Cat Cora As a Model for 21st C. Ministry

Cat Cora MosaicI had never heard of Cat Cora until Tuesday at The Chef’s Table talk for Chicago Ideas Week.  Where had I been?

Cat Cora‘s basic skills involve food but to say she is simply a chef would be erroneous.  She was the first female Iron Chef.  She is executive chef for Bon Appetit.  She is a UNICEF spokesperson.  Her voice is featured in the Iron Chef video game.  She recently created a food app.  She operates a restaurant at Disney World.  She just opened a restaurant in Singapore.

She is a model for 21st Century ministry.

Many of us who serve as professional ministers have one job.  We are The Pastor or The Chaplain or The Theology Professor or the Middle Judicatory Executive or The Bishop. But the future of 21st Century professional ministry might well involve an assortment of “calls” all juggled, more or less at the same time.

I’m not talking about traditional bivocational ministry (if we can even call bivo ministry ‘traditional’).  I’m talking about serving smaller churches, creative projects, community endeavors, teaching gigs, and social media outlets as a cornucopia of ministries that support us financially and spiritually.

I’m talking about the pastor who supports herself by serving a congregation 15 hours a week while serving a community ministry for LGBTQ homeless kids a couple hours a week while teaching occasional social media for churches while offering spiritual direction to 3-6 individuals.  Yes, it sounds exhausting, but I’m wondering if it isn’t our future.

When a pastor has One Job, it’s easy for our professional identity to wrapped up in that One Job to the point that – when we leave it – we are fairly lost.  As you read this, I am probably in our Presbytery’s Boundary Training talking with pastors who need to watch out for this.  Retired pastors with no identity beyond their former church are boundary-problems-just-waiting-to-happen.  Active pastors who work sacrificially All The Time for “their people” have boundary problems too.  I’ve been one of those people.  Still am in some ways.

What if,” you might ask, “a professional minister isn’t really talented enough to have opportunities like writing, speaking, teaching, or counseling in order to supplement his part-time church income?”  Then maybe we can do something truly bivocational like serve as a pastor and a car mechanic or a pastor and a lawyer.  And there will – perhaps – always be churches that want and can afford full-time professional ministers.  But increasingly more and more will not.

If we have several projects going at once, there is no way we can experience our sole identity through just one.  It keeps us self-differentiated.  It keeps us from living and breathing a single job.

A gifted pastor’s basic skills involve church but to say she or he is simply a pastor would be erroneous.  The 21st Century Pastor spends less time on building maintenance and more time on a variety of creative ways to share our belief that following Jesus is the best way to live, that loving our neighbors is the best way to spend our days.

I find this more exciting than exhausting.

3 responses to “Cat Cora As a Model for 21st C. Ministry

  1. Yep, she’s something else – and a real family person, too. I agree that there are/will be ways of being 21st C pastor that will exhaust, energize, and excite as the times, they are a changin.’


  2. It can’t be that much more exhausting than the one job in the particular church.


  3. You are describing my way of moving through ministry and my husband’s too. We each have two or three vocations. We each like to live a big life and we have skills and passions that need feeding. I am a pastor and a Stated Clerk and sometimes a consultant. My husband is pastor, a community college prof and actor/author/spiritual director. It is a great life – complicated, but great! It really feeds us and makes us better at everything we do.
    However, it requires a cultural shift for Presbyteries and our colleagues. There are those who cannot imagine that we can live this way without something “suffering.” Ughh. They wonder if the Presbytery, the church, the college is getting their money’s worth out of us. Isn’t it unethical to ask more than one place to pay you well? These are the challenging comments we hear whispered around the edges. Conversation by conversation we work to explain and enlighten. More importantly, with time we are showing folks that it a great way to live authentically, provide for our family, and an effective way to live out our callings!


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