Planting a church? Don’t quit your day jobBy Wil LaVeist Mennonite Mission Network
ELKHART, Ind. — If you feel called to plant a church in these tough economic times, it’s a good idea to maintain another job.
It’s likely that a small church of less than 100 members — Mennonite Church USA recommends having at least four to five households to begin a church plant — will not be able to support a full-time pastor.
However, holding a second job in addition to being the pastor of a church plant or an established small church has benefits beyond the income, said Mauricio Chenlo, denominational minister for church planting for both Mennonite Mission Network and MC USA.
Working outside of the church offers advantages for effective ministry to those sitting in the pews. Bivocational pastors’ experiences working in professions similar to those of their church members can inform their preaching in ways that often make their sermons more relevant, he said.
“One of the limitations [of being full-time] is the pastor spends a lot of time in his office, or spends 20 hours of his time writing the sermon,” Chenlo said. “I really don’t think that helps to develop the missional instinct and skills of the pastor. When pastors have the chance to be car dealers or sell houses, or do something with their feet on the real ground where most people are … it gives a sense of what types of struggles people are really going through.”
Bivocational pastoring would be much more difficult and not recommended in a larger congregation of perhaps 200 or more members whose needs the pastor must be available to address, Chenlo said. However, for the majority of Mennonite congregations and church plants — which typically have fewer than 100 members — bivocational ministry is a logical alternative.
“Bivocational ministry is the present and the future here in America, particularly in terms of church planting,” Chenlo said. “Most of the church planters I know are not coming out of the seminary; they are carpenters, or people working in corporate business, or nurses.”
Associated Mennonite Biblical Seminary in Elkhart and Eastern Mennonite Seminary in Harrisonburg, Va., have expanded their distance learning options, allowing pastors across the country to strengthen their ministries through online courses.
In his role, Chenlo also helps churches recognize the importance of planting churches to increase overall church membership. One of the ways he does this is through church-planting seminars.
At retreats such as one held July 14 in Cape Coral, Fla., Chenlo takes leaders through the planting process and MC USA church-planting guidelines. He recommends planters enter into a coaching relationship with him.
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