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Learn how your church can thrive with a part-time ministry model

Jeffrey MacDonald’s book offers new opportunities for churches facing financial decline

by Westminster John Knox Press | Special to Presbyterian News Service

LOUISVILLE — As churches face financial decline, growing numbers of mainline Protestant clergy are moving to part-time ministry work when their churches can no longer afford a full-time pastor.

A journalist and part-time pastor himself, G. Jeffrey MacDonald aims to reframe this phenomenon not as a financial necessity signaling the church’s eventual closing, but as a God-given opportunity to break free from the full-time clergy model. With research from more than 20 churches who have successfully moved to a part-time ministry model, MacDonald offers his findings in his new book, “Part-Time Is Plenty: Thriving Without Full-Time Clergy.”

When MacDonald set out to research church vitality in churches with part-time pastors, he realized churches weren’t being described as vital due to their pastors’ part-time status. But as church attendance continues to decline and budgets shrink, MacDonald found many congregations who were doing just that: thriving without full-time clergy people.

By opening our eyes to the creative opportunities in a part-time ministry model, MacDonald argues for a new way of viewing churches with part-time pastors. “’Part Time Is Plenty’ can help the church today reclaim a truth our ancestors knew well: the church is not defined by whether or not it has a full-time pastor,” says Joan Gray, author of “Sailboat Church: Helping Your Church Rethink Its Mission and Practice.” “Jeffrey MacDonald’s conviction that a renewal of lay leadership in the church can energize congregations takes us back to our roots.”

In “Part-Time Is Plenty,” readers get a much-needed playbook from congregations who have moved to part-time ministry models. They learn to see the model in a new light: to stop viewing part-time as a problem to be eradicated and to instead embrace it as a divine gift that facilitates a higher level of lay engagement, responsibility, playfulness, and creativity. MacDonald provides examples for how churches with part-time professionals have tapped into the latent energy and undiscovered gifts of their congregations, revitalized worship, and engaged in more effective ministry in their surrounding communities.

“Part-Time Is Plenty” is available through Westminster John Knox Press or your preferred retailer.

Jeffrey MacDonald is a part-time United Church of Christ pastor and full-time freelance journalist whose reporting on religion has garnered nineteen national awards, and his previous book “Thieves in the Temple: The Christian Church and the Selling of the American Soul” received third place for Religion Nonfiction Book of the Year from the Religion News Association.

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