What God Expects a Pastor to Do

•March 30, 2012 • Leave a Comment

Reprinted from http://www.prweb.com/releases/2011/7/prweb8635898.htm

Despite the rise of mega-churches in North America, the vast majority of churches remain small. It is often necessary for pastors of small churches to work another job in addition to serving their church, leaving them in danger of burnout if some of their duties are not delegated to others. Author Dr. Terry W. Dorsett identified that leadership teams working in partnership with pastors can truly make pastors healthier and ministry more effective.

In his book, Developing Leadership Teams in the Bivocational Church (published by CrossBooks), Dr. Dorsett provides concise and effective guidance for small-church congregations and pastors looking to build and strengthen their leadership teams. Using New Testament church leadership principles, Dr. Dorsett offers lessons, exercises, and worksheets to train lay people to help their pastors with two of the most important and time-consuming ministry duties—preaching and pastoral care.

“I strongly recommend that pastors let lay people preach on a regular basis,” said Dr. Dorsett. “In fact, I show how that is what God expects a pastor to do. Whereas, most pastors prefer to do all the preaching themselves.”

Six fun, easy-to-use and successfully tested training sessions show pastors how to confidently empower students to fill the pulpit and make pastoral visits when needed. Developing Leadership Teams in the Bivocational Church is written by an effective bivocational pastor who desires to share what he discovered were some of the best practices for bivocational ministry.

Ministry does not have to be done alone. By learning how to work together on a pastoral leadership team, lay leaders and pastors alike can more effectively share the Gospel with their community and can assure the maximum long-term health of their church.

About the Author
At the age of 16, Terry Dorsett joined one of America’s largest congregations, Thomas Road Baptist Church in Lynchburg, Virginia. While in college, he joined the pastoral staff at that church and learned important concepts about how to reach a community for Christ. Next came a brief period serving in youth ministry in South Carolina before working with the North American Mission Board (SBC) in 1993. In 2001 Terry became the Director of Missions for the Green Mountain Baptist Association. Terry and Kay partnered with three other families in 2004 to start Faith Community Church. Terry is known for his energetic sermons and often travels around the nation leading workshops on bivocational ministry and on how to help small churches reach the next generation.

About the Publisher
CrossBooks, a division of LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention, is a Christian publishing company committed to bringing more Christian voices into the publishing industry. For more information, visit http://www.crossbooks.com.


Scriptural Basis for Developing Team Ministry – Guest Post by Dale Roach

•March 17, 2012 • Leave a Comment

While the Bible is limited in the number of verses that deal directly with team leadership, the Bible is rich in illustrations and narratives which provide the principles of team leadership. The Apostle Paul demonstrated the principles of team leadership in his missionary journeys and wrote of it in his epistles. Ephesians 4:11-12 reveals his belief in team leadership as he gives advice to the church in Ephesus (Barna 2001). I believe this is foundational to the whole idea to team ministry because in it, Paul points to the gifting of individuals to fulfill the roles of different offices inside the church. Paul writes, “And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers…” (Eph 4:11).

In this passage, Paul points out that each member is gifted to a different aspect of ministry as well as to different types of leadership. Notice that Paul did not write that God gave all to be apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, and teachers but he used the word “some”. This points to the fact often neglected in church leadership and especially in the small church with one pastor. “There is only one ministry superstar: Jesus Christ” (Barna 2001). Too often, the pastor fails to observe what John Maxwell (2007) refers to as the “Law of the Inner Circle”. This is simply the principle that a leader’s potential is tied to those around him (Maxwell 2007, 127-140).

Whereas, Maxwell (2007) writes of this concept in modern times, Paul under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit pointed out the necessity for team leadership in the church. Each of the offices mentioned by Paul was gifted in different ways to carry out the Great Commission. Paul also elaborated on this concept in his writings to the Corinthian church about the spiritual gifts (1 Cor 12:12-26) and used the human body to illustrate his point. In modern times, surgeons are able to graft the big toe to the hand to replace a missing thumb but the grafted toe is neither as effective nor efficient as the missing member. This is true in the church even today. A member not suited to a task cannot effectively take the place of a member whose aptitudes lie in the area of ministry being addressed.

In conclusion, Paul exhibited his belief in this principle of team leadership as one examines the team he built to go with him on his missionary journey. It is a diverse group of early believers ranging from Barnabas to Luke. Each of Paul’s companions were gifted in different gifts, skills, talents, and aptitudes. In this way, by surrounding himself with an elite team for each mission, the Gospel was spread to all ends of the Roman Empire. This type of vision for leadership is needed now in the church to carry the Gospel to all ends of the earth.


