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Lydia Fellows: Learning in Community

By February 1, 2024No Comments

February 1, 2024

By Rev. Kenneth Young, Associate Director

What is a day in the life of a bi-vocational pastor? Have you ever thought about what it means to work seven days per week and at least twelve hours a day? Can you imagine taking a day off to work your other job? Imagine never seeing a sabbath or knowing how to fit a day off during the seven-day week. The fatigue and weariness must be high because the pastor cannot get time to breathe. Bi-vocational pastors across the Commonwealth and beyond have struggled to answer the questions above.

A few of the 2023 Lydia Fellows gather in person for their closing retreat

The Lilly Foundation awarded the Massachusetts Council of Churches with the Thriving in Ministry grant. The Thriving in Ministry grant is centered on helping ministries learn to grow within their ministry context. Massachusetts Council of Churches started the Lydia Fellows program to serve the growing number of bi-vocational pastors in Massachusetts. Massachusetts’s increased cost of living is one of many reasons churches cannot afford a full-time pastor. Some studies suggest the average church in New England has about 50 active parishioners pre-pandemic. There is a possibility that churches could see a lower attendance due to the pandemic and post-pandemic. According to salary.com, the average salary of a senior pastor in Massachusetts is $116,087. Several churches’ older and low average attendance will not allow such an average salary.

Lydia Fellows is a cohort-style program to learn the best practices as bi-vocational ministers. The cohort learning with pastors across the Commonwealth gives a more holistic perspective of ministry and bi-vocational work. The diverse churches serve as a witness to the fullness of God. Clergy participating in the cohort allows one to soak in wisdom and share in the praxis. The cohort is limited to ten people. The Massachusetts Council of Churches gives bi-vocational pastors a safe space to remove the fa├žade and get to the real daily issues.

The Lydia Fellows will meet monthly via Zoom for at least one hour. The meeting will allow cohort participants to grow together as a group. The cohort will gleam from a speaker per session and discuss the topic as a group. The speakers share various issues that will help the bi-vocational pastor grow. The subject covers from preaching to church finances. Massachusetts Council of Churches believes that the church will grow when the clergy is experiencing growth in difficult seasons.

Rev. Faith Tolson of Community of Love Fellowship Church, Boston, MA, said, “The program has been very impactful, and I am excited to tell others about how I have grown through this process.” Rev. Gregory Baker of United Church of Assonet, Assonet, MA, said, “I really appreciate the amount of care you have shown the clergy in the cohort. This has been a very meaningful time in my pastoral journey.” We would love for any clergy member interested in learning in a cohort style to join us. We are looking for diverse bi-vocational clergy to grow with one another.