April 25, 2014
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Pusey Losch is one of some 8,000 bivocational pastors serving congregations across the Southern Baptist and Canadian National Baptist conventions.
DULUTH, Ga., (BP) -- Wesley Thompson would probably contend he's devoted to ministry. A student at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, he's pursuing a degree in church ministries, with an emphasis on students and families, to improve his ability at presenting the Gospel.

Wesley Thompson also might say he is devoted to being a better educator.

A teacher at a small private school about 20 minutes from Southern's campus in Louisville, Ky., Thompson looks forward to returning to his native Tift County and entering the classroom full-time and improving his ability at presenting the Gospel.

Neither calling is exclusive from the other, even if they did become apparent at different times, says the 23-year-old Thompson, who calls Mount Zion Baptist in the community of Chula his home church.

"My desire to be a teacher came first," Thompson says. "I love school and helping young people and teaching allows me to do that on a daily basis.

"My passion and calling in life is to mentor and assist students -- especially middle school and high school age."

Although Tift County High School boasted a graduating class of approximately 500 in 2008, the year Thompson graduated, the surrounding area is typical of south Georgia and made up mostly of smaller communities.

Such rural settings are often typical for bivocational ministry, but that picture is expanding, says Ray Gilder of the Bivocational Small Church Leadership Network, formerly the Southern Baptist Bivocational Ministers Association.

Bivocation nation

In all likelihood, the Southern Baptist Convention is already predominately bivocational, though hard data can be difficult to find.

"Getting the exact figure is difficult, because many churches fill out their annual profile each year but fail to check the box 'bivocational' when they are," Gilder says.

Gilder was a full-time pastor before becoming the Tennessee Baptist Convention's Bivocational/Small Church specialist nearly 20 years ago. At his insistence, he has served various churches since that time in a bivocational role.

According to 2011 statistics found at the organization's website, http://www.bivosmallchurch.net/, half of Southern Baptist churches had fewer than 50 in Sunday School. That points to at least half of SBC churches having bivocational pastors, Gilder says.

Gilder was a full-time pastor before becoming the Tennessee Baptist Convention's Bivocational/Small Church specialist nearly 20 years ago. At his insistence, he has served various churches since that time in a bivocational role.

According to 2011 statistics found at the organization's website, http://www.bivosmallchurch.net/, half of Southern Baptist churches had fewer than 50 in Sunday School. That points to at least half of SBC churches having bivocational pastors, Gilder says. Read More
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Bill Pritchett
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