  • George Barna, The Power Of Team Leadership: Finding Strength in Shared Responsibility (Colorado Springs, CO: Water Brook Press, 2001), 31-35.
  • John Maxwell, The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership: Follow Them and People Will Follow You, rev. ed. (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 2007), 127-40.

You might also consider the book: Developing Leadership Teams in the Bivocational Church (Bloomington, IN: CrossBooks, 2010).

Boundaries in Ministry – a guest post by Dennis Bickers

•March 8, 2012 • Leave a Comment

Nearly everything in a smaller church is relationship driven. One of the first questions people will ask when hearing about a recommended change for the first time is “How will this affect the relationships that exist in this church?” It is critical that pastors in such churches become involved in the lives of the congregation. In fact, I do not personally believe that it is wrong for the pastor to have friends within the congregation although one must be careful in such relationships. Pastors in the smaller church cannot lead those congregations from the church office. Pastors must be with the people they are serving. In fact, more than just being with them, it is necessary for the pastor to be adopted into the family that exists within the smaller church if the pastor is to enjoy a good ministry there.

This brings up a challenge for the minister. How does the pastor of a smaller church balance the need of such relationships with the need to maintain proper boundaries? Ministry in the smaller church can often seem suffocating. More than one pastor has complained that he can never get away from the congregation. This is especially true if the church is located in a rural setting or small community. Minister and family alike can feel trapped in a fishbowl situation.

The bivocational minister may have an advantage because he has another job to go to. They have a life apart from the church that may provide some separation. Of course, if they work around members of their church that advantage will be lost. Here are some thoughts about how to create and maintain healthy boundaries in ministry. This is not an exhaustive list but one to get you thinking about how to maintain proper boundaries in your relationships with your congregation.

1. Develop relationships with persons outside the church and nurture those relationships.
2. Maintain your days off and do not allow friends from church intrude on that time.
3. When possible, get away from the community on your days off so people cannot contact you.
4. Remember that you are not required to answer the telephone just because it rings. Caller ID is a wonderful tool. True emergencies can be responded to quickly, and “friendly” calls can be returned at your convenience.
5. Confidentiality is a must in all pastoral relationships including with one’s friends.
6. Be very cautious sharing personal information with anyone in the church as it can later be used against you. While I believe in being open and transparent when appropriate, I do so with the entire congregation, not just those with whom I may be friends.
7. It is imperative that the minister back away from any relationship that even hints at crossing appropriate boundaries of emotional or physical intimacy.

Dennis Bickers has been a bivocational pastors since 1981 and is also an Executive Minister for his region of the American Baptist Church.

No Small Churches – a Guest Post by Rev. Michael Duncan

•March 2, 2012 • 1 Comment

I am under the impression that there are some in the wide world of God’s kingdom who view the size of a congregation as the empirical test of spiritual power and prestige. Somehow the idea that “bigger is better” has crept into the mindset of those who see the church as a montage of programs and that the only blessed ministry is a fully-funded, highly-staffed and overtly energetic experience. There is, however, no biblical basis for such a systemic view of the church.

But, let’s leave that aside for a moment and wax pragmatic. Let’s tackle the idea that “bigger is better.”

By way of illustration, consider a nuclear explosion. The bomb that devastated Hiroshima had a core of uranium of about 141 pounds. However, it had the same explosive force of approximately 30 million pounds of TNT. Just because it’s small does not mean it lacks power.

Which is worth more: a five-hundred dollar diamond ring, or a five-hundred dollar car? I’m sure that my wife would much prefer the diamond ring over the car. The car is bigger but that does not mean it is better.

Okay, enough of the pragmatic realities of the “bigger is better” mentality. Let me wax spiritual for just a moment.

I attended a church many years ago that had a “prayer chain” ministry. Before you go ballistic on me, I’m not against prayer chains. In fact, I am very glad that the people of God want to connect their lives together in prayer. Anyway, I was confronted by someone looking to put something “on the prayer chain.” I encouraged that person and offered to pray with her but she insisted that the more people praying the better. I asked her, “why?” Her answer: “Because God will be able to hear it if more people are praying!”

Does God have a quota? Is there a minimal requirement of praying people? Can you imagine the Father in heaven saying, “If only they could get thirty people praying for this, then I would answer?”

The attitude of the small church is not unlike the attitude of the woman wanting the prayer chain: that the more people involved, the more God will respond. Surely, then, God is magnanimous to those “mega” churches who have thousands in attendance every week and He must be equally minimalistic to the church of ten. To quote Paul, “God forbid!”

