Episode 111: Part Time Clergy Is Plenty with Jeffrey MacDonald

ABOUT THIS EPISODE

Mainline Protestant churches and denominational bodies don’t know how to handle part-time clergy. The standard has been clergy working full time. But has that always been the standard? (The short answer is no.) What happens when churches can’t afford a full-time clergy? Does that mean the church is no longer viable? Mainline denominations assume that all calls to ministry should be full time and if a pastor is working part-time, this is because the congregation is on the downward slope towards closure.

The thing is, the reality is far different and these denominations aren’t ready for the change. Today, I talk to G. Jeffrey MacDonald the author of Part Time is Plenty: Thriving Without Full-Time Clergy. Jeff is an ordained United Church of Christ minister and a freelance journalist whose writing credits include the Christian Science Monitor, USA Today, Religion News Service and others. He’s an interim minister of a UCC congregation and lives in New England.

Oh part time ministry as a viable option. This is episode one eleven of Church and Maine. Well, I hope that Um, this episode with Jeffrey McDonald was helpful for you and Um again. If you are wanting to know a little bit more about Jeffrey Um or ways to purchase his book, there are links in the show description. It's also just a reminder that it does take a lot to make great content like this available to you. So consider making um a donation, and you can do that by going to the Church and Maine website at Church and Maine Dot Org. Um, while you're there at the website, you can also listen to past episodes Um and also listen to watch some videos, videos of our Um um, of our interviews, and so Um. Do consider going to the church to the podcast website, church and Maine Dot Org. Well, that is it for this episode of Church and Maine. Um. I hope that you have a good first week back to school, back to work. My name is Dennis Sanders, I'm your host. Thank you again so much for listening. Take Care, God speed and we will see you very soon. Oh well, Jeff thank you...

...for taking the time to chat this this Um Day to talk a little bit about part time clergy. Great, yeah, they're glad to be here, Dennis. Thank you. So I think the first question to kind of talk about is hm. Hm. When I started in in Um, actually even before I was ordained Um, I remember going to a m an event from my denomination and the disciples of Christ and Um. It was in Tennessee and they had the the regional minister at that time from Tennessee there and he was talking about ministry and all the things that were available in his region and how great that was, and I remember asking him a question, and my question was simply are there, you know, any opportunities for Um kind of bivocational or part time ministry Um, because I think at that point I was already kind of thinking did I want to do this in a bivocational way or not? And it was funny that the way that he responded, or at least looked at me at first, was as if I had two heads. Um. He was just kind of shocked by that Um. And that was twenty years ago and I guess my question is especially in in light of what has...

...happened, especially the last few years with covid or anything. Do you think that that view of part time clergy? That was just one person's view. But has that view about part time clergy changed? Well, it's a it's a great question and I think that it's in many ways it has changed, but but only in certain areas do we probably see that. Really it's a it's a it's a Democrat or it's a it's a landscape that's in flux, I'd say, where we see more denominations accepting that part time is what congregations can afford, and so we see more and more judicatory kind of staffers recognizing that and working with it, even if they personally don't think that it's an ideal format and they have not been exposed to many success stories within that format. Um they are learning to to open to it. So we do see more exploring of okay, how can this work, and who's out there who has uh the ability to serve more than one congregation at once or or who can balance their work with something else in life, whether it's raising children at home or or or working in another vocation. So I do think we see more examples and I could talk in more detail about what I've seen in that if that would be helpful. Um. But I also want to add, though, that there's also resistance that lingers and so Um and, and this is an important part of it as well, because, like in the take the episcopal church for example. Uh, the Episcopal Church recently had a report come out where they said that fifty of their active clergy are not serving in one ministry setting. They are not they're not full I should let me clarify that, not full time in one ministry setting. So yeah, fifty six and this is active. This is not including any retirees. This is active clergy. And and so they're they're either serving multiple congregations or they're serving in more than one ministry site, like serving for the diocese and also in a parish, or they're working outside the church or their doing something caregiving at home or something else besides their ministry. Um, and that that's consistent with what we see in what I saw working in my book, that there were at that time, fifty six percent of congregations, episcopal congregations, had no full time clergy. So you know, it's a it's a norm, obviously a growing norm in that denomination. However, what I hear from folks that I interview on this is that the boards that are involved in examining candidates for ministry or those who would like to be candidates, continue to make the message known that if you're not willing to give up another line of work, then you're not showing real commitment to ministry and they use that as a litmus test. Now, this isn't everybody, but it happens on a regular basis, is...

