Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Interview with Dr. Terry W. Dorsett - Guest Post by Lynn Dove

It is with pleasure that I interviewed, Dr. Terry W. Dorsett on my blog Word Salt. Tell my readers a little bit about your book “Developing Leadership Teams in the Bivocational Church”.

Many small churches are unable to fully fund a pastor’s salary; therefore the pastor has to work a second job (vocation) in order to meet his or her financial needs. Working a second job puts a lot of pressure on a pastor because it takes away from the amount of time that can be devoted to visiting and counseling members of the congregation, it reduces the number of hours a pastor has to prepare for worship services, and it significantly impacts how available a pastor is in emergency situations. My book helps pastors who work additional jobs learn how to train members of the church to do some of pastoral ministry instead of the pastor having to do it all. This allows all the spiritual needs of the congregation to be met, without increasing the church budget. Though many people think of this as a “new” idea, it is really an ancient idea that is coming back into vogue again as the cost of having a fully funded clergy has increased in recent decades.

Tells us a bit about where you live and how that impacts your writing.
I live in the small state of Vermont. From a pure beauty standpoint, it is a wonderful place to live. The mountains and valleys and lakes and streams and small towns and village greens are just a fabulous setting for life in general. It is a great place to raise a family. However, from a spiritual perspective, it can be a challenge to be an evangelical Christian in Vermont. Vermont is the least religious state in the United States and has the highest proportion of people who claim “none” on various surveys about religion. This impacts my writing because though I am a conservative Christian, many of my readers are much less conservative. I have to stay true to my own beliefs, yet write things that my friends and neighbors are interested in reading.

Have you been able to get your ideas outside of your sphere of influence, and if so, how did you do it?
This was my first book, and being an unknown author, did make it a challenge to get the ideas from my book into the main stream. Add to that that I live in small state that is relatively non-religious and my since book is about church leadership, at first many people did not take it seriously. But three things helped me get outside my small world. I wrote a lot of “guest posts” on blogs, and let the owners of those blogs write “guest posts” on my blog. That expanded my exposure a lot. I also volunteered to speak at a number of conferences that covered material similar to my book. At first, I did not get paid for those speaking engagements or sell many books at them. But I’m a fairly effective verbal communicator, so as word got out, organizations began to invite me to come speak and I would have them buy a book for everyone who attended, which put the book into the hands of key people that could in turn talk about it with others. Lastly, I was able to do several radio interviews. Most were local shows with limited audiences, but two were on internet radio, and one was a nationally distributed program. Those both helped grow my name recognition in my niche market. Now, I have sold nearly four times the number of books outside my little state than I have inside, and I continue to get invitations to speak in larger venues, which I hope will continue to help me get this message out to those who need to hear it.

What was the motivation behind the book?
I serve as bivocational pastor, with my second job being an administrator for a faith based non-profit that helps small churches in Vermont create partnerships with other organizations so they can accomplish their ministries more effectively. Most of the pastors I serve through that organization are bivocational. It seemed that many of them were perpetually on the edge of burn out. I felt a burden to do something about it. At first I was running around the state trying to meet with them all to give them tips on how to use lay people to carry some of the burden. While I still do a lot of those types of consultations, I realized that I would never be able to spend enough time with individual pastors to change the culture of small church life in Vermont. So instead, I wrote a book that allows me to “be” in multiple places at one time, not only in Vermont, but across North America.

What do you hope this book accomplishes?
First, I think this book gives pastors and church boards hope. Though these are challenging days for small churches, they can have effective leaders and they can make a difference in their communities.
Second, I think this book gives pastors and church boards some practical tools that can be used to train people how to help their church be healthier. Just offering hope is good, but practical ways to bring that hope into reality is better. I think this book does that.

Who is this book written for?
Though many people think a book about church leadership is primarily for pastors, I really wrote it with both pastors and key church leaders in mind. Deacons, elders and other leaders have to be on board to make any lasting change in ministry structure or style. Therefore, I wrote this book in the hopes that half a dozen key leaders in each church would read it and grasp the ideas about how lay people can carry some of the ministry load and want to implement them.

Is there anything else you want your readers to know about you that would give us a glimpse into your personality and passions?
God really has a sense of humor! I grew up in relatively large churches in a city in the mid-west. I also served on staff at a mega-church in Virginia for several years. Then God called me to serve as both a pastor in a rural state and an administrator for a faith-based non-profit that serves small churches. In some ways I am way outside my comfort zone. But what I have learned is that people are people anywhere you go. If you learn to listen to them, and adjust your methods and styles to fit the context, a leader can be a leader anywhere God places him or her.

Connect with Terry @terrydorsett on Twitter

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