Part Time Ministry : LUSENET : A.M.E. Today Discussion : One Thread

Rev. John's recent promotion reminded me of a predicament faced by many of the pastors in Texas. Most, including myself, are pastors of churches that simply cannot afford to pay a full-time salary. Bishop Young is clearly indicating his desire for Full Time Ministry by emphasizing the importance of Seminary training and advanced degrees. What, if anything, can we do to get more ministers into full time service?

By the way, I post of this board to get your ideas which gives me a different view on the things I may be wrestling with.


Pastor Paris

-- Anonymous, September 01, 2001


Bishop Cousin of the 4th Episcopal District also desires to have clergy who are seminary trained, (like the United Methodists, United Church of Christ, Lutheran, Presbyterian) yet at least the 4th Episcopal District administration does not have anything in place that serves to financially support their pastors. As a result, you have pastors with Master of Divinity degrees from accredited seminaries serving churches that can only or barely afford to pay $50/week - 100/per week in cities such as Chicago and Detroit, MI. If the AME church is going to model themselves after these other denominations, then the AME church is going to have to follow their lead, i.e.: the higher administration of the AME church is/are going to have to financially invest in their seminary-trained clergy and not totally put the responsibility on flegling churches. The AME church will be able to get clergy into full-time service if the AME church starts investing a portion of its general budget funds and starts allocating a portion of those funds for their clergy. This is what the other denominations do.

-- Anonymous, September 01, 2001

Dear Rev Paris

I am from the Bermuda Annual Conference where every Church is a Classs A Church and every Pastor is Class A. Bishop Cousin (our former prelate) advised that we are the only Conference in the connection in this position. As a result our Churches pay a significant amount for our Pastor's expenses and most seem happy. We have a glut of qualified clergy seeking charges in Bermuda but we only have eleven.

To increase the number of full time pastors requires each church to grow financially. My Church (Bright Temple) is the youngest and I have been there from the beginning when we were on circuit with other Churches until we could afford our own way. We have approx. 125 tithing members and our church continues to grow. I do not think this is the answer for the Connectional Church as regions and Churches vary but I wanted you to hear from an area that is working.

May God Bless You

-- Anonymous, September 02, 2001

I am challenged by this question and therefore feel the need to add my voice to the discussion. I am not of the opinion that we as a Church have a proper working definition of "full-time Pastor." Is a full-time Pastor one who has no other form of financial income? Is it someone who is remunerated as a "full-time Pastor" who also has alternative income? Should our focus be on the amount of time on task or the level of productivity? I raise these questions because some of the supposed "full-time Pastors" are hardly working when they say they are.

I regard myself as "a full-time Pastor." Outside of pastoring, I am also an administrator at the Bermuda College "full-time." During my pastoral administration I have been promoted within the Church as well as within the College based on my productivity. As a person with dual employment,I have also served on more Government Boards and committees within the community compared to my colleagues who are not employed beyond their pulpit.

I believe that we as a Church need to look more at a persons productivity and not their use of time. Working within the Church does not make a Pastor any more productive compared to those who may choose to work outside of the Church as well.

-- Anonymous, September 02, 2001

I consider a "full time pastor" to be one whose primary income is from the church and therefore their primary focus is the church. Of course this person can have other pursuits that may or may not enhance their ministry, but when it comes down to it the church comes first.

There are many churches that due to their size will not be able to pay a pastor a full time salary that still have a very active and vital ministry. In this case there is no option for the pastor but to seek outside employment or a larger charge.

The question I have is can we ask someone to spend thousands of dollars on seminary training and then ask them to travel 100 miles or more every week for $50 or $100? And if not does the church that can not afford more than $50 or $100 a week deserve less than larger churches because they are in a rural area?

-- Anonymous, September 02, 2001

I guess the bottom line is: "Can you serve two masters?


