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Universities open bivocational centers
Monday, Jun 18, 2007
By Karen L. Willoughby

SAN ANTONIO, Texas (BP)--The Southern Baptist Bivocational Ministers' Association announced June 11 a partnership with three universities to provide regional centers for bivocational ministry.

Citing a growing awareness of the specialized needs of bivocational pastors, the association's leaders unveiled their partnership at an annual luncheon prior to the Southern Baptist Convention's June 12-13 annual meeting in San Antonio.

The Baptist College of Florida in Graceville, Mid-Continent University in Paducah, Ky., and Campbellsville University in Kentucky have been named regional centers for bivocational ministry, with more in the works.

"The strength of Southern Baptists is in bivocationals," said Robert Imhoff, president of Mid-Continent University which recently added a course of study for bivocational pastors. "For us to not be a part of that would be just wrong.

"In our county, we have 46 [Southern Baptist] churches and only a handful [of pastors] are fully funded," Imhoff continued. "Most of the churches in the Southern Baptist Convention run 100 or less. That's why the bivocational effort is so critical to our denomination and, quite frankly, to every other denomination."

Tom Fisher, assistant dean of the San Antonio campus of Wayland University, credited the bivocational association with underscoring the need for training bivocationals.

"It's time they got their due," Fisher said of bivocational pastors. "It's the right thing to do." If requested by the bivocational association, Wayland would host the luncheon each year, he said.

Wayland is in the process of becoming one of the regional centers for bivocational ministry. Wayland's 12 external campuses are in Texas, Oklahoma, New Mexico, Arizona, Alaska and Hawaii.

The Baptist College of Florida was the first to become a regional center, and its president, Tom Kinchen, who serves as the program first vice president of the bivocational association.

The bivocational association's immediate past president, Adolphus Cleveland, spoke in the absence of the current president, Henry Luckel, who was unable to take off from his work as a computer analyst in Denver.

Luckel's absence typifies the problem of bivocationals, who often have conflicting schedules that make participating in Southern Baptist life - and the churches they pastor - more challenging than it is for other pastors, Cleveland said.

The scope of the bivocational group was broadened to include "smaller church" pastors during the group's annual meeting in late April, and the constitution was amended to reflect that change. A key reason for the change is because bivocational and smaller-church pastors often are served by the same staff person at the state and national convention.

Lester Evans of North Carolina, vice president for membership, noted the range of roles reflected by the term "bivocational" - whether a man is a bivocational pastor only if he is working a second job, or if he is able to serve fulltime because of retirement or other income, or if he does not have to have a second job because his wife is employed outside the home.

In addition to Luckel, Kinchen and Evans, officers of the Southern Baptist Bivocational Ministers Association are Gary Mitchell of Louisiana, vice president/financial; Rosalind Ray of Texas, secretary; and Joyce Byrd of Tennessee, treasurer. Ray Gilder of Tennessee is national coordinator.

The Southern Baptist Bivocational Ministers Association was organized in 1977.

The association's next gathering is scheduled Aug. 29-30 at the Tennessee Baptist Convention offices in Brentwood, Tenn.
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