6 Reasons Why Many Full-Time Pastors Will Soon Be Part-Time

By Thom Rainer

Let’s begin with some prefatory comments. The saying is so common it has almost become cliché: “There is no such thing as a part-time pastor.”

I get it. Many bi-vocational and co-vocational pastors feel like they are on call 24/7, regardless of their employment status. For this article, I am referring to compensation rather than hours on the job. Many full-time compensated pastors will soon receive part-time compensation. Here are six reasons why this trend is accelerating.

  1. Declining church income. This may be the most obvious, but it is one reason this is becoming more common. Since the pandemic, the number of churches unable to afford full-time compensated pastors has grown significantly. The number of bivocational pastors already is growing rapidly.
  2. The pandemic caused pastors to re-evaluate their priorities. Sam Rainer refers to our current reality as “the great reshuffling.” The pandemic prompted many people, including pastors, to evaluate their lives and priorities. Many pastors already are choosing to become covocational (choosing to be part-time compensated, even though the church can afford full-time compensation).
  3. Greater priority on their families. This reason is a subset of #2. As pastors reflected on their priorities during the pandemic, many came away with a commitment to spend more time with their families. For a number of pastors, this move required an intentional decision to work part-time at the church.
  4. Technology and side gigs have made other part-time vocations more accessible. I’ve known pastors to drive for Uber, deliver groceries, coach, teach online, code software and many other vocations that were not available in the recent past. In many of these side vocations, pastors can set their own schedules.
  5. Hiring part-time staff is a growing trend. These part-time staff can pick up many of the responsibilities of pastors if the pastors choose to move part-time. I know several churches that are adding part-time staff who work as little as five to 10 hours a week.
  6. Many pastors desire to not be dependent on the church for all their income. Frankly, many churches are fickle. They can demoralize or dismiss pastors for the most absurd reasons. One pastor was threatened with termination if he did not change his eschatological view of the millennium, even though his position was not contrary to the church’s doctrinal statement. Pastors no longer want to be at risk of losing all of their income just because an influential member doesn’t like them anymore.

This post originally appeared at Church Answers.

Published April 26, 2022

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Thom Rainer

Thom S. Rainer is the president and CEO of LifeWay Christian Resources. Prior to LifeWay, he served at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary for twelve years where he was the founding dean of the Billy Graham School of Missions and Evangelism. He is a 1977 graduate of the University of Alabama and earned his Master of Divinity and Ph.D. degrees from The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. He has wirtten more than 20 books including the bestsellers Simple Church and I Am a Church Member. Among his greatest joys are his family: his wife Nellie Jo; three sons, Sam, Art, and Jess; and seven grandchildren. You can connect with Dr. Rainer on Twitter @ThomRainer and at facebook.com/Thom.S.Rainer.