By Chris Moon
If you’re going to coach it, it helps to live it.
And so Phil Claycomb got another job. That is, he got an additional job.
The executive director of Texas-based Nexus Church Planting during the past year and a half also has worked 10 to 12 hours weekly helping out a local church that is trying to resurrect itself after falling on hard times.
Central Christian Church in Richardson, Texas, saw its attendance drop in half and its finances lag. The church convinced Claycomb to come serve as its pastor in 2018.
Claycomb was happy to help. And he also has been happy to gain firsthand experience as a bi-vocational pastor.
It’s something more and more of Nexus’s church planters are doing as they try to get their churches off the ground. Claycomb said nine of Nexus’s last 12 projects have a bi-vocational church planter at the helm. And some of those church planters never intend to become full-time pastors.
And now Claycomb can see what they are going through.
“I have to model that type of leadership,” he said.
CHURCH PLANTERS IN THE PEWS
Claycomb said he believes the reason Nexus is finding more bi-vocational church planters is because organizations like his already have recruited away many of the full-time church ministers who have had an itch to plant churches.
There just aren’t as many full-time pastors left out there—either in existing churches or emerging from Bible colleges—who want to dive into church planting full time.
So Nexus has been finding people who already have established careers and who also want to plant churches.
“I think we’ll find more and more leaders from within the church,” Claycomb said.
It’s a matter of gleaning church planters “from the harvest for the harvest,” he said.
He describes one church plant in Iowa where a local businessman has started church gatherings every Sunday night in his small town. He doesn’t plan to quit his full-time job.
Claycomb said a church planter in Kansas has relocated to a community where he has taken on bus driving and other work within the school district as he works to launch a church.
And there’s the story of DeWayne Reeves, whom Nexus has helped plant a church in Farmington, Ark.
Reeves works as a purchasing manager for a poultry and pet food manufacturing company. He likes his job and has never thought seriously about quitting. But after serving as a lay leader in a couple of churches, he knew God was calling him to more.
Reeves told Christian Standard that his discernment process led him to become a bi-vocational church planter.
Casting Christian Church launched about a year and a half ago. It meets in a middle school and has grown to average about 80 in attendance each Sunday.
Reeves never has taken a salary from the church.
“I have never felt the need to quit and go full time,” Reeves said.
THE BI-VOCATIONAL CHURCH PLANTER
There are numerous advantages to bi-vocational church planting, Reeves said.
Most of the funds that church planters raise as they prepare for a church launch go to payroll. Without a full-time pastor, that money can be used for outreach and community events instead.
Casting Christian Church has held community Christmas dinners each of the past two years thanks to its financial freedom. This past Christmas, more than 600 people attended.
The church also has built up a savings account of more than $100,000—a significant sum for a small, young church.
Reeves also said members of the fledgling church have had to take on significant responsibilities in the life of the church because Reeves simply doesn’t have time to do everything. That’s been healthy for the church as leadership roles have been distributed.
If something needs to be done, Reeves said, “one of five or six people are able to step into that, and they are able to take care of that while I’m gone.”
Also, because the church has no payroll costs, it can dispel the sometimes pesky notion that all a church wants is its members’ money. Casting Christian Church can say very clearly that all of its offerings go toward outreach or running the weekend services—not into any one individual’s pocket.
“Your money goes to kingdom things that are connecting with the community,” Reeves said.
THE BI-VOCATIONAL COACH
Claycomb, with Nexus, said there are some drawbacks to bi-vocational church planting. People who have been part of a church in the past tend to be a little more skeptical about the qualifications of a pastor who is bi-vocational.
But Claycomb said people who are new to church life often find it appealing that their pastor is working in a “real job” just as they are.
Time management is a key factor for bi-vocational church planters, and Claycomb has made that a more prominent part of his coaching.
As he serves bi-vocationally at Nexus and with his church, Claycomb has been reminded of the need to plan out his week’s work in advance. And he’s learned how to prepare sermons relatively quickly and to make the most of his time with his elders and other church committees. Meetings must be efficient, Claycomb said.
“It’s changed my coaching,” he said.
Chris Moon is a pastor and writer living in Redstone, Colorado.