On Being a Part-Time Pastor…
I am a part-time pastor. Well, I am paid part time to be a pastor.
Many people have asked me over e-mail or in person, how this part time in two worlds thing works. In case you are new here and have no clue what I am talking about, I am part-time as lead pastor at The Well and I also run my own freelance web design business. Giving proper attention to the two isn’t easy and its something that I am learning to do better and better.
As far as being part-time at my church, I love it. As you can imagine, its not easy. But, its so rewarding. It not only frees my up to be more of a “normal person” with a normal job and normal pressures like deadlines, but it also gives us the ability to have more diversity in our leadership and staff at the church.
I work alongside a part-time co-pastor who we like to call Gary Alloway. As we were in the midst of a transition at church a few years back, we decided that I would stay part time so that we would be able to hire another part-time pastor. I’ll be honest here, I don’t think The Well would be anything like it is today if either he or I were one full-time pastor. We bring such different (and complementary) leadership gifts to the community. The biggest difference is that I think big picture, longer term vision and big mission stuff. He’s an “on the ground” type of guy and really helps us get stuff done. If not for him, we’d spend all our time talking about doing big things and never getting them done. He’s always listening to me dream about the future and that is usually followed up with, “Okay, how are we going to do that?” I can’t tell you how invaluable this has been to my leadership and his.
My first four years at The Well were spent working together with one of my good friends. I was an awesome time of growth and change for our us and our church community. He’s since moved on and I’ve realized that the biggest deficiencies in our leadership together was that we had very similar giftings as leaders. We are both gifted to think with big vision and big dreams, but we weren’t as good with the details and the things that it took to see that vision happen. While I very, very much miss working with Brad, working with Gary has been so rewarding because we are so different and continue to challenge each other in such different ways.
The other thing that this part-time model does is that it sends a very clear message that our leadership is not responsible to “do all the work” of the ministry. We do not see ourselves as the ones who “run the show” as much as we see ourselves as ones who help guide and support others in their calling. Since we’re part-time, its really hard to fall into the trap of being leaders to do all the work while the rest of the community sits back and enjoys the ride. We just don’t have the time to do that.
I remember when we began moving to this model I was able to say to the church:
“Listen, the pastors are only part time, we can’t do everything. If we are going to move forward as a community its going to have to be a group effort. I believe God has called each one of us in a particular and unique way. As you feel God calling you to serve our each other and our neighbor, we are here to help support this calling. We’re in this together…”
About a week after I said that (or something like that) I was talking with a woman after church and our dialogue went something like this:
Her: “We should start a woman’s bible study.”
Me: “Yeah, that sounds great, let me know what you need in order to do that.”
Her: “Wait, what? You want me to do it?”
Me: “Yeah, you are more qualified than me.”
Her: “Uh, well, can I do that? Just start one?”
Me: “Yeah, you don’t really need my permission to lead a bible study with other women. I think that fits well into what we are trying to do here.”
Her: “Okay. Uh, sure. Uh, how about I talk to some other women and let you know what we decide.”
Me: “Great! Let me know how I can support you.”
This woman, more than qualified to lead other women, led this bible study for about a year. It was neat to see her see a need and be part of the solution…
For me a big difference has been a movement from being someone who runs everything and does everything to being part of a team effort and a community effort. I’ll be honest, when one person is doing all the work life is a lot easier. Communication is easier. Understanding roles in leadership is easier. Leadership meetings are easier. Why? Because it all falls back on one person. The one who gets paid. The professional. But, in this scenario, its understood and clear that Gary and I are not the ones solely responsible for everything in the church. We are responsible for a lot. More than most but that is because the community has chosen to set aside financial means for us to concentrate extra effort on our mission. Most of our leadership falls into leading our community further and better in our mission and calling, encouraging, training and empowering others to serve the Kingdom of God in the ways that God is calling them.
Okay, I’d better stop. I need to go make some websites…