...what I'm told from those who are involved in that world, in the in the episcopal church. So you have on a on a national level, it's a reality that more and more clergy are serving in this way, and yet the gatekeepers are still trying to hold to this uh standard as they try to figure out who's WHO's really got a calling from God. One of the tools they use is to say, well, are you willing to drop your nets and and follow Jesus like the disciples did? And the way they interpret that is leaving another line of work behind and and there are some of us, and there are some of us here and also in the Episcopal Church, who I'm there certainly many in the episcopal church, who say we need to stop doing that. That's that's not Um, a fair way to assess commitment. Uh, but it but it's a holdover from it's a cultural holdover. So it's, it's, it's. That's all to say that this is kind of a mixed bag. Yeah, I mean that's interesting because, you know, talking about nets and all of that. I mean we reread an act that Paul, you know, he did take up a side job, beside hustle, if you want to say, of of of tent making. So I mean it seems like I could kind of with my own, you know, biblical example to their biblical example. That just seems astounding that people would use that to determine, you know, people's readiness for ministry. Yeah, it's it's really interesting because you're right, there are, there are those those examples. There are. You know, Paul made tents Um and his his tent making, uh, was even even before he became an apostle that he was involved in that Um trade. So he brought a trade to it and and he didn't give it up. Um. He told others to also be able to be self sufficient so they wouldn't have to Um, so they wouldn't be perceived as uh, you know, telling people what they want to hear and then putting his hand out afterwards. Um. And and likewise other disciples. Yes, uh, you know, Peter, the other disciples left their nets and followed him, but they continued fishing. If you read far enough into acts, Um, you read that they it wasn't like they never caught a fish again or or did it for for a livelihood. So Um. So, yeah, it's really the legitimacy of the part time model is very well grounded in scripture. It's also well grounded in the history of the church, where this has been the dominant norm a us the centuries and continues to be the dominant norm across the world today. Uh. This you could very well make the argument that this is a this may be God's preferred model, or this may be at least a model that that God is delighted to use, uh, in growing the church. And and and that this is you know, there's a flexibility built into it. There's an adaptability to multiple cultures and in today's culture, America has, according to the Freelancers Union, uh, in New York City, they say that there are fifty seven million Americans who work as freelancers. There's a huge cohort, huge cadre of self employed people. Uh, there are gig workers, there are people who work multiple jobs for multiple reasons that have to do with lifestyle, uh, family responsibilities,...

...and so we're really in a time when when work doesn't look the way it used to, where you would have to say, well, if you're committed, you have to give up everything else and just be doing only this, this is your only form of income. That world is gone. And yet some of our mainline churches and some of the institutions are taking quite a while too accept that. I probably should back up and then this is gonna have a two part question, but one is to how would you define part time clergy? And then too, how did full time clergy, especially a mainline churches, become the model, because it seems like that has very much being the standard. But how did that happen and has that always been the case or had that was that something that happened only in the last few decades? Yeah, great, great question. Important question, Dennis Um so, in defining part time, I'm referring to pastors who serve thirty five or let's say thirty five hours or less um in one particular setting. So Um. I use this term. I initially started out talking about by vocational clergy when I did my research for my book, and I found that that term was a bit too limiting because it didn't encompass those who serve part time in multiple parish settings or congregational settings. So Um. And yet a congregation that shares its pastor with one or two other congregations is experiencing it as that's a part time pastorate. And and my book is focused on how do congregations make this work? So so we needed to broaden the terminology to speak of part time rather than by vocational, even though the church likes the euphemism of by vocational as Um uh, because it gives a nod to one's calling can be more than church. But Um Anyway. That's where that comes from now. So so that's how I define part time ministry. And the question about the Um, about about how this became the norm. Uh, this became. This has not been the norm, as we said, over the vast arc of of history there were times, going back even to ancient times, when Um, the bishop ship Cyprian, for instance, back in the in the in the fourth century, wanted to see dedicated priests in every parish. But even then in the affluent area of Carthage it was not feasible, it wasn't affordable. So they never they never realized the ideal then and they never did um for most of history. It wasn't until you know, even when other groups like like the Anglican Church in in colonial days Um and the Congregational Church, we're both keen to have thinking that that was an ideal to have a one dedicated full time person in each setting. But even then it was not feasible in most cases. So you often saw Anglican congregations sharing clergy and Um and coming up with other ways of empowering lay people in the absence of clergy. And so it really wasn't until the nineteenth century that this became more of a norm and got us to where in the a late part, the late decades of...