In the sight of heaven there are no small churches! Every born-again body of believers who has Christ Jesus as the Head and the Word as the source for faith and life has the same power as any other gathering of God’s people. There are no small churches because there is no small God.

Think about it like this. One widow’s offering was worth more than all the offerings of the wealthy combined. It took one man’s stone to kill a giant. It took one boy’s lunch to feed a multitude. It took one man’s prayer to bring a drought. It took only twelve men to change the world. So, “small church” what are you doing?

Jonathan and his armor bearer defeated the Philistines. Consider Jonathan’s words: “Come, let’s go over to the outpost of those uncircumcised fellows. Perhaps the LORD will act in our behalf. Nothing can hinder the LORD from saving, whether by many or by few.” (1 Samuel 14:6).

There are no small churches, but there is small-mindedness.

The moment you say that God’s plan is impossible is the moment you have shrunk in your thinking. Every church, whether large or small, is called by God to accomplish His purpose in the community He placed them. However, to look out over the field of work and the little resources available, might bring a sense of distress and a feeling that you’re just too small to handle the task.

This same thing happened to the people of Israel. As they prepared to cross into the Promised Land, twelve spies returned and ten had developed a small-minded point of view.

But the men who had gone up with him said, “We can’t attack those people; they are stronger than we are.” And they spread among the Israelites a bad report about the land they had explored. They said, “The land we explored devours those living in it. All the people we saw there are of great size. We saw the Nephilim there (the descendants of Anak come from the Nephilim). We seemed like grasshoppers in our own eyes, and we looked the same to them.” – Numbers 13:31-33

Don’t let yourself be lulled into a sense that you cannot accomplish the work of God simply because you’re small. God is not hindered by the size of a church’s budget or the number of participants. The only thing that will keep you from accomplishing God’s task is an unwillingness to trust Him.

To wrap this up, let’s hear it from our Lord Jesus:

To the angel of the church in Philadelphia write: These are the words of him who is holy and true, who holds the key of David. What he opens no one can shut, and what he shuts no one can open. I know your deeds. See, I have placed before you an open door that no one can shut. I know that you have little strength, yet you have kept my word and have not denied my name. – Revelation 3:7-8

There are no small churches.

©2011 – Rev. Michael Duncan – used with express permission of the author.

Bivocational Ministry is not just a “Rural” Issue

•February 19, 2012 • 1 Comment

Though I grew up in a city, the Lord moved me to rural Vermont in 1993 to minister in small valley towns and mountain villages. I have had to adjust my thinking in many areas in order to relate to a more rural culture. One of the first challenges I had to overcome was the concept that all “good” pastors are fully funded by their congregations and have the luxury of only serving the church as their vocation. I quickly realized that ministry in a rural area was most often going to be a bivocational experience.

I realized that just because a pastor had to be bivocational did not mean that he had to be a second class pastor. He could be just as trained and just as talented as his more urban peers if he wanted to be. I even wrote a book (Developing Leadership Teams in the Bivocational Church) to help provide some of that training. As I have promoted the book across the nation in a variety of venues, I have come to the realization that my thinking needs to be adjusted once again. It has become obvious to me in the past twelve months that bivocational ministry is NOT just a rural issue.
There are many small churches in urban areas that are also served capably by bivocational pastors. This might surprise some people because urban areas typically have better jobs and more financial resources than rural areas. Since this is the case, why would urban pastors need to be bivocational?

The simple answer is that though urban areas may have more financial resources, they are also much more expensive to live in than rural areas. Since pastors have the same cost of living as everyone else; if they are serving urban areas they will need to make significantly more money than their rural counterparts. While a church of 75 committed adults with an average middle class income may well be able to fully fund a pastor in a rural area, but it is unlikely that the same size congregation in an urban area would be able to fully fund a pastor even though their budget might be significantly higher. This is especially true if the rural church has a parsonage for the pastor to live in (as is often the case) but the urban church does not (which is also often the case).

This issue was reinforced in my mind earlier not long ago after I had a conversation with a denominational leader who serves 150 churches in the Philadelphia area. He told me that 70% of the pastors in those churches were bivocational. These are not rural churches. These are urban churches. Many of them are historic and have fine facilities in great locations. But they are no longer able to fully fund a pastor’s salary. Fortunately, many men are willing to serve small churches because of their calling to ministry and their love for the saints. Pastors who serve small churches are not in it for the money, and most are not trying to “build a career.” They are just trying to faithfully serve the Lord and grow His church.

Bivocational ministry is growing in America, so this is an issue that is not going away. The church must accept the reality of this and adapt current thinking on resource development and organizational structures of seminaries and training conferences and materials so that ALL bivocational pastors can be resourced adequately, whether they serve in a rural or urban area. I have been pleased that many urban pastors have found the resource I developed helpful and I pray that many other leaders will also begin to adjust their thinking on this issue.

