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October 10, 2018

Lessons Learned in Bi-Vocational Rural Pastoring

By New Churches Team

Getting Started in Ministry

There are several different ways to fund a church plant. One option is for the pastor to be bivocational and hold a second job outside of the church. For many, this option is the most effective way to make sure that the church is being a good steward of the funds available to them, while also allowing the pastor to provide for his family. This decision might be permanent, or it might only last for a few years until the church has consistent support from its members.

Recently, I chatted with James Pavlic, a bivocational church planter in Ohio. He and I discussed what it looks like to plant a church in a rural area and how that differs from planting a church in an urban area. James first felt led to seminary after he graduated from college and was working in the software field. He began taking classes online and got very involved in his church. James soon felt a burden to preach, and his wife encouraged him to choose a path. The family moved to Charlotte so that James could complete his theology degree in person. When James finished seminary, he felt a call to do something unique and different.

Choosing the Bivocational Route

God has provided James with the ability to continue working in the software field for more than 20 years while also pursuing ministry. His current role allows him to be off for a few hours during the week and every Friday. This consistent time off and flexibility allows him to carry out his duties for the church as needed. For the foreseeable future, James anticipates that he will continue to be bivocational until he reaches a point where it is no longer smart to do so. Being bivocational also afforded James the ability to fund a large portion of the church plant in the beginning himself so that they didn’t have to drain the funds they had available.

Rural vs. Urban

James felt called to serve the poor but didn’t feel led to an urban area. He read information on the demographics of Appalachia and felt let to a church plant in West Virginia. He quickly learned that they had their own culture and you had to either be born there or spend a lot of time earning their trust. He knew he was only planning to be there for a short time, which made it hard to really earn their trust. He didn’t want to waste Kingdom time earning trust, when there were already people who were from West Virginia who could do the ministry just as well.

This led James to consider his own roots. He came from a very rural area in Ohio that was also in need. Many people left the town and never came back. In fact, James’ return become something that caught people’s interest. He finds that they aren’t reaching many new converts, because there aren’t new people in the area. But they do have a group of about 150 people who are disenfranchised with the church and they cycle through every couple of years. These people believe in Jesus but have trouble connecting with a church. This is the group that James is going after. He is hoping to get them into his church’s vision of activation, participation, and restoration.

Lessons in Church Planting

James has learned many lessons in church planting that he never found in a book. Here are four things he considers to be the most important parts of church planting in a rural area.

  1. Prayer. Prayer is vital. Before you even have a core group for a church plant, find a group of people that will pray with you and seek the face of God for His mission.
  2. Jesus. People need Jesus. They don’t need another church. Once people find Jesus, they become the church. Sometimes you can be so specific in your vision that you miss out that people really just want Jesus.

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New Churches Team

NewChurches.com wants to help you build a strong foundation by connecting you with top experts in the field of church planting and multisite ministry, and by regularly providing you with the resources, information, and community you need to thrive as you multiply the mission of Matthew 28.


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