...the nineteenth century and the early decades of the twentieth century were when we started to see that there was enough affluence. It was kind of a gilded age function that we saw enough affluence and enough local communities that they could start to do this and say, yeah, we're going to have our own pastor who works only for us. and Um doesn't serve another church and doesn't serve another industry, and Um is at is available to US anytime an emergency comes up. Um and and that's and that would become a norm. So it's really kind of a of it's sort of a bourgeois uh status that became and assumed way that this is how you this is how you do church, this is how you have to do church. If you're going to be a legit church, an effective, functioning church, you need to have at least one full time pastor in that setting, if not more than one. And so we're kind of like, uh, people who are looking in the rear view mirror and we see one two generations that got used to this and then we say, well, that must be the way it always has been and the way it has to be, when in fact it's really arguably more of an aberration. Uh. This this norm, just like the just like the post war job working in in a in an assembly or a manufacturing plant. Uh, it was assumed for a couple of decades coming out of World War Two, that that that's the best way of work, that that's the way work was going to go, that that's what a good job is. You you sign on at the plant and you stay there for your whole life. Um. Well, that has proven to be an aberration to UH. And so what we're just as the world is returning to a much more uh, traditional way of work. Um, we likewise are doing the same in the church, I would say. And here's another case where I think life intersects, because I my hometown is Flint, Flint Michigan. Um, both my parents were out of workers so very much that was the model and especially post war. Um. People graduated high school and they spent a career um working in spent a lifetime working in one of out of the auto plants. But of course that started to break down in the eighties, Um, and as a city, I think it was hard for them to come to terms with that fact that things change. We're changing Um, and still lying to believe in that old model. So, yeah, I can see where that the similarities are profound. Yeah, yeah, as there are benefits to it. There are benefits to having a full time pastor in a local church as well. People get get used to it and appreciate that. Another kind of context you might see this in is is just the evolution of economic expectations and the idea that as we progress as a society, we we rely on others, we rely on specialists to do more things for us. And so, Um, we aren't growing our own food as much as our ancestors did a hundred years ago. Um, we might not even know how to butcher a chicken and or, you know, do the types of things that they would do to put food on the table, Um, or to earn a living or to make tools or to make clothing or to repair clothing. We don't. We don't do most of those things ourselves. There are some who still do those things,...

...but Um, it's uh, we've largely sort of thought, well, let's leave all that to the specialists who can do it on scale and who can do it more affordably and and and better than we can. It will all just specialize in our own thing. And that sensibility, when brought to the church, has led to dependency on full time clergy to be a little bit more knowledgeable and a little bit more expert in a vast array of things than everybody else in the in the congregation. They they know a bit, a little bit more Bible or maybe a lot more Bible, but they know more Bible, they know more history, they know more about conflict resolution, they know more about pastoral care and um and how to how to officiate a wedding and so on. Um. It's a very broad job description and and yet you have to wonder, so, Um, could there is this contributing to us becoming less capable as Christians, as disciples, because we don't minister to each other? We don't, we don't, we don't catechize the children ourselves, we don't. Um, we don't know. There are late, people don't know the scriptures as well as they used to. And how much of this is a function of depending too much on full time clergy to sort of have that wrapped up? How many parents are comfortable praying with their spouses and their children at home, Um, being sort of the pastors of the household, if you will? Um, how many have lost that as well from this trend? And so Um. So there's a case to be made that what we're doing here is reverting to a model that has been proven to work, that is still proven to work, and that's why I write about a couple of dozen examples in my book. Uh, those where it is working, where they're doing better. They have more vitality on a number of benchmarks than they did when they had full time clergy and and it's important to see that God is still working through this model and using it creatively and and that the muscles, the spiritual muscles, that may have atrophied under uh just kind of a drift into a consumeristic way of being Christian. Uh, those muscles are getting activated again and exercised and people are discovering it's really very meaningful and Um rewarding to be part of something that that expects more from them. So in Um, the book which you've written, which I'm going to actually show up as part time is plenty Um, you actually do do a lot of of going through a different examples of churches that are thriving. Um. What are some exacts? What are some ways that they how are they thriving? What have you learned about what it means to be part time clergy and and how does that translate into a thriving church? Because I think, and you talked, you've talked about this in the book, that sometimes people tend to think that part time clergy is a way is the kiss of death for our congregation. Um, but it can also, but it actually can be a step into actual renewal and re birth. Yeah, yeah, absolutely, uh and and we are seeing that. That's when I went out to do...

