Hacks for small churches

Searching for a part-time minister looks a bit different from search for a full-time minister. Your search team might not have the budget to bring candidates in for multiple (or any) on-site interviews. Your search team might not know where to look for candidates that would be willing to move for a part-time position. If your congregation is seeking a part-time pastor, consider the following.

If your budget doesn’t support a full-time minister, how might you encourage candidates to consider your open position?

  • Be very clear about your congregation’s mission and the ways its small size is key to mission fulfillment. Tell the story of your congregation and community in particularly compelling ways. Show your congregation’s clarity and excitement. It could be contagious.
  • Name the gifts of a part-time position and/or small congregation. Help candidates imagine what a part-time position would allow the candidate to do that a larger one would not.
  • Be very transparent about the job description to verify that the position is truly part-time. Don’t expect to pay part-time but get a full-time minister. Show that you respect the limits of the position.
  • Use technology and seek financial help from the judicatory and/or denomination to minimize search costs. There are all kinds of free web applications that allow for video calling. And don’t be shy about asking for search subsidies; that’s one of the perks of being in a collective of churches.

If your budget doesn’t support a full-time minister, how might you be creative in making your position work for a candidate who needs a full-time income?

  • Increase non-monetary benefits (e.g., time away). If your church is strapped compensation-wise, consider giving the minister one Sunday off per month. The minister can use that time to supplement income through filling other pulpits, leading retreats, or writing.
  • Yoke with another congregation (within your denomination or across denominational lines) to make the position full-time. Many small congregations are on a circuit. Sometimes these churches remain completely separate in their ministries, while at other times they might pool their resources for a bigger impact in the community.
  • Join with another type of ministry to make the position full-time. It might be possible for the part-time pastor to serve as a chaplain in the community or as part-time judicatory staff.
  • Partner with a local organization to offer a bi-vocational arrangement, or help candidates make connections with secular part-time employment. Paul was a tentmaker. Ministry and secular positions can work together, and sometimes they even complement one another.
  • Ask the judicatory and/or denomination about the availability of income supplements. Occasionally income subsidies are available to congregations that are doing vital ministry and/or have potential for growth.

External links:

Information from the Alban Institute about other pastoral leadership models.

Documents from the Mennonite Church USA related to what bi-vocational ministry might look like and how to negotiate time and compensation.