Average Churches = Lots of Ministry, Few Jobs

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Average pastors many times are trying to run a church by themselves. We need help. Lots of help.  I have been fortunate to have had people come to my church who have had experience in ministry or have credentials who were not currently in ministry.  They all had one thing in common: They had a regular job, but wanted to be in ministry.  I have been blessed to use many of them in areas of ministry that we needed them for.  But in four years of leading my church, I have not been able to give any of them a ministry job.  I want to, but I can’t.  Our church can only support one salary.  Yet there is so much ministry needed in our church.

This is the great dilemma for the average pastor.   We are overburdened with roles and responsibilities that hinder our effectiveness.  We need the help of lay people and experienced ministers for our churches to be effective.  Some churches have no one to help besides lay people. I have known churches that would love to even just have one experienced person to fill in when the pastor needs a break.  Yet there are experienced pastors sitting in congregations all over you town. They are waiting for ministry jobs.

The average church is great place for people who want to do ministry even if there is no job for them.  Retired pastors, we need your experience.  You can help with the operations and use your skill with the older generation, a vital role in this modern church era.  You have a great role to play as a cheer leader for your church’s future.  In-between ministers, you can serve with your skills in small ways that bring fullness to your church.  Even if it is just doing communion or teaching a class, you bring strength to the leadership team and your unique gifts.  Young ministers can find a place to start out where the stakes are not so high.  Smaller churches give you the opportunity to serve without the pressure to perform.  You can learn and grow with your congregation.

This is the reality of the average church. There is lots of ministry, but very few jobs. We need help. But we haven’t grown to the place to be able to afford help.  Although I have had experienced men and women who have been able to contribute, I have wished for the opportunity to be able to share ministry with them on a day-to-day basis.  But I have no jobs to give them.

If you are in this situation (and I am sure you are) here are some realities I have come to grips with:

  • We are not large enough to provide ministry jobs.  If your church is around 100 people, it is unreasonable to have more than one paid pastor.  Its hard enough to pay the pastor.  That is just the reality.  I can be frustrated about it or change my expectations for my reality.
  • We can give ministry opportunities that big churches can’t.  In churches of multiple staff, the opportunities for non-paid ministers to contribute is minimal.  Usually people with pastoral experience end up just being attenders.  In my church, if they have something to contribute that we need, I can use them.  Even if it isn’t a job.  All of my staff are basically volunteers who serve outside their 40 hour a week jobs.
  • We can give ministers a refreshing break.  When people with ministry experience come to my church, it is always for a season.  We are either helping them heal, giving them space for normalcy, or helping them find new callings.  The average church can be a great place for ministers to contribute in the in-between seasons.
  • We can give young inexperienced leaders a place to start.  With part-time or volunteer ministry, you can give people opportunities lead that larger churches cannot.  I have had two first time worship leaders, one first time youth pastor, and one first time children’s pastor. All this was made possible because we are small enough to use someone without investing a salary in them. We are raising up new leaders.

For those reading this who may be out of ministry for a season, here is some thoughts for you.

  • Don’t be afraid to serve part-time.  You have gifts we need.  We can’t pay you, but it is a win-win. We need your gifts, you need the ministry outlet.
  • Don’t wait for a job to do ministry.  Find something you can do even if it isn’t exactly what you are best at.  I admire ministers who love the church enough to do the things they ask the people they pastor to do.  I need help with little things and big things. And they all matter.  You can help.
  • God has a plan for you.  Don’t be afraid to go to a smaller church to serve. God knows where you are.  There is nothing that says you are more or less likely to get a job based on the size of church you volunteer at.  He will open the door for you for the next assignment.

One final thing I have learned.  It is not my job to make people’s dreams come true.  Pastor, relieve yourself of the responsibility of making things happen for the called people around you.  I would love to give everyone a job or a title that feels called to ministry in my church.  But that is not my job. My job is to lead my church and ask, “God, why have you given me this person for this time.” Match your needs with the people he has given you to the best of your ability. That is all He asks of you.

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