Thursday Thought – Part-time Ministry

5 03 2009

This Thursday, I’m sharing some of my own thoughts and looking for some of yours.

I’m thinking about the concept of “Part-time Ministry”. That is, being trained in and involved in pastoral ministry for a few days a week whilst supporting yourself financially with secular work on the other days.

On the one hand, this seems like a great idea. Many ministry minded lay people already spend a large chunk of their free time in ministry work. Going part time would only increase this opportunity. Also, being self supporting would mean these ministers would not be a burden on a church and would have an extra level of flexibility relative to someone employed by the church. It would mean that they could maintain relationships with people who don’t know Jesus in the work-force and have excellent opportunities to tell people the gospel within their paid work.

It also could provide a perfect entry point to someone who is contemplating committing their lives to full-time ministry, but who doesn’t feel entirely ready to take the plunge and cut all ties with their work.

On the other hand, why bother? Living in Sydney we have a great opportunity for ministers to be fully employed in ministry whilst still earning a good wage. If ministry is so important then really, shouldn’t you be devoting ALL your time to it? And anyone who has tried to balance multiple part-time activities would tell you that it’s incredibly difficult to leave one behind when you try to work on the other. There are people here at my work who only work 3 days a week, only get paid for 3 days a week, but are sometimes in here for 5!

Maybe this whole part-time thing is just an excuse to try and keep a foot in both camps? Perhaps it just shows a lack of courage to commit yourself to full-time ministry? (Don’t necessarily believe that – just arguing it!) Having a part-time person on a ministry team could be a worry. How do you know they are not going to ring up tomorrow and say “can’t come in – somethings come up at my ‘real’ job”? Will they really be committed if it’s not their whole life aim to build up a church?

On balance, there may be room in Sydney for just this sort of ministry opportunity. Maybe even as a short term thing before eventually committing to full-time work or ministry. I think it has some potential. But the feeling that I get is that it’s not encouraged. Am I right? Is this seen as a bad idea? Is it more than just the things I’ve listed above?

What do you think? Is this a wonderful opportunity that could greatly expand the harvest? Or is it a selfish attempt for someone to have the best of both worlds? Or something else?

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13 responses

5 03 2009
SamR

Great stuff to think through Guthers. I’ve been mulling the part time thing too. Got to run for the bus. But I’ll hopefully post a comment soon.

5 03 2009
Adriana

Awesome Thursday thought Simo. As you know, very for this idea. Especially as you would be in a good position financially to support us in ministry part-time.

But as you said, not sure if its because I’d rather have the best of both worlds.

5 03 2009
CHONG

Interesting indeed!!! Like the way you think. A good way to keep ‘in touch’ with the world and know what is going on, something that can be lacking in the Church.

Have a chat to Becky Chan about it, she’s taking up a position in this way I believe.

5 03 2009
guthers

Is she really? I will have a chat

5 03 2009
CHONG
5 03 2009
Dave Miers

good post and thoughts.

i think it’s a good thing and to be encouraged.

i can think of a bunch of people who have done it/are doing it.

paul the apostle did it.

6 03 2009
guthers

Thanks Dave.

Paul did do it – who else do you know and how does it work out for them?

8 03 2009
SamR

Ok, finally back to post what I’ve been thinking.

I reckon there is definitely scope for part-timers in gospel work. But I also think you need to honestly answer the question you posed for your own situation: Maybe this whole part-time thing is just an excuse to try and keep a foot in both camps?

It isn’t by definition a ‘soft option’ to go part time, but it could be. It really comes down to you bringing your own heart into the light of the gospel and asking God to give you eyes to see what is motivating your leaning one way or the other.

It may be that you can see a gospel opportunity that only a part timer can pull off – because of funding or opportunities work will bring to meet a certain type of people or tge potential to build a new ministry, and so the appeal to part time ministry is a godly one – and it’s probably going to be a harder lifestyle. I admire these kind of people. I’m pretty sure Driscoll worked for a little while in the early days of Mars Hill and it sounded like very hard work. Examine your motives.

However it may also be that the desire to go part time is an indication that you simply just don’t trust in God’s promise to look after you like he looks after every bird of the air and plant of the field. As we’ve gone down the full-time path, we’ve had to time and time again confront our own selfishness as we’ve realised that we don’t have the means to do some of the things that our friends can do – and that’s hard, because we feel humble and small – but I’m convinced there is a blessing in it, as we’re learning through it the faithfulness of God to his promise to look after us, and really coming to know what Paul meant when he said he has learned the secret of being content in any and every situation. It’s brought a closeness to God and developed in us a new kind of trust in the Lord that I would now not forsake for anything.

Don’t hear me saying one way is better than the other. Either way can be wrong if your motives for pursuing it are wrong. Only you can know what is motivating you, and even you can be tricked by your own deceitful heart. So pray and ask God to give you eyes to see your own heart.

10 03 2009
Dave K

Thanks for the post Guthers.
I agree with what Sambo was saying in that one way is not necessarily better than another. Judging peoples motives is something that is very dangerous! I think you need to take them with some gracious assumption that there motives are good.

