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Will freelancing become normal for pastors and other ministry leaders in the church?

,Last week I referenced a “broken” or “soon to be broken” ministry/business model and that churches will be faced with how to:

  • Aggressively live out the Mission of God to an emerging generation AND
  • Cut the costs of operating congregational ministry.

Very few churches do these two well…

Very few churches do these two well and secure or maintain a clear focus on the Mission of God and not get trapped in the survival spiral toward death.

Leadership matters!

Leaders always go first!

There should always be a gap between your vision and attitude as a leader and the collective vision/attitude of the congregation.

Translated: If the congregation is caught in an “only cut costs” with no vision for the Mission of God…you shouldn’t be there, too!

54 million Americans freelance… 34% of the workforce

54 million Americans freelance…that’s 34% of the workforce. A Forbes article reports that some do it out of necessity and many as a choice.

They…

  • Do temporary “project” work.
  • “Moonlight” outside their regular job.
  • String together a combination of part time jobs.

Paul went to see Aquila and Priscilla in Corinth, and because he was a tentmaker as they were, he stayed and worked with them. Every Sabbath he reasoned in the synagogue, trying to persuade Jews and Greeks.  Acts 18:3-4

freelance I’m obviously a champion of pastors, pastoral couples, ministry leaders….and their leadership, well-being, marriage, influence, etc.

And I know that this contribution sounds a strikingly “unfair” note to some!

It’s probably never stated, but likely assumed, that four years or eight years of higher education (college and seminary for a pastor) oftentimes coupled with sizable student loans equals a full time “income” for the rest of your ministry lifetime in the church.

So does the near future for you or your family or your congregation include some combination of freelance work that supplements or funds the ministry that you lead or participate in?

The Forbes article linked above shows two drivers:

  • Workers not wanting to restrict or limit themselves by schedule or location or income AND
  •  Employers attempting to manage the full time employee costs of salaries, health care and other benefits.

If you look around… you’ll see lots of examples of this in the church already.  

One LCMS district leader noted they now receive more requests from congregations seeking part time or retired pastors than they do for full time pastors due to the costs of salaries, health care and other benefits.

You’ll notice most large congregations with multiple staff already use some combination of freelancing team members!

You’ll witness a courageous generation of gifted church planters who are living out some expression of “freelance” while frequently giving voice to the Gospel of Jesus in and around their “freelance” relationships.

You’ll probably not notice many more who quietly do much more in the name of Jesus, freelancing their way forward in communities where resources are thin.

It can be messy!

Let me be somewhat bold with some proposals:

  1.  If you’re under the age of 55 or 60 as a pastor or church leader…freelance might be in your future unless you plan to retire early! What skills or interests should you start cultivating today to serve you tomorrow?  (Life Launch authored by Hudson and McLean could be a useful guide.)
  2. If your church is in the “survival spiral toward death”…you should share this post with your leaders and take it to the next “meeting”. Ask, “Do we really want to simply ‘survive’ and do nothing about living out the mission of God?”
  3. By necessity, if nothing else, we’ll need to slowly set ourselves free from the heavy burden of managing the church programs and more intentionally disciple the people of God to live out the mission of God.

And, the implications are enormous for folks thinking or preparing for ministry roles in the church!

I could say lots more.

And lots of objections and exceptions could be aired.

Maybe it’s best to simply share a contribution from Psalm 3, part of my morning prayers this morning, that brought peace to my own soul.

Lord, how many are my foes!  How many rise up against me! Many are saying of me, “God will not deliver him.”  But you, Lord, are a shield around me, my glory, the one who lifts my head high.  I call out to the Lord, and he answers me from his holy mountain.  I lie down and I sleep…

Jock Ficken
Rev. Dr. Jock Ficken

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