My doctor of ministry project focused on how coaching could be one tool that could assist bivocational ministers to enjoy more productive and healthy ministries.
I then turned this into a book that includes a number of case studies of bivocational ministers I have coached. The following is an excerpt of one of those relationships.
Pastor E is a seminary graduate who served several years as a fully funded pastor before deciding to become bivocational in 1984.
He was currently serving in a small, struggling church that had nearly closed its doors before calling him as pastor. Although the church still had problems, he believed it was healthier and had seen some recent growth.
In our first session, Pastor E wanted to know how soon he would be able to lead this church.
In the 30 months he had been pastor, the church had grown, but the leadership continued to come from the older members. They were reluctant to share leadership with the pastor or newer members.
One of the reasons the church had been struggling was due to the previous pastor’s divisive ministry. The church suffered from trust issues.
We spent much of our time discussing how Pastor E could gain the trust of the congregational leadership. From our discussion, it seemed he had been doing many of the right things but still had not been able to gain their trust.
I explained how I served a church that had also suffered from poor pastoral leadership in the past and it had taken me seven years to gain the trust of the bivocational church I had pastored. Thirty months may not be enough time for him to earn the trust of his congregation.
In the meantime, he needed to learn how to lead through the leadership that existed in the church. As he did that well, he would begin to earn the trust of them and the congregation. He identified two of the primary leaders in the church.
He was then asked what changes he had been wanting to make in the church. The two he named was using more contemporary music in the worship services and using video equipment.
He determined to talk to the two leaders and, if they agreed, he would ask the church board for approval.
In our next session, he reported the board had agreed to purchase the video system, and due to a recently discovered accounting error in the church finances, they had the funds to do so.
At the conclusion of our six coaching sessions, Pastor E reported he appreciated the focused and intentional structure of the sessions and the attention given to the time limit for each session.
One of the reasons coaching will be increasingly important when working with bivocational ministers is the time constraints they have.
Pastor E was already enjoying a productive ministry in his church. Part of his problem was that things were not happening as quickly as they had in previous churches he had served.
He struggled to see the positive things that were happening because he was often focused on the areas in which he felt he came up short.
One of the most important things our coaching relationship gave him was the encouragement many bivocational ministers desire. He also needed someone to help him step back and look at the overall ministry of the church since his arrival. Those two things helped bring new life back into his ministry.
Coaching always works from the agenda of the person being coached. This is another reason coaching can be such a powerful tool.
Coaches always begin each session by having the person being coached report on what he or she did with the assignment from the previous session.
After a three- to five-minute report, the coach will then ask what the person being coached would like to address in today’s session. Often, the topic or issue will be different for each session. This was true in the relationship I had with Pastor E as it was for most of the ones I coached.
It is likely you will find some of the issues you struggle within these case studies. The solutions that we discovered may help you find ways to address your own issues.
This book is designed to help you self-coach or to encourage you to find a coach who can help you raise your ministry to a higher level of productivity and satisfaction.
Dennis Bickers served as the bivocational pastor of Hebron Baptist Church near Madison, Ind., for 20 years before accepting his current position as a resource minister with the American Baptist Churches of Indiana and Kentucky. He blogs at Bivocational Ministry, and you can follow him on Twitter @DennisBickers.
Editor’s Note: This article is adapted from his book “The Art and Practice of Bivocational Ministry: A Pastor’s Guide,” which is available here.
Dennis Bickers is a church consultant and author. He served previously as the bivocational pastor of Hebron Baptist Church near Madison, Indiana, for 20 years followed by a 14-year ministry as a resource minister with the American Baptist Churches of Indiana and Kentucky.