...this research with a grant from the bts center in Portland, Maine. They gave me permission to go and find the churches that are thriving on at least two benchmarks, and the criteria that I looked for was have they stabilized their finances after going to part time? And in all the churches I visited they had. So they were not hemorrhage in cash. They had either generated they were either balancing their books or generating surplus Um and pouring it into mission Um, the UH and. So that was one criterion. And then there were others where I was looking for those that showed at least one, if not more than one, in the areas of greater engagement of their members, more participation rather than just setting a check once or twice a year and showing up, a more engaged in uh the ministries, having a greater mission impact was another area I was looking for. A third was having more participation in worship and greater attendance at worship and and another was in stewardship and having more participation and commitment to to that area of ministry. So, UM, so. And that's what I found. I was able to find these in every region of the country, in every mainline denomination, all the all the major mainline denominations. I found them in rural, suburban, urban areas, UH and Um. And I found them despite the warnings from a couple of the initial judicatories that I contacted, who told me you're not going to find any. UH, they said. My initial phone calls were making me think this might be a rather short research project, because I was I was being told that, uh, you know, if you want to find thriving congregations with part time clergy, you won't because by definition they're not thriving. If they were thriving, they'd have full time clergy. And and when I pressed on them to say why, Um, they said, well, full time clergy or part excuse me, part time clergy only have time for preparing and leading worship and doing pastoral care with an aging congregation. That's all they have time for and therefore these churches don't don't grow, they don't engage. They don't do mission. Um. They sort of Uh whither, uh and, and certainly there are there are some that that go down a path like that. Um. But that's what made this interesting was to find those that did not follow that model. They activated their people. And so we see, so that when I visited churches, I saw places where the lady were much more engaged than they had been in things like a like like in Kent Washington, at St Columbus Episcopal Church, there was I saw that the lay people had embraced a uh a ministry housing the homeless once every quarter. So they had serving hospitality in that way. They had expanded their food Pantry, they had planted gardens that the lay people were tending so that the Pantry was no longer just nonperishables, that had fresh produce, Um, they had a growing children's ministry and all and all of this was because they had people who had attended megachurches and other settings and they had felt like that sort of they had felt it was they were being given a very consumerist, I religious experience. You know, come here, uh, and we'll we'll have something for every age group...

...and Um, and we'll have music and we'll do it all for you and you you your job is to show up and do what we create for you and drop some money in the in the in the pot. And that's what discipleship looks like. And these folks were saying no, we want to be part of creating, we want to be part of designing, we want our ideas to be valued and our energy to be put in where we can really work on a more intimate level with one another. And so they embraced uniquely what these churches had to offer. And I saw things like that in in other settings as well, that those are the types of things that, uh, I can give you more examples, but but that's Um kind of what when you ask what thriving looks like, uh, it involves and engage congregation doing creative things that people feel they have permission, so to speak, to do that maybe they they often didn't feel they had permission to do in other churches or in churches where a full time pastor was orchestrating the congregational life. And what is it? Do you think with Um, a lot of middle judicatories that they tend to equate part time clergy with decline instead of with renewal. Yeah, well, so in some cases there's there's they observe that that what happens is a a congregation will will go from full time to part time unwittingly. They will do it as a last resort and they won't really plan much and they will sort of fall into it when they just get to a budgetary point and they say, you know what, we can't afford a full time pastor net next year, so we just need to cut the job description and um, either offer that to our existing clergy person or get someone who is going to accept that and Um, and and wants to work in that framework. Um. So they sometimes fall into it and they do it Um in a way that, uh, you know, having not planned much, they end up just sort of cutting off the things that they think they can do without. And so they started to fulfill what that Judicatory staffer was telling me about. They say, well, we've got to have someone lead the worship, we've got to have them here to do the sacraments on Sunday, we've got to have them visiting the sick and and attending to pastoral care. And well, I guess we don't need presence on local nonprofit boards. I guess we don't need them attending ecumenical meetings or taking art in community mission or building relationships in town. And so they sort of lop off a chunk of the of the pastor's work. Um. And so why did they start to? Uh? I believe that this is associated with decline. Well, in some cases a church will go down a path sort of like that and and will become rather insular and not have a lot of significance in the community. They won't have much impact, they won't have much that draws new energy, and so they do go down a path of decline and as Judicatory folks observe that and don't really have any uh, any alternative to offer to their people that they've had experience with. They say, well, I guess these two things are correlated. I guess uh, going part time is um a contributor...