Pastor Paris

-- Anonymous, September 03, 2001

I do not think the issue is about "serving two masters", the issue is about the A.M.E. Churches' (general church) responsibility toward their pastors. Why are things so one-sided? The pastors are expected to commit their time and resources to their charge as an A.M.E. pastor, but the connectional A.M.E. Church has no financial commitment toward their pastors; (i.e. if you expect your pastors to be trained, then what responsibility does the connectional church have toward the pastors?) None. If the A.M.E. Church expects their pastors to be trained and to commit themselves to serving the church, then there should be some kind of reciprocation on behalf of the church. Yes, the local congregation should be responsible; yes the local church should "invest" in their pastors like the churches have in Bermuda. But the A.M.E. Church (general church) is also going to have to "invest" "financially" in their pastors like the pastors and lay members "invest" in the expenses of the "general church". Yes, yes, the general church does "dispurse" monies to Africa, A.M.E. Schools, ext. but, there is no line item for the pastors. Yes, yes, I am aware of the "supplement" pastors can apply for, but according to one of our presiding elders, the pastors can only apply if that is there sole source of income. The pastoral supplement is $10,000. That is below the poverty line in most places. The responsibility or reciprocation should not just come in the form of an annuity at retirement or expenses for the pastors funeral when they die. It really has nothing to do with "serving two masters." Also, if people feel that ministers who work full-time jobs while they are pastoring are "serving two masters", then answer this question: who is going to pay the bills? who is going to pay the mortgage? who is going to pay your children's tuition? If you are only making $50 per week and your student loan bill (from seminary) is $800 per month, who is going to take care of that? It is a real problem, and no one is really ready to address this very serious issue. If all of the churches in the Bermuda conference are "class A" churches, then maybe there needs to be some kind of "model" for all of the districts because that certainly is not the case in Chicago. In my view, a full-time pastor of "full-time ministry" means that a persons sole source of time and income is earned via their "full-time" ministry. In the case of pastoring, your are working as a pastor on a full-time basis, receiving a full-time salary AND you make yourself available to your parishioners on a full-time basis (i.e. you have office hours, etc.). If the churches are paying their pastors a full-time salary, then the parishioners need to set certain "Christian" demands on that pastors time. Part-time pastoring/ministry, means that your sole source of income comes from a secular job and a portion of your time is spent doing "ministry"; usually the person is receiving part-time income or a "stipend" while doing that ministry. The biggest "growing edge" within the AME church is that the bishops and presiding elders require "full time demands" on "stipended" pastors. I know everyone's experiences are different. I am speaking from my 30+ years experience in the 4th District/Chicago Conference.

-- Anonymous, September 04, 2001

Also, in response to the member from the Bermuda Conference. You made a very interesting point when you stated that there are only 11 churches in Bermuda. That is why your members can afford to invest in your pastors because you have fewer pastors/charges to be responsible for. In the city of Chicago alone there are approximately 100+ churches, many of which have 10-20 members. Many have no building to worship in because the buildings have fallen down and the members have been displaced, so you have a group of ten people over here worshipping at a gymnasium, and a group of five over here worshipping in someone's basement because no one wants to come together. What really needs to happen is that many of these churches should consolidate so that instead of 100+ churches of varying qualities, we can have 25 "class A" churches" with 250 - 500+ members each. One of the reasons why the churches in Chicago do not consolidate is because the presiding elders make the pastor who is interested in merging churches responsible for the General assessment of that "closing" church (conference claims), which can add up to thousands of dollars. So, none of the pastors want to take on extra conference claims, so everyone stays separate into a million and one tiny little "kingdoms". It is a very serious "problem", one that cannot be solved in this discussion group, but I am glad I have a forum to get this off my chest. Thanks.

-- Anonymous, September 04, 2001

I want to add to the discussion from the prespective of a seminarian and a part-time pastor, who has a part-tme job.

