The Tentmakers’ Treatise

California Connections

The Tentmakers’ Treatise

Written By Marshelle Wilburn

The Tentmakers’ Treatise

As a Californian who has served with many SBC entities (NAMB/SEND, Lifeway, Gateway, etc.) for over a decade, I have had opportunities to bring a Pacific Coast perspective to Southern Baptist audiences, whether speaking as a seminary student, urban missionary, multi-ethnic church planter, ministry leadership trainer, minister/denominational leader’s wife, youth ministry/development leader, ministry parent, or author of bible studies, articles, and/or devotions. Yes, those are quite a few hats to wear, and many are worn two to three at a time. Currently, I serve as a non-profit Executive Director, Systems and Operations Administrator for two ministry organizations, Women’s Network Coordinator, speaker, writer, and urban missional leader alongside my husband here in the San Francisco Bay Area. All of this to say, I know, and can speak to what it means to be a bi-vocational ministry leader in California.

To sustain our family of five children plus one, it is necessary to not just be bi-vocational but, at times, tri or quad-vocational, with both my husband and I each having two to three jobs while pursuing ministry in one of the most expensive areas in our nation. Notice there was no mention of a church being a source of income because, in our lives, it never has been. Since answering God’s call to full-time ministry, the reality of our employment experience (specifically urban missions in Northern California) is not uncommon for ministry leaders in our state.

Consider these statistics: according to numerous research sources, over 80% of our church populations average less than 100 in attendance, making them “small churches.” According to Barna Group, 6 of California’s major cities (including Los Angeles, Sacramento, Santa Barbara-San Luis Obispo Area, San Diego, and Fresno) fall in the top 110 most unchurched cities in the nation, with the San Francisco Bay Area at #1 with over 60% unchurched and 48% de-churched people. Nationally, California is the third most expensive state to live in. With a cost-of-living index of almost 140%, our average housing prices exceed the nation’s $700,000 by 20-50% and higher. This has caused a negative migration rate of over 45,000 leaving California in the last five years for a less financially demanding territory. These factors, and more, contribute to ministry leaders and their families choosing to be more than tentmakers, like Paul, Aquila, and Priscilla in Acts 18. To some, living a ministry life under these circumstances could appear daunting, discouraging, and impossible, but to many of us Californians, we know this is what it takes; it requires a particular type of people to accept such a calling. If this sounds like you or your church, know you are not alone.

We are these called people.

Some may assume tentmaking leaders do not have the same commitment level as their fully paid vocational counterparts, which is furthest from the truth. It does mean that bi-vocational leaders will often need the support of their church’s lay ministry leadership to carry responsibilities alongside them. Though bi-vocational leaders usually pursue employment that allows scheduling flexibility or is complementary to their ministry role and provides financial and healthcare security, churches need to be sensitive and attentive to their bi-vocational leaders’ need to care for their families, vacations, sabbaticals, emotional health, and spiritual development. It is also vital to a bi-vocational leader’s well-being to be introspective and proactive about the dangers of isolation due to full schedules or lack of peer interaction. Incorporating times for encouragement, accountability, training, and support through authentic, intentional relationships with other vocational and bi-vocational leaders can help. Many Associations provide community and support by coordinating fellowships, resources, and networking opportunities during times more conducive for bi-vocational leaders. There are also resources available now through NAMB, podcasts, and ministry educational programs geared towards equipping bi-vocational leaders. The benefit of being a bi-vocational leader (sometimes called co-vocational), one who intentionally pursues business as ministry-missions or marketplace-missions, is being able to maintain cultural awareness and maximize your sphere of influence beyond the walls of your church and community. Considering that an estimated 200,000 of America’s 300,000 pastors are bi-vocational, tentmaking leaders are the majority. The goal is to make the most of the way God has called us to serve, incorporating healthy rhythms and pursuing support and resources to assist in charting these waters well.

About the Author

Marshelle Wilburn
Executive Director, Today's Youth Matter

Marshelle Jackson Wilburn serves in a variety of roles across several organizations. She is the Executive Director of Today’s Youth Matter, she serves alongside her husband, Port, DOM/AMS at Bridges Bay Area Association as Systems and Operations Administrator & Women’s Network Coordinator, as well as Administrator for their church, Rock Harbor Christian Fellowship in San Pablo, along with its recovery ministry, Clean Living Learning Center Sober Living Environment Homes. She is the mother of 6 adult children, and grandmother (Noni) to her first grandchild. Marshelle loves studying and teaching the Bible, gospel-centric engagement, coffee, and beaches.

Home » Resources » The Tentmakers’ Treatise
CSBC Logo

Mailing Address

678 East Shaw Ave Fresno, CA 93710

Phone Number

(559) 229-9533

Email Address

Info@csbc.com

Connect With Us

Subscribe to TW@CSBC

Enter your email and every Tuesday we'll send the latest news, interviews, and resources directly to your inbox.

Name
This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.
This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.

Subscribe to TW@CSBC

Enter your email and every Tuesday we'll send the latest news, interviews, and resources directly to your inbox.

Name
This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.
This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.
© 2024 California Southern Baptist Convention | All Rights Reserved