...to decline. And and so so they sometimes will encourage churches to hold onto their full time clergy as long as they possibly can. But the problem with that is they do so without strategy, they do so kind of blindly and they so and so they will sometimes even draw down their endowment to pay a full time clergy person leading a church that isn't energized and isn't UH fueling new engagement. Um. And so they just run out of money and and then they change their staffing at that point. But at that point they not only don't have money, they don't have people. There, there, people have have drifted, their numbers have declined or there. And and they're and they're faithful. People may have held on for another ten or twenty years and now they're too elderly to have much energy to be effective partners with a time pastor so you see it. Um, it becomes a h a real problem when, when, when Judy coutry sort of blindly say hold onto your full time people as long as possible, because they're kind of sealing the fate that this church is is going to Um, not is going to be too far along by the time they pivot, the more visionary folks will say, Um, look ahead and plan and go part time before you absolutely have to do it strategically, do it in in a gradient, go from full time to three quarter time, where the people may may barely even notice if they show up on Sunday and it looks a lot the same as they're used to, they may not even notice Um. And yet you've just freed up resources and and freed up the pastor to do some other things. And and and show that proactive approach can can bear fruit. But, but, but, and, Judicatori are trying to learn these kinds of things. Uh, but it it requires a cultural shift and it's taking time to get there. Now. One of the things that I kind of hear you saying a lot is in some ways, that this is gonna really require empowering Laity Um in a way that they haven't been before Um in that in the past I think, to use your term, and I agree with it, that it was more of a consumerist model that someone just showed up and maybe they participate in a committee or two, but they didn't really have an active part in the Ministry of a congregation. But what you're talking about here is really getting the Laity to step up and doing some of the things that in the past it would have just been assumed the pastor would have done. Yes, right right there is um that that is something that I saw a number of congregations doing and and one of the models that I discerned that that we're seeing happen across denominations is is a model of lifting up lay people, having the pastor kind of rethink his or her role to be Um, not so much the provider of so many religious goods and services as a but more of a Um, an equipper for the people, uh to equip them to minister to one another and to minister to their wider communities. And so it's a different skill set really that the pastor isn't just the only one who can give a sermon. The pastor also uses their trade, meaning to train others, to train lay people to give...

...sermons. Likewise, with Bible study, they can spend less time leading all the Bible studies themselves and more time working with a small group of leaders who take turns leading Bible studies or who or who lead multiple studies within the congregation. And so you'll you'll see pastors. This is a model at Christ the King Lutheran out in Tacoma Washington, where they where that pastor has, with the congregation, reinterpreted the role two to do exactly what I've just described in those two examples Um and in a few other areas. And so what do you need for that to happen, you need you need lay people who are Um, excite, need to share the ministry, excited to be part of proclaiming the Gospel, building up faith, ministering to their to their neighbors, to one another, who really want to see conviction and new life in Christ to be flourishing among the people. And Uh, and and really see. So they're not just kind of coming to church to get fed or to get their fix of something. They're coming to church to give they're coming to be practitioners as opposed to consumers. And and, and I saw this in the other churches as well, that Um, when they make that mental shift, when the lay people make the mental shift, they see themselves differently. So this is not just about you know, how do you stretch the pastor twice as wide on a part time pay scale? Uh, this is how do you how do we rethink what we're doing together in ministry and how the role can be shared more widely? And and the and the people who are taking turns giving sermons, those who feel called to preach and are able to do that in these churches, are loving it. Those those who one church I visited has, it has a dozen people who trans who work through a cycle on on the preaching Um. They sign up so the so the priest only preaches a few times a year and otherwise you have lay people who follow the electionary and who are serious about their craft, but they used bring their own style to it and and the congregation loves it. They say, we wouldn't want to go back to hearing the same person every week. That'd be so boring. And they keep coming back to the same themes and they they, you know, I mean, which pastor doesn't have their own favorite themes that they keep trotting out right, but this is, and they say, this is much more Um. That was a church that told me if someone gave us a million dollars, it wouldn't even occur to us to go back to having a full time priest in the church. We wouldn't even it wouldn't even occur to us because that's not we. We can think of, you know, a dozen great things to do with a million dollars, but they would have to do with with mission and with outreach and H and and and and other other important priorities. So Um, yeah. So, so those are some of the things that, yeah, unfold with this and it's it's really exciting too to see and I think it's very important to lift up these stories, obviously because I wrote a book that does that. That's something I think is important, but I want to see many others doing the same to lift...

