After reading a recent article on church planting and bi-vocational pastors, of which I will link at the bottom, I have to say not only do I see this trend happening in church planting, but I see this happening everywhere in established churches. Right now the economy is so bad many college graduates are not even going into their career field because of the lack of experience that those careers require. Also, the average college graduate has en estimated $30K-$100K of debt depending on how far they go in their education. This is obviously effecting giving to the church.
With economy getting worse and people giving less to the church, I see that the 20% of the people who are giving 80% of the money has now slimmed down to about 10% of the people giving 80% of the money. This change will greatly effect the position of the full time assistant pastor as well as the full time senior pastor.
Because of economics, there are more and more church’s that are no longer able to support the assistant pastor role. Many of my colleagues that hold this position are now having to get a second job so that they can still be in the ministry but pay the bills. I also know a significant amount of them that are going to be completely bi-vocational. If economy tends to go this route, the idea of a full time assistant will be something of the past within 5-7 years. It is not that the churches cannot afford it, but rather that the people are giving less and spending more outside the church.
With that in mind, this also puts pressure on the position of the senior pastor. I know several pastors within the last couple of years that have received no increase in pay. There have also been several who have had their pay cut and drastically. Some of them have had a 35%-50% decrease in pay.
Where does this leave the church? and where does it leave the pastor? Well again it leads us to the question of where should a pastor focus his long term goals and where should the church focus its money?
This creates a real problem, especially for the older generation of pastors. My estimate is that the next 15 years there will be very few full time senior pastors. This is devastating to think that the future of the church will limit the ability for the full time pastor. Most pastors go to college and get their education solely in ministry. They have no skills or trade that they can fall back onto if the economy continues to fall the way it is.
Colleges and Seminaries need to recalculate their thinking on how their philosophy on training preachers is going to have to change. They need to redirect some of their training to teaching these young men skills and trades because they most likely will have to become Bi-Vocational.
What Should The Pastor Do Now?
This is a BIG question, of which I will not going fully in detail, but I will give a general guideline on necessary steps.
Giving in the Church
First, it is important to address the idea of giving in the church in general. The stigma is that the pastor always preaches on giving. I find however, that because of that stigma, the topic of giving rarely gets talked about. Preach it! because it is in the Bible and it is important! Do not worry about the stigma, preach the full council of God’s Word.
Secondly, it is important to understand a proper concept of giving to missions. Unfortunately the church has a terrible concept of missions! What the church does not understand, is that their first mission field is what is in their own back yard!
Acts 1:8 teaches us to understand, focus, love, and have compassion for the souls that are in your own backyard. Your church is in the middle of a mission field. However, the concept of reaching those who are in your own backyard is significantly lacking. The reason being is that we expect the unsaved world to come crashing through our door on Sunday! We expect the unsaved world to feel comfortable with coming to church. The problem is that the church was NEVER meant for unsaved people. God designed the church for the Believer to be encouraged and edified, to worship and glorify. It is for iron sharpening iron.
We make all kinds of activities inside the walls of our church of which we invite many unsaved people to and expect them to hang around and be comfortable here at our church. This will never happen. God teaches us to be IN the world but not OF the world. If we are going to effectively reach the lost, we MUST go where they are at. This does not mean that we have to go into sin and live like the publican and heathen.
The fall out rate of people coming to the church to hear the Gospel, getting saved, and truly getting discipled is ridiculously high. How you get them is how you keep them. If you do not constantly put those type of “activities” on for them, they will not likely stay around. If you properly disciple them before they get saved, they will not feel uncomfortable once they get saved to want to come to church. There is a pattern of progression in discipleship and it starts before the person ever accepts Christ as their Savior.
If this concept is acted upon, the people will understand more the value of giving. If they get a passion for their relationship with Christ, and a passion for seeing souls won to the Lord locally, the churches will grow. As the churches grow, so will the budget.
Local Missions VS. Foreign Missions
Why is it that we get all excited about foreign missions planting churches, but here in America church planting is a foreign concept and something that is not practiced. We have churches who have 200+ people who never have planted a church, never have thought about planting a church, and have absolutely no desire to plant churches. Because of this our giving to missions is completely unbiblical. And unfortunately this also means that our concept of missions is also completely unbliclical. I believe God LOVES local church planting. I believe that God does not like big churches as we see when God allowed persecution to come to Jerusalem in the book of Acts. God used this persecution to scatter the Christians abroad. They ended up all throughout Judea, of which God told them to do originally in Acts 1:8.
