Playing beyond the boundaries in hopes of finding God and inspiration
Navigating the life of a bivocational pastor
How I came to combine part-time congregational ministry with two startup initiatives for children and the arts
by Adam Walker Cleaveland
While in seminary, I never thought I’d use the word bivocational to describe myself. And yet, after serving three congregations as a full-time pastor, I have become bivocational. Completely unprepared by seminary for this new reality, I often feel like I’m stumbling in the dark, nervously and joyously.
Thankfully, my wife is serving a church that she enjoys and is very supportive of her and her ministry. That security is allowing me the freedom to figure things out without rushing into taking the first job that opens up.
This has been exciting, frustrating, stressful, and freeing. As my professional coach and spiritual director remind me, I’m in a place now where I can choose what I do next, instead of simply selecting from the options before me. There is a deep sense of freedom in this space.
Last week, I began as a parish associate at Highland Park Presbyterian Church in Illinois. This will enable me to keep my feet in the church world, do some preaching, and lead a Theology Pub. I’m also working with a startup company in Evanston called Hackstudio: An Incubator for Kid’s Goals. It’s a creative opportunity, and I’m grateful to do something where I can work with youth but in a different context than the church.
As I’ve shared on this blog before, over the past two years, I’ve been reclaiming my childhood love of art and drawing. While I was at my last church, I spent a lot of time trying to discern the best ways to use my art in my ministry. One of those ways came about quite spontaneously one morning, a few minutes before worship.
Last fall, I was preaching on Joshua 24, and was trying to figure out what to do for a children’s moment. I should state that I’ve always dreaded children’s moments or sermons. They are almost always done quite poorly. More than that, they often turn into a moment of entertainment for the congregation when Johnny says that funny thing he always says or when a well-meaning person shares an object lesson that the kids will not understand developmentally.
I’ve often said that when I wasn’t an associate pastor anymore, the first part of worship I’d get rid of was the children’s moment. And yet—since I haven’t been in the position to make that decision yet—there I was, preparing for a children’s moment. Joshua 24:25–26 says, “On that day Joshua made a covenant for the people and established just rule for them at Shechem. Joshua wrote these words in God’s Instruction scroll. Then he took a large stone and put it up there under the oak in the sanctuary of the Lord.”
And so a few minutes before worship, I quickly drew a picture of a rock, wrote “Remember” next to it, and photocopied it on card stock so the kids could each take one with them.
The next time I led a children’s moment, I talked about Jeremiah and gave the kids an illustration of Jeremiah. And each children’s moment after that, I came with a piece of original artwork that the kids could take home to remember the story throughout the week.
The children and parents kept telling me how much they liked the art. Kids would be talking about the story later in the week, and many of the kids, and their parents, kept the artwork around as reminders of the stories.
A new project and calling, Illustrated Children’s Moments, was thus born.
I love drawing. My love of drawing and my drawing skills remained dormant for about 20 years, but were rediscovered and honed over the past few years. And now I have a way to put them to use.
Today, I am launching a new website called IllustratedChildrensMoments.com. I am creating a worship and children’s ministry resource for churches to use to assist with leading formational children’s moments that will actually teach kids the Bible. This resource will have original artwork and leader guides discussing various ways to use the art. Additionally, the art could be used on bulletin covers or inserts, church e-newsletters, and children’s ministry newsletters, or the art could be used as coloring sheets for kids.
If you are interested in this, or know someone else who might be, head over to IllustratedChildrensMoments.com and signup for the newsletter. When you sign up, you’ll receive five free illustrations to use. The first product will be an Advent & Christmas Pack that will be available in November.
I never took any classes in seminary on starting a business. I never thought I’d be living as a bivocational pastor, but that is where God has called me at this point in my life. And I couldn’t be happier about it.
Adam Walker Cleaveland is a pastor who lives in Chicago. He loves thinking about the future of the church, playing with his three-year-old son and drawing and sketchnoting. Adam blogs at pomomusings.com, where he writes about ministry, theology, art, and social media. You can find Adam online at adamwc.com, on Facebook at facebook.com/adamwc, or on Twitter at @adamwc.