Dear Congregations Seeking a Part-Time Pastoral Leader,
First of all, please know that you deserve an excellent minister. It’s the role of the Presbytery (or other denominational entity) to give you the best options possible which means that we want your future pastor to be equipped spiritually, theologically, and ecclesiastically. My role is to offer suggestions and I will only suggest candidates who have proven leadership chops and can pass a thorough background check. You deserve healthy, gifted leadership.
There are a couple things you need to know as the Holy Spirit helps us with this:
- You will have a limited pool of candidates- Part A. Almost no one will be willing to move to this geographic area for a part-time position. They will not uproot their families to serve in a position that will not cover their living expenses, and because this PT position is almost certainly a contracted position (as opposed to a settled pastor who is installed) there is no certainty that this position will last more than a year. It’s not financially savvy to move here for a position that is insecure and low-paying. This means you will be not be doing a national search.
- You will have a limited pool of candidates – Part B. You will possibly need to consider candidates who are female, LGBTQ, immigrant, differently-abled and living in differently-colored skin. You might be looking at trained Commissioned Elders. You might be looking at not-yet-ordained seminarians. This could be God’s amazing way of helping your congregation stretch a little. (See: God Gets Everything God Wants.)
- You will need to pay this pastor accordingly – Part A. The Presbytery I serve will require salaries of $23/hour (or $20/hour for rural congregations) by 2024. If you cannot afford this minimum requirement, you cannot afford even a PT pastor.
- You will need to pay this pastor accordingly – Part B. It’s unfair and unfaithful to expect a PT pastor to work Full Time. I actually hear church folks comment out loud that they will get a FT pastor for half the price. This is not true. The average pastor in my denomination is expected to work about 50 hours/week. For 25 hours/week you get a worship leader who does emergency hospital visits plus a Bible study. You don’t get someone who attends every meeting, creates a stellar outreach program, and starts several new mission projects.
- Your PT Pastor will most likely have an additional vocation/job. You will need to share this leader with another church, a hospice, a hospital, a school, or a Starbucks because few of us can live on a PT salary. This will help keep you honest in that your PT Pastor will not be available to work FT for you even if that’s your expectation. Also: sharing a pastor with another church is a blessing. It helps us break out of our understanding of congregations as lone rangers in closed systems.
Church, you are not alone is finding yourselves unable to call a FT leader. Both before and “after” COVID, congregations have become smaller and institutional giving has become splintered. Church tithing used to be the most popular form of charitable contributions in this country, and now the requests for our philanthropy range from school candy fundraisers to alumni organizations to political candidates to charities for everything from sick children to sick whales to this kind of thing.
Retired pastors might be exactly what best serves your congregation. Keep in mind though, as you are saving money not having to contribute to their retirement or medical benefits, that retired pastors will most likely not be on the cusp of new possibilities for your mission. Or maybe that suits you. If you are happy with the way things are going and your mission is primarily to serve your current members, a retired pastor might work very well.
We will help you find the best available leader, Church. But keep in mind that availability is the operative word.
In hope and faith, Jan