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Pulling double duty

Nov. 10, 2005

By TIFFANIE BLACKMON, staff writer

Bivocational pastors have led small congregations since biblical times, when Paul the Apostle spread the gospel while working as a tentmaker. Today, bivocational pastors are still leading churches while balancing another job.

"A bivocational pastor is a pastor who works a secular job where he earns at least half of his salary or more," said Dr. Winfred Moore, director of the Center for Ministry Effectiveness and Educational Leadership. "Some are school teachers, truck drivers ... one thing or another ... even lawyers and physicians."

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Ray
Texas has more than 5,600 Baptist congregations. An estimated 1,500 of those are led by bivocational pastors. They vary in age, experience and ministry.

Seventy-eight percent of churches within the Baptist General Convention of Texas are considered small, with Sunday school classes averaging fewer than 100 members, according to the BGCT.

Baylor's ministry effectiveness center has worked to aid bivocational pastors since its establishment nine years ago. Supporting that mission for the past five years, the BGCT has aided the center and the George W. Truett Theological Seminary in finding ways to help bivocational pastors balance their pastoral duties and their outside jobs.

Moore said since the center began, Baylor's effort was intended to give back to area churches and their pastors.

"We try to help keep them from crashing and burning and ending up giving up ministry from stress," Moore said. "We try to help them learn to relax better, to work smarter."

The support of pastors holding down two jobs is supplemented by the work of the BGCT and Bob Ray, director of bivocational and small-church development. At the same time, Ray pastors Fairy Baptist Church, a small congregation 60 miles northwest of Waco in Hamilton County.

"Our point of accomplishment is to relate to bivocational and small church ministries around the state," Ray said. "We want to encourage them, to give them the tools to realize the full potential of their being a presence of Christ and where God has placed them."

The BGCT and the center try to address the needs of small churches by providing a format for networking and distributing of information.

"We try to partner with schools across the state because of the quality of staff," Ray said. "They get to hear quality people talk about the word, about how to be better ministers, about how to balance their lives, and they get to build relationships while they do that and find ongoing resources for themselves and their churches."

Churches in smaller counties or rural areas that can't afford to provide a full-time pastor with benefits sometimes have to consider other means of maintaining a church. Sometimes that may mean bringing in a seminary student, someone from outside the community, or a bivocational minister to lead their congregation.

Because these ministers are often inexperienced and need guidance on how best to serve their churches, programs like the bivocational and small-church ministry of the BGCT are working with Baylor to fill a void where a need exists.

Bivocational ministers have the option to attend training seminars that provide streamlined information and services from the BGCT's annual conferences.

Small congregations may request help from the BGCT to provide assistance or resources to find ways to improve their churches.

Truett Seminary offers a home-study program in which bivocational evangelists can earn a small-church certificate of ministry.

The program is offered by mail and will eventually be offered online. It consists of five sessions with two courses each except for the summer session, which offers one course.

The program takes two years to complete. The cost of the program is $150 in addition to the cost of books.