For practical help in developing leaders in bivocational churches in both urban and rural settings, consider buying a copy of Developing Leadership Teams in the Bivocational Church.

Benefits of Being Bivocational

•February 11, 2012 • 1 Comment

“But I don’t want to be bivocational.” That was the declaration of a young man whom I recently talked to. He was nearing graduation from seminary and felt led to do ministry in a lesser reached area of the nation. Vermont, which is the least churched state in America, definitely fits the bill for being lesser reached. As the Vermont director for the efforts of my denomination, I have plenty of openings in which he could fulfill his calling to a lesser reached area. But when he found out that most evangelical churches in Vermont have less than 100 people in worship on a typical Sunday morning and that few could sustain a fully-funded pastor, he was discouraged.

I can certainly understand his frustration. After all, he had invested a significant amount of time and money in seven years of schooling in order to gain his Master of Divinity degree from an accredited seminary. In any other field, such an investment of time and money would likely produce a lucrative career. But if a person feels a calling to ministry, and wants to do that ministry outside the Bible belt, the likelihood of finding a fully-funded position drops significantly.

Young people who enter the ministry today are simply going to have to come to grips with the reality that most of them will spend a portion of their career in a bivocational situation. For those who may not be familiar with that term, it simply means that the minister must work a second job in addition to serving a church. It does not mean that the minister is “part-time,” it simply means his ministry position is not fully-funded and therefore he must find additional income from some other source.

The reasons that people want to avoid this situation are numerous, but the most obvious is that it is a lot of hard work. Balancing two jobs and a family is a challenge. Pastoral burn-out among bivocational pastors is notoriously high. Unfortunately, bivocational ministry is a reality that is not going away anytime soon. Both the current economic situation in the nation, as well as the giving trends of younger generations, indicate that churches will continue to struggle to fully-fund pastoral positions for some time.

However, just because there are challenges to bivocational ministry does not mean that such situations should be viewed in a negative light. There are actually a number of advantages that bivocational pastors have over their fully-funded counterparts. Before dismissing bivocational ministry, pastors should consider these advantages:

1. Bivocational pastors are not as dependent on the church for their financial support as fully-funded pastors. This relieves them of the stress of what might happen to their families if they were dismissed from the churches they serve. In some situations, bivocational pastors actually have more personal resources than fully-funded pastors because they have two sources of income.

2. Bivocational pastors often find more opportunities to witness to the lost than fully-funded pastors because they spend more time with non-Christians through their secular employment.

3. Bivocational pastors seldom live in a “pious bubble” that only church people inhabit. Their secular employment requires them to interact with and understand better the needs of non-Christians. Therefore, they frequently feel they relate to the people in their congregations better than fully-funded pastors because they “work” just like the laypeople do. These frequent interactions and the increased sense of relating to laypeople often help bivocational pastors have more realistic sermon illustrations and greater credibility in the pulpit.

4. Bivocational pastors have the ability to serve a larger number of churches because they can serve churches that cannot fully-fund pastors. They also get to experience the joy of allowing churches to fund other needed ministries instead of so much of the churches’ funding going to support their own salaries.

5. Bivocational pastors feel they are better able to encourage the churches they serve to create a culture of the laity using their gifts and the laity devoting more time for ministry since there were no fully-funded pastors “paid” to do “everything” for congregations. Most bivocational pastors feel this creates healthy churches over the long term, though it sometimes creates more stress in the short term.

6. Bivocational pastors often feel it is easier to teach about financial stewardship and/or to solicit contributions from church members. This is because so little of the churches’ funds are spent on the pastors’ salaries that the pastors asking for money is not perceived as being “self-serving.”

7. Bivocational pastors frequently express that they feel more dependent on the Holy Spirit in their sermon preparation and less dependent on their formal theological training or on their elocution or research skills. This greater sense of dependence on the Spirit is perceived as a positive thing by most bivocational pastors. It is interesting to note that the bivocational pastors who expressed this the most strongly had often previously served larger churches in which they had been fully-funded.

8. Bivocational pastors sometimes say that being bivocational gives them valid excuses not to attend denominational meetings that they perceived as irrelevant, uninteresting, and/or promoting things that are not helpful to their own ministry. This does not mean they never attend meetings, but that their bivocational status makes them feel more comfortable attending only the meetings that they perceive as being more applicable to their situation. If those same pastors had been fully-funded, they would have felt a greater obligation to attend meetings that they did not think would be beneficial anyway.