...up these stories. What does it look like? Why is this so rewarding? Who? Who steps into these and that's how you can encourage it. For Pastors who are listening to this and thinking, how can we do that in our church, how can we motivate people to take a different role if they're hesitant? Well, as they pastors can give space in the in the newsletter or in the Worship Service for witness, for lay people who have taken on ministries to talk about how did they gain the confidence? How did they how is it rewarding to them? What difference do they see themselves making in the name of Christ as they do any number of things that used to be the pastor's job and Um, and let them do it in their own words and and that h you know, film, film somebody for a minute or two and put it on the website. That shows that showcases this. Pastors can do a lot more to showcase what others are doing and and that's exactly part of this, like other skill set that part time pastors need to have. It's discerning the gifts of Laity, it's empowering, it's it's teaching, it's lifting them up, it's celebrating what they do, it's it's amplifying their work. Um. Those are not so crucial when you're a full time pastor, but they are part of the bread and butter for part timers who succeed in this and, Um, and so it's it's important to keep our eye on that. So, Um, I wanted to I know you want to kind of be a aware of the time, but I wanted to kind of close this out because to talk a little bit about your own journey, because you have a I think part of the reason. Obviously, this is a poor and thing to you, but it's it's also your own journey, Um, as someone who is a part time clergy and I'd love to kind of Um, to share with the audience your own story, Um, and how that congregation that you're a part of has also has changed. Yeah, sure, yes, I have been a reporter for thirty years and along the way I went back to school and so I got an MDIV and I got ordained that that's now a little more than twenty years ago that I finished school and was ordered in the United Church of Christ. And and and for me, the I didn't want to give up journalism. I wanted to find some very new and different ways of doing it rather than being full time on a new newspaper staff. Uh and and and yet I didn't want to give it up altogether. And so I um, I was really excited to find that I could do this, that I could serve part time in in a parish and and do freelance journalism during the week. Um. That wasn't even something anybody talked with me about during divinity school and Um and. But but when I finally started putting my hat in the ring, that's what the Judy Couttori were saying. They said, well, we do have a part time setting. I said what really, I can do that. Um. And so I jumped at the chance and that's what I've done along the way. Um. So, so I'm one of these people whose part time by choice. Um. That turns out in the United Church of Canada they've been doing research on this and they find that the majority are part time by choice in Canada. Um, yeah, those who, those who these kinds of questions learn some...

...interesting things. We're just our denominations are not asking enough questions. Uh there. They don't seem to show enough interest in this area. You ask them how many of your congregations have part time clergy, and a lot of denominations can't answer that question. Um, why that's? If it's a if it's a different type of ministry that requires a different skill set and and just requires kind of a different way of looking at it, why don't we even know how many are are in this endeavor? Shows it shows a lack of appreciation for what this ministry is and what it can be and where these churches are. So, Um, that's a little aside. But you're asking about my experience and I so. I I do this work. I'm I'm a journalist, I'm a church consultant and I uh am a pastor of a small congregational church. I currently serve part time in Kensington, New Hampshire, the church there and before that up until about two years ago. UH, well, I'm an interim in Kensington, I should say that. So I'm helping them embrace this part time model. And before that I was in Newbury Massachusetts where Um, like in Newbury, we had a mission emerge in the area of a food pantry that Um came to us. That was just another church was closed, closing, a methodist church was closing in the area and they said we we served four or five people a week and we just don't want to turn them away. Would you allow them to come here and get some food from your closet? And and that church at first said no, we don't have room. and Um, I was one of a couple of people who lobbied for it and said I think we do have room in this big building that doesn't have that many people. Um and UH and and so they agreed and it. It just took off once they got used to it, by by having other congregations take part. It was one of these things that they couldn't have done it alone, but they had it. It grew to have Um. You know, now there's over ten thousand pounds of food given out a month at this the community has uh, uh pitched in, Um raised more than three thousand dollars to build a building, uh, so there could be a separate housing space right there on site. Um. It's just amazing what they've done. But they haven't done it by themselves. They just opened the door and then they said we'll have both other churches and secular nonprofits can can bring volunteers and we can um. You know, with that kind of volunteer force we can we can do this and Um. So they've really met a profound need and and and those are the kind of things that Um when you don't have staff to kind of do it for you, but you open the door and you say, Hey, you've got a chance to feed hungry people, and as soon as we start doing it, they start showing up, Um and and you can see the impact that you're having. People get really excited and and the community has really rallied behind it. So so those are some of the things I've I've seen in my ministry that I've been blessed to see and Um and and it's very rewarding. It takes a little time and patience, but it's very rewarding when you see uh lay people spread their wings and do what they're passionate, what they're called to do. Um. It's it's just a very rewarding arena to minister and well in Um. Final kind of question here is I want to imagine if someone is, to say,...