My concern for people doing part time ministry is one of time management. The longer you are in ministry, the more stuff comes on your plate and I reckon it is hard to keep it to a part time basis even if that is what you are being paid for. The potential to be doing two full time jobs is very high and if someone was working part time on my staff I would want to ensure they are having a day off – taking regular holidays – having adequte time and energy to function properly.

10 03 2009
BeckyChan

Hey Guthers,

I’ve been thinking about the best way to go about making such a decision and I think I can identify 2 main considerations:

1. Who is the person God has made me to be?
We each serve according to the grace God has given us, and giftedness is not the same as godliness. However, we should be good stewards of what has been given to us for the body of Christ.
Personally, I’m still working this one out for me- I am considering some of my shortcomings mean that FTPM may not be appropriate for me, but I’ve definitely worked out that the varied opportunities available to me and the capacity to make use of them mean that I should not be spending so much time doing tax – and rather serving in these ways.
On one hand, you are in a place where you can viably do secular/ministry part time each! But then God has also gifted you in being able to speak, engage with issues and lead others – something that not all faithful godly xns have been given. What is the best deployment of your particular combination of circumstance and gifts? You have the best view (of the humans).

2. What is the need in the Kingdom?
You identified various opportunities/pluses. On one hand – there’s opportunities to be supported and do ministry 100% of time. But then also, there could be some churches who need ministers but for various reasons are not able to financially support them. OR there are churches with only one minister, and could use the support of another godly guy – able to teach, lead and bounce off, but again, unable to financially support a full time minister.
I don’t really know exactly what the need in Sydney looks like- I know at least 7 or 8 churches in Sydney which my friends attend, where they are Christ-centred and bible-focussed, yet they are struggling to find a full time minister (most of these are english-speaking asian congregations though).
Part of my plan for this year is not just to work out how to be trained for ministry or just to do ministry, but to also see where I can best be used.

Haha, I hope that is helpful. I don’t particularly have an opinion on what you should do either way. What would be your considerations to the above 2 questions?
(And other people’s input on those 2 things!)

ysiC
-becky

11 03 2009
guthers

Thanks for the comments guys – some great thoughts there.

@Sam – motivations. Absolutely. A hard thing to read/judge. Motivations can be wrong and lead to wrong choices, but if motivations are right does that automatically lead to right choices?

@Dave – Always a pleasure to read your comments mate. Time management – one of the big potential issues. Committing to two different things would be hard. My thinking on this is that the average lay person has night times and weekends to give up for ministry. Someone working part time has created a lot more time for ministry. The tricky thing is being able to COMMIT time to each activity (ie not letting the 2 overlap), which is a lot harder to do. It’s an issue for full-time ministers too. You need to be careful to take your day off and spend time with your family. I know MTS’ers who haven’t taken a day off in months!

@Becky – great to hear from you. Really encouraging to hear that you are considering this. I’m sure you will do some awesome things under God. Giftedness – great question, hadn’t really given this heaps of thought. It’s a hard one. Even though I have the best view (of the humans! 🙂 ) I may not be best placed to make a call on it. It needs comment/encouragement/judgement from those around you don’t you think?
Need in the kingdom. Another great point. I think I am in favour of part time ministry for the sake of filling a need as opposed to going part time and then looking for a need if that makes sense?

27 03 2009
BeckyChan

“It needs comment/encouragement/judgement from those around you don’t you think?”

Agreed. Getting the ball rolling, I was reflecting that God has actually given you good gifts in terms of a speaking ministry – you express yourself clearly and confidently and I’ve seen you being able to engage with God’s Word. (Remember not to get puffed up at this!!)

Further, the fact that you have to *have* these “should I do ministry?” conversations with people , and on several fronts, is actually an indicator of the judgment from those around you.

As more and more of my friends are increasingly made redundant every day, I reflect on their lives and realise that I’m praying for them to get another secular job (indeed, one which doesn’t eat up their lives and puts them in a position to serve others), yet for others my first thought is “YES!!! MTS!!! BIBLE COLLEGE!!!”. It is not that one is more faithful than the other, but realising God has made them for different parts of the body.

Are we taking Gifts given for the service of his Body to make money for our private purposes? Or have we been called to lead the fray in the midst of the dark corporate mission field?

I met up with one of the LTP’s from CBS today to talk about my situation, and he was talking about me and past leadership roles on campus, my comment was like “But I don’t like leading!!!” and His response is the best leaders don’t want to be leaders, those who want to be leaders love the wrong things. But Christian leaders are called to be the servants of all… just like Jesus, so shouldn’t we want to do that?

Again, bit different for me cos I’m female, and clear opportunities of serving that way.. well they just aren’t clear. I can’t go plant churches or be a minister.

Might be a bit different for you.

2 04 2009
guthers

more good thoughts and questions becky – thanks. esp re: use of gifts, etc.
definitely opportunites for you as a female. plenty of options to serve even if not as obvious

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