I had been in seminary-Turner Theological Seminary at the Interdenominational Theological Center in Atlanta, GA-since the fall of 1996. After my first semester, I sat out 2 semesters due to lack of funds. After that I vowed to the Lord that I would never be out of school until I am complete with this process. Therefore, I have been acquiring (and will have pay back) loans from the government. During this whole process, I have had to work full time and then accomodate my class schedule around that. Some semesters, I could get into school fulltimes, sometimes, I could not. This is the reason it is taking me so long to complete this process.

In Sept. 1999, I changed jobs from working in hotels in Atlanta to working at a 24-hour call center (which is where I am typing this response from. Shhhh! Don't tell my supervisor.) In Oct. 1999, I want sent to pastor 33 of God's most wonderful people; namely, Mt. Sinai AME Church, in Bradley, SC. This requires a 2 1/2 hour, 160 mile one-way trip. When I got the appointment, the church was just split from a circuit that was for more than 100 years. This meant, that the church only worshipped every other Sunday (2nd and 4th). My presiding elder, who is a member of this church and whose family is still active at the church, said to me he wanted the church to meet every Sunday. To compromise, the church decided to add the 1st Sundays on to our schedule until such time as we thought we could increase. (Well, God is good and we will begin worshipping every Sunday beginning in October 2001). As you can imagine, a church of this size could hardly afford to upkeep a starving seminary student; however, they do very well. We have since gained 1 member, I have not buried one person but all around me, churches are burying folks left and right. Ain't God good?

At present, I will finish up this seminary experience, hopefully in December. Last fall, I was going to quite my full time job (who, when I was hired knew that I was in seminary and say they could not work around that) and do seminary full -time. Not knowing how I was going to pay any bills. Well, when I went to resign, my boss said that they would work around my schedule that I needed to inform them of my school schedule. That truly has been a blessing. I get some income and my church does very well, which enables me to pay my bills.

I am not angry at any one for what I have endured. I just wish a system were in place so that someone like me won't have to endure what I have had to. I am taking this heat because they will improve me and inturn will improve the church that I love and inturn will glorify God, which is our ultimate raison d'etre. Because I have experienced this, I endeavor to not be a complainer but a doer and assist seminarians with only concentrating on seminary but established funds and scholarships to do so.

At any rate, my issues are as follows:

This past General Conference, the church has mandated that in order to be ordained an Itinerant Elder, one must have completed seminary; however, the church did not all allocate much $ for seminarians. Granted the church gives $500 per semester for full time students and my episcopal district (the 7th) offers a stipend as well, but it certainly not enough to support anyone who has tuition, books, and other expenses that go along with being in school. The church must make some provisions for this, like, take up $ as a line-item for seminary education through mid-year and/or annual conference budget time and get students to commit to 5-10 years of AME service post graduation. Some episcopal districts give student full tuitions. At ITC, the 11th District has been doing this for quite some time. That quality of the minister in Florida and the Bahamas is sure to go up. As well, the 11th had the highest percentage of students at ITC who finished in 3 years because they knwe their money was sure and a- coming. GA is folliwng suit now with this.

Couple that mandate with the fact that the church is supposed to retire ministers at age 75 beginning in 2004. When I look at SC, half of the elders and pastors will be gone and there will be very little seminary graduates to replace them and by order of church, only seminarians will be ordained as Elders. Do you see where this could lead? Licentiates and locals supplying churches because the older ministers must retire, and the conference will not ordain non- seminarians.

I love this church. This church has been good to me. Post graduation, I want to serve in a full-time capacity to the glory of God. I want to assist other seminarians with this process with more that "I'll pray from you." But in order to have an educated church, the church must invest in order to get an investment. Without it, the church's own rules will shoot the church in the foot.

-- Anonymous, September 04, 2001

I have sent this to individuals, but it seems I need to post it for all to consider. As I see it, the problem is in the amount the church has initially to work with. The entire budget of the A.M.E. Church is slightly less than $12,000.000 per year. The total operational funds for all it endeavors to do throughout the world must come from this meager amount. Four years ago, the budget was just over $8.5 million. This is ludicrous indeed. The combined budgets of the five largest churches in any major city would be far in excess of either of these amounts.

