A United Methodist Church panel is considering loosening restrictions on secondary job options for pastors as a way to increase the number of fully ordained ministers who serve small congregations.

The church considers full-time service the norm for ordained ministry -- making it difficult, the panel believes, for ordained ministers to serve small congregations where they would have to supplement their incomes with second jobs in the secular world.

Small congregations with limited financial resources are frequently served by unordained "local" pastors or ministers in training, said Myrtle Felkner, chairwoman of the 21-member panel studying the needs of "small-membership" churches. When ordained ministers serve small congregations, they usually stay for only a short time, Felkner said.

Felkner, director of education and age-level ministries for small-membership churches at the church's General Board of Discipleship, noted that the concept of pastors holding second jobs has its roots in the New Testament, where the Apostle Paul, known as the church's first missionary, supported himself by making tents.

The Rev. Robert Kohler of the denomination's Board of Higher Education and Ministry questioned the need to liberalize the secondary-job provisions. "Everything the committee wants to see happen is possible under the present discipline," Kohler said.

The issue, he suggested, is not so much providing adequate pastoral care for small congregations but rather maintaining the authority of bishops to transfer clergy from one appointment to another. Widening the range of second-job possibilities, Kohler said, could complicate matters for bishops who choose to transfer an ordained pastor because the pastor may have to give up not only his or her pastorate but a second job as well.

Felkner said the committee has not yet made any decisions on what it will recommend when it reports to the church's 1992 General Conference.