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Could BiVo Pastoring Be The Wave Of The Future?

-- by Derek Holmes

The work of a pastor is never done. If you're a pastor, you know that no truer words could be spoken of the role. Equally as true is the fact that the work of a pastor never falls nicely into a 9 to 5 schedule. A pastor operates under the understanding that it is an "on call" kind of position, with many pastors noting that they log more than a 40-hour work week on the job. Many pastors often find themselves feeling as if there is way more work that should be getting done than really is. No matter the size of a congregation, an undershpherd can find plenty of things to be busy with in the Lord's work.

With the changing landscape of ministry in our modern world, many churches, however, are having to reconsider whether or not they might be able to support a pastor on a full-time basis. With reports of declining attendance in churches comes the byproduct of a decline in financial resources from giving. Couple that with the steep rise in the cost of living in the current economy, and it becomes a double-edged sword for church budget and finance teams to swallow when considering how to adequately compensate their pastor(s) with a livable wage.

Now, more than ever, stories are surfacing of pastors choosing to go bivocational or covocational to help supplement the financial strains the trends of recent years have placed upon their churches and their efforts to put together a workable salary. This may be a trend which we continue to see, and it may not all be a bad thing.

A recent Kentucky Today Article written by Mark Maynard recounts a discussion between Dr. Todd Gray, KBC Executive Director, and Dan Summerlin, who just recently retired after serving 40 years as a pastor...

"LOUISVILLE, Ky. (KT) – Dan Summerlin, who retired from Paducah's Lone Oak First Baptist Church in May after serving at churches small and large in a 40-year career, said young men considering the call to ministry would be wise to prepare for bivocational ministry.

“I believe it’s going to be the future,” he said as the guest on “Leadership Lessons” with Kentucky Baptist Convention Executive Director Todd Gray. “I tell guys going to college they will be studying the Bible the rest of their life. Find something you can make a living on.”

Summerlin said if someone is sensing the call to ministry, “You need to seek it out. Don’t struggle over it. If God is calling you, you will know it. God will let you know in a way you will never forget. I’d encourage a person to get involved in church, do speaking, do ministry. And go talk to pastors, write letters to pastors. I wrote a letter to Charles Stanley, and he responded with a note and a book. You’d be amazed at the number of pastors who will help you in ministry.”

Summerlin spent his last 21 years as a pastor at Lone Oak, which he described as a “21-year honeymoon.”

He said the “church has grown spiritually and numerically” and in mission-mindedness. He said 16 to 18 young men have been called to the mission field, and the church is involved with several ministries in the United States, Asia and Africa.

Summerlin, who said his call to ministry came while he was a junior in high school, served at churches of all sizes. He knew when he became the pastor at Lone Oak in 2002 that he intended to be the pastor only 20 years. Summerlin said his timeline for stepping aside was cast 30 years ago.

“Thirty years ago, I was praying about how I would like to finish. Two of my mentors both retired early and spent the rest of their life helping others. I asked God, ‘Let me do this. Let me retire and help pastors,’” he said.

Summerlin is doing just that serving as a conference speaker, leadership coach and mentor to pastors. He’s been an asset to the Kentucky Baptist Convention. He was a past KBC president, chairman of the administrative committee and was awarded a Lifetime Achievement Award. He also served with Sunrise Children’s Services.

Summerlin told leaders at Lone Oak his plans to retire late in 2022, and it was shared with the church in January that he would be stepping aside in May.

“It’s all about God, all about the church, working them through the process. I knew it was time. We were in a building project but had come to a point with a great segway, between phases. The church is debt free, money in the bank with a plan for a building project. It was just the perfect time to step aside.”

Since Summerlin retired, he has enjoyed spending time with family – wife Eilene, two grown children and two grandchildren.

“A lot of free time, a lot less stress,” he said. “People don’t realize I’ve been a pastor for 40 years — and 35 years I preached three times a week. At Lone Oak I averaged 48 Sundays (per year). That’s a lot of work and time invested. It’s nice to sit with my wife and worship. It’s great relaxing on a Sunday morning or just going somewhere on a Saturday afternoon.”

Summerlin shared in the interview other aspects of his retirement with Gray, including whether a pastor should stay in the church or leave after retiring, He also spoke on how he worked with the staff and congregation to prepare them for the next pastor." (Mark Maynard, Kentucky Today)

* Watch the entire interview at "Leadership Lessons with Todd Gray"

While there is no easy way to predict how the trends will turn in the years to come, the fact of the matter is that pastors of the future may need to begin thinking like the ancient pastor, Paul, who laid the groundwork for bivocational pastoring by tentmaking.

However you may classify your status as a pastor in ministry, we must always remember that the work is too great for us to handle alone. This is why God, in His providence, equips us, strengthens us and gifts us to fulfill the work He has called us to.

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