Monday, April 8, 2013

Bivocational Lay Ministry

Does bivocational lay ministry have a future in the church? Two United Methodist Church pastors in San Antonio think yes, and have invested themselves in a broad-based training program of lay leaders called the Quarry. Below is an excerpt that explains the heart of this program

Two pastors at a UMC church in San Antonio have created a new model of training they call the Quarry, which has developed into a creative community of leaders
...
A few years ago, the protégé, the Rev. Scott Heare, challenged his spiritual father with a proposal: What if together they molded a handful of laypeople, building the same kind of close, honest relationships within a larger group? They’d teach practical ministry, biblical theology and Christianity’s Jewish heritage in an organic, group setting.
The idea would be to empower laypeople with clergy-level vision and skills, incubating their sense of calling prior to seminary training -- or possibly instead of it.
Three years ago, the idea took off.
Called the “Quarry,” it started with 16 people and grew without formal advertising to more than 50.

Can you imagine what it would be like if more churches did this? There might certainly be less isolation and greater connection in our communities! Congregations too may get to know their fellow pew mates, beyond sharing worship to participating in authentic community rather than superficial fellowship. Most churches have small group Bible studies and the like, whereby people get to meet others, and make friends. Ultimately, these folks might even serve together. In my humble opinion, this small group model, while good, does not put God's calling to us at the center. After all, God has called each Christian to ministry. So, what if the model were reversed?

Bivocational ministry is typically defined as one where God calls a person to ministry even as they work in another profession to supplement their income. Some examples from the Bible are: Daniel, Amos, Luke, Aquila and Priscilla and Paul. That's why bivocational ministry is sometimes called tent-making ministry; it derives from Paul's tent-making jobs that enabled him to earn a living while he shared the Gospel. More recently, I had the privilege of being a part of the ordination of a bivocational minister, the Rev. Erin Dunigan, Los Ranchos Presbytery, PC (USA), several years ago. Erin is on Twitter @edunny and shares her photos, writing, and sermons on her blog edunny.com. A "photographer. writer. somewhat nomadic but planting fruit trees in Baja. ordained evangelist and pastor of Not Church" Erin ministers to expat nones in the Baja; you've surely heard of The Rising of the Nones? If not, follow the link to learn about this demographic, some of whom Erin serves and many of whom you and I know.

In the Quarry, however, a couple of things seem different beyond the "livelihood" part. These are what excite me about bivocational ministry becoming a possible model for not just leadership development but also discipleship, mentoring, and reaching out, in large, mainstream denominational churches.

1) What if together they molded a handful of laypeople, building the same kind of close, honest relationships within a larger group? They’d teach practical ministry, biblical theology and Christianity’s Jewish heritage in an organic, group setting.
2) The idea would be to empower laypeople with clergy-level vision and skills, incubating their sense of calling prior to seminary training -- or possibly instead of it.

What do you think? To read the entire article about the Quarry please consult the Source below.

Source: Levy, Abe. Everything is possible. Faith and Leadership. Available online. http://www.faithandleadership.com/features/articles/everything-possible

References:

Bickers, Dennis. The Tentmaking Pastor: The Joy of Bivocational Ministry. Baker Books, 2000. Link to Amazon. Bickers also maintains a blog, Bivocational Ministry, A community for all bivocational ministers and the churches they serve. Bickers was working in a factory most of the time after he accepted a call to serve at Hebron Church, Indiana. Bickers, while being honest about the frustration attached to bivocational ministry, is positive and upbeat about the joy of serving in this way.

Dorsett, Terry. Developing Leadership Teams in Churches. Crossbooks Publishing, 2010. Link to Amazon. The challenges and stigma attached to bivocational ministry are also highlighted.

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