research behind his seminary course syllabus in bivocational ministry, informed by his own bivocational experience as well empirical research. As part of a larger grant-funded project, the author spent much of 2015 driving across the United States, from Pennsylvania to Oregon, interviewing bivocational pastors and members of their congregations. He discovered a wide variety of ways of being bivocational as well as many commonalities among bivocational pastors and congregations. Interviewees also shared their ideas about what seminaries should teach about bivocational ministry. The author provides a succinct list of topics to be covered in a bivocational ministry course, along with suggested resources. He concludes by noting continuing challenges to teaching about bivocational ministry.

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