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First Things, December 2014

December 9, 2014

Recently I preached a sermon called “Look What We Made” that included a history of First Church. (You can read all of my sermons on my website:

Here is something I discovered in my research that didn’t make it into the sermon.

In the 80 years between 1908 and 1988, First Church had six ministers. They worked full time. They stayed at the church, on average, more than 13 years. In the 20 years between 1989 and 2009, First Church had seven ministers. Many were part time. They stayed, on average, less than three years.

Part time ministry, and short-term ministry, is one of the signs of an unhealthy church. A healthy church, even if it’s a small church, has enough going on that a full time minister is required: education, outreach, social justice, pastoral care, preaching, and serving the denomination. And even a small church requires board meetings, and the newsletter, and raising money and fixing broken windows, and so on.

The biggest problem, though, for a church with a part-time minister, is that the minister probably does something else with their time: a second job, or going to school. That means the church doesn’t get their full attention. They aren’t “around” regularly. And they’re always looking for their next, better, job.

In February, I will have been at First Church six years. It is my intention to stay many more years. This is a great job for me. But full time ministry is also good for the church. I look forward to working with you all to create a church that can sustain full time ministry, long after me.

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