...a leader in in a middle Middle Judicatory, a Senate or a conference, or or there maybe the president or moderator of their congregation, Um, and they're in a strait where they may need to consider that they can't afford a full time clergy anymore. What would you tell them if they are considering going to part time? How would you encourage them to take this step? Yeah, I would. I would encourage them to to to look at it and, if possible, to plan for it. Uh, it's not always possible. Sometimes it just happens and that's that's okay. You can do a lot to Um, to learn while you're doing it. But if you can plan for it, plan a year or a year and a half ahead, then Um, you can. You can look at the opportunities within it and to really Um experience. Well, or if you're doing it from let's say you fall into it, which is how most churches end up there, UM, and they realize, Oh, we've got to do this right away, I would encourage them to take a little step back and take stock of what you're there to do, where you have life blood coming where? Where is the lifeblood that you're seeing in your community? Where is so when you think of of the energy and your church and and where it's getting an outlet, how it's flowing? This, this lifeblood of God, is flowing into areas where people have outlets for their passion, their creativity energy. Where do you see that happening? And and how can the pastor it be designed to support that, uh, to support the gifts of the Laity, so that you take some stock of Um. What are your what kind of gifts do the lay people bring? If you have a number of people in the church, of churches have teachers uh in their ranks. Teachers are very used to speaking in front of people. Uh. If you can speak in front of thirty, thirty eighth graders, then then you can probably handle uh speaking in front of the UH. You know that many people in a in a congregation on a Sunday, so Um. And yet a lot of people are afraid of public speaking. So so look to your teachers. Do some of your teachers have the ability to give a sermon? I bet they do. Uh. Do they feel called to do it? Very, very possibly they do. What kind of training or equipping do they need? Um? And now you're you're already beginning to to build some of those supports. How about do you have any nurses in your congregation? Could they possibly be part of a visitation group uh or or helping care for the sick and helping attend to the needs of the sick? Um, the berry mill, what might might feel that way? And and it doesn't have to be even just applying their professional experiences and skills. There's people who are have, have a desire to minister and abilities to do so, Um, that just use a different side of their brain than they get to use at work. And and the church can provide that outlet. So so you're looking at it as you're almost kind of rethinking the pastorate and saying, what does the pastor do that that we uh, that's helping support lifeblood today, and and how could that be redistributed among the congregation? And if we think strategically, we might say that some of those...

...assets within the congregation can be Um set loose and and lifted up and and and supported, and we might also have the pastor than have some new freedom. This is a counterintuitive thing to say. How could the pastor be more available to the community after going part time? We wouldn't think so. He might say, oh no, we can't have them out in the community at all. They have to spend all their time on us because we're we don't have much time with them anyway. Actually, that's not true. Would you? Would you strategically rethink how ministry gets done and you have more folks taking part in it? Now you can send the pastor to build those relationships that actually actively stoked the lifeblood, that build relationships with those in town who have compatible values, compatible sense of calling, and now you're actually your your systematically working with the Holy Spirit and H and and watching the lifeblood flow, while being open to the idea that there's a lot of experimentation in this right. So, so there's gonna be some. Something else I'd say in this is just expect that you're going to experiment with some new configurations and some are going to take off and others not so much. Um, but this is uh, we read the Bible. We see that God, God doesn't usually give people uh, easy things to do or things that they're super comfortable already doing. God, God gives people tasks, two that that stretched them too, to go where they haven't been before and and be faithful there. And and that's really Um, where where we can go and and we can learn a lot from from from others who have done it, because chances are maybe your church hasn't gone from full time to part time, but probably others in your community have. Um. And this is also a great opportunity for predominantly white congregations to learn from congregations that are not predominantly white and that have, in many cases, had more experience with part time or by vocational clergy. Uh, and could really partner and learn. How do you how have you been making it work for these past few decades? Um? That's a that's a there's just so many good things that can come of this. I could, I could ramble on, but I but I think, I think you see the promise here, Dennis. Right. Yeah, I do, and I've seen it in my own practice. And you know, it's funny, I did not bring up Um non white churches. Um, but that is having grown up in the black church, I know that. Um, it's kind of has. That's been basically their operation from time immemorial. Um, especially back home in Michigan. Um, there were pastors who both worked in the auto plants or whether on the line or Um in white collar positions, but then also pastored Um. So this is not unusual. Um and if you look at the totality of the church, it's just unusual in predominantly mainline um and predominantly white congregations. But it's not impossible to switch to that model. It just takes some time. Right exactly. It's a it's a where it is more of a transition for some of these churches that have had a different experience in recent generations. Uh. But but their churches likely had these models...

