We teach children to share their stuff, but truthfully, there are several things most adults don’t like to share: toothbrushes, credit card statements, pastors. Seriously, congregations seem to dislike the idea of sharing a pastor with another congregation at least as much as they dislike sharing a toothbrush.
When we have a bivocational pastor (one who serves part-time as a pastor and part-time as a teacher/administrator/banker/dog groomer) we can assume that our pastor is generally “ours” on the weekend for Saturday activities and Sunday worship.
When we share a pastor with another congregation, that pastor is not solely “ours” on Sunday. They also spend time with another church which limits their availability to us.
Important shift in church culture in the 21st Century: Your pastor is not available 24/7.
Sure, if a life-shattering emergency happens during the pastor’s day off, that pastor will probably attend to it. But today, pastors are not (or should not be) expected to cancel vacations, cut short a day off, or miss their child’s birthday party because you can’t find your baptismal certificate.
There are safeguards that pastors can take to ensure time for sabbath rest:
- Get a dog. (“Sorry, I need to leave now to go feed my dog.”)
- Get a family. (“I can’t meet that afternoon because I have a Parent-Teacher Conference.“)
- Get a backbone. (“No I can’t that day/time/week.”)
Sharing a pastor with anyone – the pastor’s family, another job, another congregation – forces us to keep healthy boundaries.
But the #1 reason why we need to get over our refusal to share a pastor with another church is because many – if not most- congregations cannot afford a fulltime pastor, especially when health and retirement benefits are part of the package. And very few pastors can support themselves on a part-time salary.
And gone are the days when you can expect full time service from a part time pastor. (Don’t even try. It’s fundamentally greedy.)
What would it take for our congregations (with 50 or fewer members) to partner with a neighboring congregation for the sake of having pastoral leadership? Why can’t we share?
- Is it ego? We want the community to believe we are wealthier than we are?
- Is it denial? If we call a PT Pastor, we’re admitting that we aren’t as strong as we once were?
- Is it competition? We don’t want the Christians down the road to see us struggling?
The future for many small congregations will be Pastor-Sharing. This is actually a wonderful opportunity to broaden our ministry and make connections that benefit the whole community. Congregations are better together.
If we will only consider it.
Would you rather your congregation close in 2-3 years? Or share a pastor and continue ministry in a new way for many years to come?