While bivocational ministry has many challenges, it also has many advantages. Learning what the advantages are can help bivocational pastors, or those considering bivocational ministry, feel better about their ministry. When bivocational pastors feel more confident about their roles, they tend to be more effective in their ministries. Churches and denominational leaders need to look for ways to help bivocational pastors celebrate the advantages of bivocational ministries since it is a growing reality in North American church life.

Dr. Terry Dorsett serves as the Director of the Green Mountain Baptist Association and is the bivocational pastor of Faith Community Church in Barre, VT. He is the author of Developing Leadership Teams in the Bivocational Church, and Bible Brain Teasers: Fun Adventures through the Bible, as well as numerous church growth articles, and is a frequent contributor to Baptist Press. His primary blog, Next Generation Evangelistic Network, is read by over 1500 people a month.

How Should Lay People Respond to a Crisis in the Church?

•January 31, 2012 • Leave a Comment

Large churches often have multiple staff members who may be on call and able to respond to any manner of crisis that may occur in a church. Smaller churches seldom have that luxury. In churches where the pastor works a second job in addition to the church, even the pastor may not be immediately available during a crisis situation. Therefore, lay people in the church may be called upon to respond to a crisis in the congregation. Such situations often have a high level of confusion and anxiety revolving around them. There is no real time to prepare one’s thoughts on how to deal with the situation, so the lay people who respond should simply seek to bring a sense of calmness to what may be a chaotic situation.

In such situations, it is important to realize that people who feel overwhelmed with a crisis may turn to a lay person at church because they do not know who else to call. The lay person may not be the person they should have called, but once the call is made, a caring Christian should respond the best way they know how. There are some things lay people can do in advance to prepare to respond to a crisis in the congregation, such as take whatever crisis training may be available in the community. Schools, hospitals and other organizations often provide training in how to deal with issues such as domestic abuse, first aid, suicide intervention, disaster relief, sexual assault, and grief counseling. Sign up for which ever courses seem most suitable and learn as much as possible about how to deal with these issues.

When first learning of the crisis, attempt to establish a rapport with the person in crisis. A crisis makes a person feel like no one can understand why he or she is upset, which in turn makes him or her more upset. To defeat this cycle, it is important to win the person’s trust. Never tell someone in crisis how to feel. Instead validate their feelings by saying something like: “I might feel that way too if I were in your situation.” Speak in a calm, even voice, which is not always easy if someone is angry or screaming. Stay focused, remember whatever training has been taken, and seek to be a source of calmness in the midst of the crisis. In many situations, once a lay person has been a “listening ear” to the person in crisis, it is best to refer the person to other more professional services in order for the person to receive real help.

Let the person in crisis tell his or her story. People often feel better if they can tell their story and know they have been heard. Be an active listener. Show understanding by asking questions and/or repeating back what they just said. Be alert for certain words and phrases that might indicate a person is in profound distress and might be considering suicide because of the crisis. Statements such as “This is hopeless” or “My life is over” may be indications of serious danger. If the person seems to be considering suicide, be very direct about it. Ask them outright if they are planning to hurt themselves. Though this may feel awkward, if it saves the person’s life, it is worth the awkward feelings.

Offer hope without misleading the person. If it is a situation which the lay person is experienced in handling, say something based on past experience about the likelihood of a positive outcome. Or if some of the training that has been previously taken included some factual information about such situations, offer that information as a way to bring hope into the crisis. Such statements let the person in crisis know the odds are on their side. But such statements also acknowledge that the situation may not be resolved the way everyone wants it to be. Offer hope, but do not make up stories or statistics that are not factual or that provide false hope. Otherwise more harm than good might be caused if a worst case scenario happens. It is important to avoid a response that blames the person for what happened.

Once enough information has been gathered, help the person in crisis explore his or her options by developing an action plan for what to do next. After the situation is under control, formulate a plan for moving forward and finding a solution that will help the person get through the short-term state of a crisis.

After the immediate crisis has passed, contact legal authorities or other agencies if required. Make a follow up visit or phone call to the distressed person within 24 hours. Make a written record of the situation and how it was responded to. Keep that record on file in case the situation comes up again or if legalities regarding the crisis develop.

Responding to a crisis is never easy. But Christians must be there for each other, especially in times of crisis. Lay people willing to seek advance training and follow the steps outlined above can be a calm presence in the midst of crisis situations that may erupt in the lives of church members.

This is an excerpt from the book, Developing Leadership Teams in the Bivocational Church, published by CrossBooks, a division of Lifeway. The book contains six easy to use lessons to train lay people to assist their pastor in ministry.