...earlier in their history and can really learn from their neighbors. And Uh and and and what a great way to to avail ourselves to the richness of the of the Holy Spirit's gifts. I mean so much of this, I think. First, Corinthians twelve is a perfect passage for this whole area one, because it talks about having the that the that the spirits gifts are not are not all vested in the head. They're vested across the body. Uh. And so that means the Laity are blessed with gifts of ministry too. and Um, lady aren't always haven't always been taught to think that way, but but you have it in this and horizontally across congregations, like we're saying. You know, the churches that are that are, um, not predominantly white. Uh, there and have more experience with this. That's all part of the body of Christ that is capable of blessing the rest of the body in it in a new in a new way. That, Um, you know, this is the right time for so many reasons, to cultivate that particular horizontal learning. Um, I really want to see it happen. I want more structure. Sometimes the dominations say, how can we support this? How can how can we be part of part of helping this? That's one way that you can do it. You can convene settings where we do some ecumenical learning from those who have more experience with this. Uh. You can also lift up the examples and give a voice to those who are doing ministry in this way. Let that happen, let that be seen at conferences and denominational meetings. Um, you know, lift lift this up as a as a viable way of ministry that has its own challenges but also its own blessings. And and just allow it to flourish and, Um, make room for it. Too often, you know, I attended a conference that was talking about church security issues and this the congregation that they put in front to give the talk was the one that was head and shoulders wealthier than all the others in the room. And so they talked about having police detail on, you know, all six entrances and every Sunday morning and having, uh, hidden cameras that were, you know, all over the place, kind of watching everybody's movement and you know, and everybody's sitting there nodding and saying, well, that's nice, but we can't do that. And and there are too many, you know, parallels in in in ministry, education that are also just unfeasible. So so, so you need to lift up this sleeping giant within the church, which is church is doing great ministry but getting very little recognition. Uh, let's let's make more of that happen and, Um, and and see the fruits that the Holy Spirit brings. So where can people find your book, which is part time? Clergies enough. and Um, if people just want to even get in contact with you, where can they find you? Sure, yeah, so, Um, part time is plenty. Thriving without full time clergy is the is the book that you can find pretty much anywhere that books are sold. Amazon, Barnes and Noble, your local bookstore, they can all provide it. Um. You can find information about...

...me and my work at g Jeffrey McDonald Dot Com. And so so there's UM. Yeah, you can. You can learn about my work there and UM. And if you Google my byline, which is g Jeffrey McDonald, Um, it's the first initial g and McDonald is with the M AC spelling. Um, you'll find things that I've that I've written. I'm I'm trying to put more of that coherently together so that you can see see articles on this, on this subject, as I continue to write about it and speak about it and Um, and and and find opportunities to lift up the what's happening on the landscape. There are many stories that are worth telling in this arena. Well, uh, Jeffrey McDonald, who is the author of part time. Um, it's plenty. Thank you. This was a great conversation and thanks so much for the time. Yeah, thank you, Denis, for the honor. It's really been a treat to be part of this conversation. All right, take care. All right. Well, I hope that this episode with Jeffrey McDonald was helpful for you and Um again, if you are wanting to know a little bit more about Jeffrey Umu or ways to purchase his book, there are links in the show description. It's also just a reminder that it does take a lot to make great content like this available to you. So consider making um a donation, and you can do that by going to the Church and Maine website at Church and Maine Dot Org. Um, while you're there at the website, you can also listen to past episodes Um and also listen to watch some videos, videos of our Um, um, of our interviews, and so Um, do consider going to the church to the podcast website, church and Maine Dot Org. Well, that is it for this episode of Church and Maine Um. I hope that you have a good first week back to school, back to work. My name is Dennis Sanders, I'm your host. Thank you again so much for listening. Take Care, God speed and we will see you very soon.

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