R&E Newsweekly on bivocational ministry

Religion and Ethics Newsweekly this week has a feature on bivocational ministry, something to which (in my opinion) Unitarian Universalists need to pay more respectful attention.

Author: Scott Wells

Scott Wells, 46, is a Universalist Christian minister doing Universalist theology and church administration hacks in Washington, D.C.

5 thoughts on “R&E Newsweekly on bivocational ministry”

  1. I believe we’re going to have to, as packages that will provide even a modest middle-class living for solo ministry are going to be more and more rare.

  2. I’m kind of surprised that this video report didn’t even mention a major reason that many of these churches can’t/don’t fully financially support their pastors. It was obvious from the one congregation we were shown: There just aren’t very many people participating!

  3. Like I told Meg Riley in her FB Post- I had a bivocational ministry for my first eight years as a UU ordained, fellowshipped professional- half time parish, consulting, pulpit supply, director of transitional housing for an interfaith homeless nonprofit, a little adjunct… and am back again in this gap years time doing much the same. A little this. A little that. The money issue is one thing, but the disrespect of my singular focused colleagues was far more distressing.

  4. I did part-time ministry and part-time other work for a coupe of years, and left that church specifically because, for me, it wasn’t sustainable. A large part of why it wasn’t sustainable was medical — part-time other work doesn’t come with benefits and leave, and I was pregnant, so I would loose half my income during my maternity leave.

    Perhaps if I was full-time in another job and did ministry on the side, it would be more economically sustainable, just as it is now with full-time ministry and another job on the side.

    But I personally would never choose that life of part-time ministry and full- or part-time other work again. Part-time ministry is full-time in its demands and expectations still. It’s far too draining to me to have that level of expectation without the level of support accompanying it.

    If our ministry didn’t require a seminary degree and accompanying seminary loans, bi-vocational ministry might look entirely different as an option. If our churches didn’t expect a level of scholarship and originality, bivocational ministry might be more of an option, too.

    But in our movement the way it is structured, in the way benefits go with work in this country, I think full-time employment is the most reasonable and ethical model. And when churches can’t support that individually, I would support grouping together to support that collectively as a healthier model for our ministry.

  5. I think you’ve put your finger on several important pressure points. Yoked ministry might be an option — or area group ministry, which we don’t have a history of — but there are big swaths of the country with low congregational density, and I wonder how many full-time yokes will appear.

    Right now, there’s an apparent surplus of ministers. But it only takes a decade of discouragement — expensive education, thin settlements — for the ranks to thin considerably. We need to line up some alternative now, and bivocationality will surely be one. Better that we plan for it with respect to fellowship, settlement, collegial support and education.

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