We expect a local church planter to be indigenous in 2-3 years. Now this potentially may happen in the East, but in the West this is a totally foreign concept. Churches supporting church planters here in America typically have a limited giving to a church planter. However, statistically a church plant in the West takes 7-8 years to establish a good foundation to potentially become indigenous. If this state does not happen, those churches drop the support and then the pastor of the church plant is then expected to become bi-vocational. This can become a detriment to a church plant. When a church, the elders, and the congregation get a true love and heart for whats in their backyard, then they can have a true heart for foreign missions.
I know this, because of the few churches that supported us during our first few years, the majority of them dropped us after the third year. I am not saying this in bitterness, but merely to point out the common thought process of established churches in America. Most of these churches and pastors have never planted a church and therefore do not understand the difficulty of planting churches.
The reason why I mention this is because the concept of local missions is something that is not talked about, it is not acted upon. When the going gets tough, the church would rather cut the salary of the pastor, then cut the salary of the missionaries. If you do not have a pastor, eventually you will not have church and you will ultimately not have missionaries to support. The order of giving needs to be reversed. Make sure the pastor is supplied so that he will be able to minister to the church without the burden of looking for a second job. Many pastors do not feel that they are able to minister the way that they feel like they could because they are constantly barely breathing from paycheck to paycheck. The other aspect is that long term, they have very little to invest in retirement or none at all. After a recent survey only about 6% of pastor have something for retirement.
The Bi-Vocational Pastor
Finally, pastors need to understand that most likely this economic crisis is going to happen. There is a significant evidence in our own churches, that the people are not giving as much as they did even 10 years ago. Since this is potentially going to happen, I would encourage you to consider starting a business, building a trade, and building your skills. The reason why I say starting a business as opposed to working a job, is that this gives you flexibility, but it also gives you the ability to impact your community by getting into their homes. This is something that you also need to start encouraging your young men in your church who are considering going into the ministry. If these thoughts are started now, you will be ahead of the game when this financial collapse starts to significantly pick up pace in the next few years.
I have had some lay people and other Christians who have been angry at me for this idea for taking the pastor away from the ministry. However, it comes down to the thought of knowing why you believe what you believe. It is very obvious from Scripture that many if not all of the apostles had a business. Paul was a tent maker, Peter was a fisherman, Luke was a physician. Paul had to sell tents, and most likely was able to impact more people’s life for the Lord, because of the tent making business he had.
The other aspect is that this does not have to be separate from the ministry, but very much a part of the ministry. You are able to because of your business be able to impact, disciple, witness, and shepherd the people that God has allowed in our lives.
What Should the Church Do from Here
This is simple. Develop a biblical philosophy of missions, giving, and giving to missions. Your first priority is your church and giving to it. Your second priority is then giving to missions. But if you do not establish the first priority eventually you will not have the ability to give to the second priority.
One of the biggest things for a church to do is get involved in local church planting. Not by just giving financially to church planting, but to physically establish a local church out of their church. To take 30 or so people from their church and physically establish a new church plant. The concept of the local church has completely been disregarded in our modern Christian society. Develop that passion for souls right in your own neighborhood. Reach those people in your own neighborhood. Lead those souls in your own neighborhood to Christ. And finally get those new converted souls to a “local” Bible believing and preaching church.
The church has become more of a social gathering that a place of true worship, true spiritual edification, and true ministry. More people are looking to “fellowship” over food and conversation about their hobbies, than for them to really seek each other out and bear one another’s burdens.
There are some churches that will be able to maintain a full time pastor if they can establish a true biblical philosophy in giving and giving to missions. However, the smaller churches, of which I would estimate those church to have a congregation of 250, will have to completely remodel their church philosophy and the pastor himself will have really evaluate the idea of a bi-vocational pastor.
If you have a true and proper concept of local missions and local church, this whole dilemma maybe completely avoided. Again, if you do not have a true love for what is local to you, how then can you ever develop a heart for foreign missions.
Here is the article on the Bi-Vocational Church Planter click HERE
For information on college debt go HERE
For more information about our church go to CVBibleChurch.com