When I tell people that I help clergy reimagine ministry, they are often very curious about what that looks like, and who does it. There is a collective imagination that seems to limit thinking to all clergy serving full-time in congregations, and if they don't, they pay their bills with part-time secular work (or a pension of some sort).
But in today's church and world, there are lots of new ways to make ministry sustainable, and many creative ministers doing it.
I have started paying attention to HOW clergy - including myself! - actually put that reimagination into practice, and I have noticed it usually falls in one of five categories...
1. Full-time congregational ministry with a Free Range Priest 'side gig' Lots of clergy work their creative side into a ministry that reaches beyond their 'day job'. In this way, they help their own flock deepen their relationship with God, and they share it with those who may not be churchgoers, now or ever. A podcast, blog, live video series, or something like it that answers theological questions or offers comfort and hope, like the Rev. Charles Smith at saletlucem.org
2. Multiple part-time congregations Some clergy serve in traditional ways but new contexts. We often think about 'yoked' or 'clustered' ministry, which is a formal arrangement where clergy are assigned to serve in more than one place. This is often a recipe for 'full-time work for part-time pay', however!
Creative Ministry can mean contracting with multiple congregations to serve specific tasks or hours, and in this way a minister can support him/herself while also keeping ministry affordable for smaller congregations. Graham McCarthy is a Canadian pastor and student doing just this kind of work.
3. Part-time congregation, part-time Free Range Priest When it is true part-time - 2 Sundays a month - then congregational work can often fit nicely with evangelical entrepreneurialism! Clergy have time to develop things like retreat ministry, spiritual direction, teaching, or other kinds of outside-the-box ministry where they also feel called to share their gifts.
4. Free Range Priest with a congregational 'side gig' This is what I do! I love being an Episcopal priest, and being able to preach, administer the sacraments, and offer teaching and pastoral care.
So while the bulk of my time is online teaching, coaching, digital ministry, and work with denominations, I also serve just one (fabulous) congregation, at about 10 hours a month (2 Sundays a month plus as-needed by the hour).
5. Full-time Free Range Priest
It is possible to serve sustainable, full-time ministry that is not congregational (or served in another institution, like chaplaincy or denominational work). While many clergy are called to full-time congregational service, many are not. And since only about half of congregations can afford full-time ministry, now is a great time to know it is possible to serve full-time in creative ways.
The Rev. Dr. Lisa Cressman is the founder and chief steward of Backstory Preaching, an online preaching mentoring program, one example of a thriving creative gig!
Let the Spirit Guide You There has never been a better time to step out in faith and serve the church and the world in new, creative, and sustainable ways.
Free Range Priest can help!