As I meet with the pastor search committees of smaller churches, there is usually a concern that it will be difficult to find a pastor.
That concern is well founded. Most denominational leaders will tell you that one of their biggest struggles is to find pastors to serve in their smaller churches.
Churches that are large enough to have a fully funded pastor face the same problem when they seek a staff person such as a youth leader.
Quite often, they are looking for a bivocational person to lead some ministry in their church. It can be quite challenging to find these persons as well.
My advice to these churches is often to look within their congregation for people who are already attending the church and who have bought into the ministry and vision of the congregation. They are known entities.
It may well be that the next pastor or staff member of your small church is already sitting in your pews.
Some congregations spend too much time looking for persons with degrees and formal education.
It is going to become increasingly more difficult to find seminary-trained ministers to fill positions in our smaller churches.
We need to seek persons who have the giftedness and passion to serve in these ministries.
Once we find them, the church can then invest in helping them obtain the training they will need to be more effective, but such training can occur while they are serving.
Of course, one of the challenges will be to convince these persons that God may have more of a call on their lives than they realize.
I once challenged a lay leader in a very small church to consider that God may be calling him to pastor that church.
His response was typical. “I’m just a layperson. I don’t think I could do that.”
As we talked further, he admitted that he had preached there often since their last pastor left.
He shared that he had thought about the possibility of being the pastor there, but he initially didn’t think he had the education or experience to be considered.
Within a few weeks, the church called him as pastor. He has since graduated from a ministry training program, and he is enjoying a very effective ministry in that church.
Another small church was struggling to find a pastor. One of their deacons, a local farmer, called asking to meet with me.
As we met, he shared that he felt that God was calling him to be the pastor there, but he was a farmer, not a minister.
I reminded him that he was highly respected in that church and community. He had excellent interpersonal skills. He had led Bible study in the church for years and was well grounded in the Scriptures.
I told him I had no doubt he could be a very good pastor for that church and recommended he continue to pray about it.
A decade later this church has flourished under his pastoral leadership. Both of these churches have been exciting to watch.
“I’m just a lay person” is an excuse people often give, but it overlooks a very important truth. We are also children of God who have been given spiritual gifts to equip us for ministry.
Each of us was ordained for ministry at our baptism. Not all of us are called to be pastors or to fill staff positions in churches, but some of us are.
God has ordained us and gifted us for the roles he has given us. To refuse those ministry roles is to deny the purpose for which we were created.
Dennis Bickers served as the bivocational pastor of Hebron Baptist Church near Madison, Indiana, 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, where a version of this article first appeared. You can follow him on Twitter @DennisBickers.
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.