Our Public Witness: Creating Bi-vocational Churches

Each month, we post a series of blogs around a common topic. This month, Jan Nolting Carter is curating a mosaic of perspectives on the art of transitional ministry. How do we work with people and systems in the midst of change? What does transitional ministry look like inside and outside of the church? We invite you to join the conversation on Facebook and Twitter!

by Beth Scibienski

A Hindu dance school who had been using our building (and providing $14K in donation to the church) had outgrown our space and was not returning. Yikes – how are we going to make up $14K? That’s the first question we asked but it wasn’t the question we chose to answer.

Instead, we asked, “What if God is wanting us to use the resource of our building for more than rental money? What if God envisions another vocation for us?” We know our first vocation – to be a group of disciples who form a worshiping body of people in our context. And we were doing well at that vocation but what if God had more for us, something different, something that would transform who we are. The truth was if we were to ask anyone in our community what they knew about our church, we heard answers like, “Oh, that’s the church that’s odd shaped, right?” Or, “that’s the church with the preschool.” Those two statements were the public witness of our congregation. That didn’t seem like enough of a public witness for us and so we began to dream about how God would expand, grow, transform us through this transitional opportunity.

The first question, “how will we recover $14K?” is an easy place to stop. And there are plenty of churches working that problem, piecing together income to keep a church afloat financially. But being a landlord is not the same thing as using our resources for witness. We needed to change the first question and it wasn’t going to change unless someone was willing to change the conversation. Conversations don’t just change. People change conversations; leaders who are looking to create transformation change conversations.

Of course as Presbyterians, when we attempt to change the conversation, we sentence that new conversation to a committee where it will lose its energy to thrive or it will be picked apart until there is nothing left of the new idea. But for those in transitional ministry, we assume transitional opportunities can lead to transformation. Transitional leaders change the conversation. Transitional leaders build coalitions. Transitional leaders listen between the lines and tease out the direction the Spirit is leading. Transitional leaders realize the Holy Spirit loves transition  – transition of a pastor, the transition of a church board, the transition of a rental arrangement – because it’s in the transition that systems and people are open to transformation.

When we were faced with the transition of a renter, we transformed our public witness. We created another vocation for our congregation. In the early stages, we created this presentation called “Church with Many Doors.”

The vision for a “Church with Many Doors” created the Sand Hills Community Wellness Center whose mission is to provide programs and services that enhance the growth of mind, body and spirit. In addition to our first vocation of being a worshiping community of disciples, we are growing a second vocation (actually a third with our preschool that cares for 80 families in our community)… Yoga classes, mental health counseling, support groups, writing classes, garden to table programs, nutritional counseling and meals cooked in community. The services and programs at our Wellness Center have expanded our public witness and this new public witness is transforming who we are and what we are becoming as a church.

6Beth Scibienski is a teaching elder in the PCUSA, pastor of Grace Presbyterian Church (the merged congregation of Community Presbyterian and Miller Memorial Presbyterian). She blogs at www.bethscib.com and recently, she and her siblings have been teaching themselves to beat box. 

1 reply
  1. Kelly Thomason
    Kelly Thomason says:

    YEs, yes, yes! How do we say YES in our community and get those folks around our church to come thru the doors and build a new sense of community!

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