The A.M.E. Church can easily count 2.5 million members. This figure is certain. It does not include the padded figures reported by some churches and districts. If we simply collected the old "Dollar Money" amount of $4 per member per year, the total would equal $10, 000,000 and would exceed the last Quadrennial Budget by $2.5 million. If we raised this amount to $5 per member per year the total would equal $12.5 million and exceed the present Quadrennial Budget by one half million dollars per year. Taken one step higher to $50 per member per year the total would equal a staggering $125, 000, 000 or half a billion dollars per Quadrennial.

I am quite away that a congregation which reports 10, 000 members would have an budget of a half million dollars per year and perhaps scream, "NO WAY". But, a simple calculation should also put these objections to rest. Fifty dollars per year calculates to be 96 cents per week. Simply given the cost of a bar of candy, even children spend considerably more.

Considering all that we do with the meager funds generated by the present budget, it is nothing short of a miracle. However, the time has come for us to consider a budget suitable for our needs in the Twenty-first Century. It is now time to wake from the dream that we can live with a budget designed for two centuries past.

-- Anonymous, September 05, 2001

Reverend Hill,

The organized lay is quite aware of the dilemma which you face and many lay groups have taken steps to assist persons in situations such as you describe. The Sixth Episcopal District Lay Organization has a "Turner Fund" established to help with ministerial tuition costs. I don't know the particulars for application but Dr. Daniel Jacobs would certainly know. It could be that since your congregation is located in the Seventh Episcopal District that you will have to seek funds there. At any rate do check it out as fund have indeed been set aside.

-- Anonymous, September 05, 2001

Mr. Matthew -

You are most correct, that money is for seminarians who are part of the 6th District. I spoke to a "leading" pastor in Atlanta who gave me the rundown of the scholarship parameters. I am in prayer that my District will follow suit soon. If not for me, for others.

-- Anonymous, September 05, 2001

Greetings again from Bermuda

To the Dear Sister in Chicago I am grateful to learn of your situation as you have articulated.I do not want to give the false impression that all is perfect in Bermuda. We have small charges similar to yours but obviously not as many. Bermuda only has 3,000 AME members and struggles to grow this number annually. Because of our leadership no church has been allowed to financially be swallowed up when financial difficulties occur. Churches have worked together to assist sister churches and families through difficult times.

Rev. Paris I believe this is a critical debate for our Church. Personally more important than who will be in the mud slinging for honours (sorry honors in American Spelling)in 2004. I believe some of the success The Bermuda Annual Conference enjoys is due to the financial committment and hard work of the laity as well as the Pastorate. We have a significant tithing program that gets results. Most of our Churches are debt free and this has come from major fund raising.

If there is a model that can be crafted from this story I would hope the leadership of our District would communicate with yours. Sis. Joyce, Bishop Cousin is a visionary leader. He is the one responsible for the development of the AME Reinsurance company. This company will change the way the AME Church does some of its business across the Connection. Talk to him the next time he is in your area. I am sure he will be most pleased to share some of his 8 years in Bermuda and the things he found both good and Bad.

If we get grow our Churches through the commitment of more tithing I believe the heavy burden of qualification will be eased on those who seek to follow the calling of God. One of Bishop Cousins goals is to have an education fund to assist Pastors across the connection. As his Vice Chairman in the new Church Company I am committed to help him see the goal into a reality.

May God Continue to Bless You All

Grace, Mercy and Peace

-- Anonymous, September 06, 2001

Sister Joyce of Chicago

I thank God for your 30 plus years of service in the AME Church. I have been a member for a similar length of time. I wish more members like you had your desire and interest in growing our denomination.

God Bless You

-- Anonymous, September 06, 2001

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