Perspectives of Bi-Vocational Ministry: ‘Connections with Community’

Research at Lexington Theological Seminary has identified several common themes through interviews with bi-vocational ministers. One of these themes is “connection to community.” One bi-vocational minister who reflects this theme in particular is Rev. Jim Midkiff. Jim is the bi-vocational solo pastor of Beech Grove Christian Church in Western Kentucky. He has been serving Beech Grove for more than 30 years as either solo pastor or co-pastor. Though Jim has recently retired from teaching, most of the years he has pastored the Beech Grove congregation while also working full-time as a public school teacher.

Jim grew up in Western Kentucky and as a child he belonged to a small Disciples congregation in Fordsville, a community in a county neighboring Beech Grove. Beginning in his teen years, Jim helped lead worship on Sundays, sometimes preaching, leading prayers and serving communion. When Jim was in college, the Fordsville congregation closed, but he continued serving as a leader in another congregation. During this time, one of the regional ministers began encouraging Jim to become a licensed lay minister. After college, Jim began teaching full-time while also continuing his leadership in congregations, and eventually he became a licensed minister.

Rev. Jim Midkiff with youth who are members and regular attenders of Beech Grove Christian Church in western Kentucky.

When leaders of the Beech Grove congregation were looking for a new pastor in 1987, they knew they needed someone who would be able to supplement the income they could provide a minister. Jim fit the bill and he became their pastor while continuing to teach full-time. During the years Jim has served Beech Grove, the congregation has cultivated a fruitful relationship within the community where it is located. “Clearly, we are a rural community,” Jim says as he points to the tractor dealership across the road from the church building. He likes to say Beech Grove is a “small church that does things in a big way.”

The congregation’s ministry includes significant outreach and neighborhood development. In addition, they have established some signature programs that fit with their community. Many men and women in both the church and the community are hunters, so in the 1990s the congregation began hosting a breakfast and “blessing of the hunt” on the Thursday before the beginning of modern gun deer season each year. It’s an event where Jim prays for both safety and bounty during the hunting season. A few months later each year, the church hosts a Wild Game Dinner where members of the community gather together and bring some of the bounty to share.

As a bi-vocational minister, Jim considers his ministry and vocation to extend beyond the walls of the church building. His relationships with students and families within the community are interwoven in his roles as both pastor and teacher. This connection to community is reflected in the work of the congregation where he serves.

For more information about Lexington Theological Seminary’s Conversations on Finances and Stewardship grant and its research concerning bi-vocational ministry, contact: kris.bentley@lextheo.edu.

 

This research is funded by a grant from the Indianapolis based Lilly Endowment Inc.

Rev. Kristen Plinke Bentley

Project Director, Conversations on

Stewardship & Finances

Lexington Theological Seminary

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