In early 2012, Fast Company featured an article by Robert Safian entitled ‘Generation Flux’. In the article Safian suggests Generation Flux will be defined by a new reality. This new reality is:
…multiple gigs, some of them supershort, with constant pressure to learn new things and adapt to new work situations, and no guarantee that you’ll stay in a single industry.
In response to Safian’s assertion I suggested:
Bible colleges and seminaries have long served as the training institutions for clergy. While the church has undoubtedly benefited from the specialized and focused training provided by these institutions (and while I have personally benefited from education at a private Christian college and an excellent seminary), there are limitations to this model of training/education. Namely, clergy often graduate from the hallowed halls of these institutions with a rather narrow knowledge base and a limited (and not very marketable) skill set. Consequently, pastors vie with one another for positions at churches that can afford full-time pastors and pastoral staff, or can provide the hope that they will be able to do so in the near future.
Pastors aren’t the only casualties of this system, however. The small local church and the church that is yet-to-be-born are also victimized. Because the well-educated pastor has student debt, a family, and the necessities of life to tend to many pastors are unable or unwilling to minister in small churches or as a church planter.
Those that are able or willing to give it a try regularly encounter another challenge: ministering bi-vocationally. In many respects, bi-vocational ministry is ideal in that it keeps the pastor grounded in reality and allows him/her to develop meaningful connections with those who are outside of the church. Connections with the wider community can occur naturally, through the ordinary ebbs and flows of work and life. But, where does a pastor work? What skills and training does he or she bring to the table? Bible colleges and seminaries, while providing invaluable education in ancient languages and biblical exegesis, don’t often teach pastors-to-be how to weld, do graphic design, copy-edit, develop a business plan and start a business, etc. Thus, the bi-vocational pastor often has to work a job that does not provide a living wage, requiring them to work two or three jobs in addition to pastoring part-time (while in actuality putting in full-time hours). The weary, beleaguered, and indebted pastor then (on many occasions) burns out or leaves for the greener pastures of full-time ministry.
I would suggest, therefore, that the pastors of the church of the future will need to possess a diverse skill set. Biblical knowledge, the ability to exegete a passage, and pastoral counseling skills will need of be supplemented with knowledge and skills that will allow them to gig just as effectively (if not more so) as their non-ministerial counterparts. Colleges and seminaries will need to adjust to meet this growing demand.
At the time I never imagined just how prophetic that assessment was. Rental issues, car problems and other unexpected expenses left Crystal and I with a depleted cash reserve. Facing a big fat goose-egg, we tightened our belts and worked out budget. But it wasn’t enough. We needed extra money coming in to meet our bills and have any hope of squirreling some money away.
A part-time job wasn’t a possibility with me.
Crystal going back to work was a possibility––but it wasn’t something that we were willing to do unless we absolutely had to.
In the end, we got creative.
As I mentioned, Crystal became a Thirty-One consultant.
I ended up taking on a number of gigs––short jobs that I could do for a brief time to make some extra money when needed. Most of my gigs came by way of Craigslist. A few came by way of referrals. One became more than a gig.
Gigging has helped is to pay our bills and save some money. And, rather surprisingly, it has been relatively low impact for our family. Because the gigs are short term in commitment (until the job is completed; for a couple of weeks; until the article is written, revised and published) most of the time I can make them fit into my schedule without having to adjust my schedule to fit the job.
The other great thing about gigs is that each one is different, thus according me the opportunity to try new things and develop new skills. For one gig I ghost-wrote some posts for a blog. For another I edited a thesis for grammatical errors. One involved research. Still another social media. I did some coding for another gig.
In the end, gigging has been a great experience. One that I will probably continue even when it no longer proves to be necessary.