Developing Ministry Teams as a Bivocational Pastor

by Steve Echols on Saturday, November 03, 2007

After twenty years of being a pastor who was fully funded, I entered the world of bivocational ministry somewhat unexpectedly. After answering a call to teach at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, I began a bi-vocational pastorate. In seven years of bivocational ministry, I have learned that developing ministry teams is not an option but a necessity.

Fortunately, I have discovered that bivocational ministers actually have some advantages in developing ministry teams.

Church members are more likely to understand that they must also minister.  When I began my first bivocational pastorate, the church had been stagnant for many years even though the previous pastor position had been full-time. When the church began to exhibit strong growth, a key factor appeared to be that the congregation no longer expected the pastor to do everything. As a result, the members became motivated to be part of ministry teams.

Another advantage is the motivation of the minister, himself. Team-building is hard work. The temptation is to do it yourself, but the bivocational minister is acutely aware that he cannot. At my church, there are about fifty people who assist with the pastoral ministry. Some teams visit the hospital each day of the week, and some regularly minister to shut-ins and nursing homes. In addition to these fifty, an equal number have participated in outreach visitation. To be sure, the time spent in training these teams has been significant. Like a rocket blasting off from the pad, the initial assent was slow, but eventually a rapid acceleration took place. Over time, the multiplying effect of enlisting others becomes exponential.

An additional advantage is that bivocational ministry forces task  prioritization, leading to more efficient church structure, which in turn allows people time to become part of ministry teams.

Over the years churches tend to develop a burdensome infrastructure. Organizational bloat drains time from more essential ministry. At one church, I discovered a standing committee for every three persons in average Sunday morning attendance! The previous pastor had attempted to reduce the number of committees, but to no avail. However, the urgency of assisting the bivocational minister brought a willingness to restructure. When people join an active ministry team, they no longer feel as compelled to defend organizational turf.

Finally, bivocational ministry can stimulate an atmosphere of dependency upon the Holy Spirit.

In both of my bivocational pastorates, I committed to the congregation that I would do all that I could do. I appealed to them to team with me to do all they could do. Yet, I reminded them that God's blessing would be immeasurably more than what we could all do. When God's people team together and are empowered by the Holy Spirit, the potential is unbounded!

Steve Echols is Associate Dean for New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary. He and Allen England, Associate Professor of Church and Educational Administration at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, are coauthors of Catastrophic Crisis: Ministry Leadership in the Midst of Trial and Tragedy.

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