I have a dream. A ministry dream. Nothing as world-changing as Dr. Kings’ dream. But a dream nonetheless.
For years, God has been forming a dream in my heart for a very different type of future ministry. The only problem is I haven’t found a church to take me up on the offer. I’ve twice laid the dream out to a group of church leaders and I’ve twice seen the strange looks on their faces staring back at me.
I am not sure why my ministry dream is so radical or far-fetched. I think it could be a church revitalization plan in the making. I think it would expand the ministry outreach of a church in decline and bring a fresh wind of leadership and momentum to any congregation. I think it would solve numerous problems in one fell swoop.
But it’s bold. It’s different. It requires a significant among of trust, faith, and dependence in the Lord. It requires rethinking staff leadership and what is means for “outsiders” to come in and take over.
What is my ministry dream? I am so glad you asked.
For the record, this has never been shared publicly. It’s raw and unbaked. I am sure it needs refinement through godly counsel and wisdom to be effective and practical. There is, no doubt, significant problems I haven’t explored or even considered.
I share it now, here, publicly, because I am nearing the end of my eighth transitional pastorate. It could be that there is a church somewhere around Campbellsville who might be in decline and need a church revitalization plan that is out of the box.
It might be time for this dream to be birthed in a church in central KY.
MY MINISTRY DREAM
STAGE ONE: Reshape the Idea of Single Pastor to Pastor Team.
Most small to medium-sized churches have the largest single line item in their budget designated to the compensation for the lead pastor. It could be 40, 50, 60k or more total package.
What if that amount was distributed evenly between 3 or 4 cross-vocational pastors? Each receiving 1/3 or 1/4 of the total compensation. Each member of the pastor team would have responsibilities in teaching/preaching, volunteer development, and community outreach.
Because each pastor would be cross-vocational, they would not need health insurance, retirement, housing allowance, or other types of benefits. The whole pastoral compensation package would be divided evenly.
The pastor team would come as a package, not piece-mail. The team would already be arranged, much like a church planting core team, before the church even called. The church wouldn’t be considering only one pastor, they would be considering the established pastor team. Its a yes or no to the team, not the individuals.
STAGE TWO: Access Young Leaders as Pastor Team Interns.
Since the church now has 3 or 4 pastor team members for the price of one, the other staff compensation would be used to bring on a series of ministry interns. Call it a laboratory or ministry farm club or Paul & Timothy mentor-mentee type experience.
In my role as a college ministry professor, I interact with many talented, passionate young men and women who have a heart for God and who love His bride, the Church. They have gifts and skills that could be so powerfully used in the ministry of the local church NOW and later. They need experience for future ministry and mentoring for personal development.
They would be easily connected with one of the pastor team members and be mentored in real-time ministry training. All it would cost is the salary of a full-time secretary or second staff position.
With each pastor team member having at least one intern at their side, the church staff grew from 1 or 2 full-time persons to 6 or 7 cross-vocational staff. And here is the kicker… the church budget hasn’t changed at all. Not one additional penny has been spent, but the church staff has tripled.
Before I move to stage three, let me explain the rationale behind the pastor team and ministry intern approach in church revitalization.
A church in need of revitalization feels flat or stuck. They have exhausted their best efforts and don’t have the necessary energy to keep fighting the good fight. They have a building. They have a core group. They have a few ministry teams led by stable servant-deacons. They have a good sense of fellowship and community but the ministry approach needs to be refreshed.
When you bring in 3 or 4 new pastoral leaders plus a slew of ministry interns, all of a sudden there is growth. Actual instantaneous numeric growth. If each pastoral team member has a family, there’s growth. The 3 or 4 ministry interns have friends who tag along on Sundays, so there’s growth. The congregation feels like hope has arrived because they grew numerically by 20 or so on the very first Sunday.
Along with numeric growth, there is financial growth. One of the key commitments for the team would be that everyone, both pastors, their families, and all ministry interns would faithfully tithe their income to the church.
For the 3 or 4 cross-vocational pastors that means tithing on their full income, both church and other job(s). For the interns, that means tithing on their church stipend plus any other income they may have.
I’ve played with the numbers and I think a church would actually grow their budget (depending on the income level of the cross-vocational pastors and spouses). Financially, the church could have more resources immediately. More financial resources means more ability to do ministry out in the community.
Along with numeric and financial growth, there would be instant momentum growth. Each pastor and ministry intern would be ready to go. They would be excited, fired-up, enthusiastic, and passionate. They would be ready to love on the people and reach out to the community from day one. This kind of enthusiasm is infectious.
It would be like a heart that was in cardiac arrest and on its last leg having a shot of adrenaline jabbed right into it. The heart would explode back to life.
STAGE THREE: Shift Meeting, Planning and Church Admin to Remote and Digital
After serving 8 churches as transitional pastor and only 1 of them being in my own town, I’ve learned that planning, meeting, and strategizing about ministry can be handled remotely.
With a laptop, cell phone, and collaborative apps such as Planning Center Online, Evernote, Remind, and Slack, you can pretty much keep everyone on the same page from your backyard.
Now there are times when people need to sit down and talk face-to-face. There is no replacement for meaningful dialogue and team prayer times around the kitchen table. But you can do a lot more administratively via remote than you might think.
Having someone in the church building 40 hrs a week is simply not necessary. Consider church plants who function for years in rented space like a movie theater or elementary school. They are required to do volunteer training and leadership development away from the physical building. Much of that is completed from their laptop.
Staff meetings can be remote (I’ve done them). Training volunteers can be via video. Idea sharing for worship, preaching and teaching can be done in the cloud.
For this reason, I think my dream could work for a church that was in one city and the pastoral team and interns living in another. For example, I could see a church in Elizabethtown, KY (50 mins. away) embrace this dream with the pastoral team members and interns living in Campbellsville, Louisville, Hodgenville, or Greensburg. I don’t believe the entire team would need to be in one location or even live in the city of the church.
That’s my ministry dream.
Reshape the idea of single pastor to pastor team of cross-vocational pastors. Access ministry interns and put them in the shadow of every pastor team member. Rethink church administration and communication from in the building to in the cloud.
I truly believe God has put this dream in my heart. At age 39, I pray I will see this dream become a reality in the next decade.