9 Types of Bivocational Ministries

I have previously written about my affirmation of bi-vocational ministry as a valid option for ministers. Not everyone agrees with me (some think b-vocational work occurs only because a church isn’t willing to pay full time), but I stand by my position. Given that assumption, here are some different options of bivocational work I’ve seen:

  1. Bivocational catalytic church planter – one who works for another employer as he lays the foundation for a new church, grows the core group, launches the church, and then raises up the church’s pastor before moving on to start another church
  2. Short-term bivocational church planter – a leader who is planning to serve full-time as pastor of the plant once the congregation is large enough to assume that responsibility; in the meantime, the planter gains his primary salary from another employer
  3. Indefinite term bivocational planter/pastor – a church planter or established pastor who chooses to remain bivocational even if the church can afford a full-time leader, thus remaining connected with non-believers while sharing leadership responsibilities in the church
  4. Bivocational campus pastor – a leader who does the pastoral care and/or the preaching at a campus of a multi-site church while working another full-time position
  5. Bivocational church revitalizer –a pastor who has accepted a call to revitalize a struggling or dying church, with plans to serve full-time when the church is strong enough to support him
  6. Bivocational part-time senior pastor – one who leads the church, though with the intent to remain a part-time pastor working with full-time pastoral staff; for example, some seminary professors now serve in this kind of role
  7. Bivocational pastoral staff member – leader who oversees one or more ministries in the church – likely serving with a full-time senior pastor – while working for another employer
  8. Bivocational intentional interim pastor – a shepherd who serves during an interim period to prepare the church for the next pastor
  9. Bivocational missionary – one whose company sends him short-term or long-term to another part of the world, where he uses that platform to introduce others to Jesus

I’m convinced we will not win North America and the nations to Christ if we don’t affirm and encourage these roles as well as full-time roles. What are your thoughts?    


  • John says:

    I think it’s always good to affirm bivocational pastors. One of my strangest interview questions I had was “Why were you bivocational?” That can be a legitimate question with the right heart behind it, but then what was said next disturbed me when it was they asked if was because I did not want to fully commit to the church world. I was kinda dumbfounded by that line of thinking. I think I just said something to the affect of the church could not afford to have me as full time. But I did not “choose” to bivocational to avoid full time ministry, I just felt burdened to serve in a place that could not afford full time pay. It seemed to assume getting a full time ministry is easy. But it showed me that sad reality that for some seeing bivocational ministry can come with some negative assumptions.

  • Chuck Lawless says:

    Thanks, John, for your thoughts.

  • James Hunt says:

    The first 13 years of my ministry was serving bi-vocationally in church settings. This wasn’t due to a lack of commitment to the call or Christ’s church; rather, because of the commitment to the call and Christ’s church. The churches were too small for a student pastor / music pastor’s salary. But I still knew my call and pursued it.

    I agree with this article – all the types of bi-vocational ministry described above need to be celebrated and valued as much as “full time” ministry (as if bi-vocational doesn’t have as many demands?!)

  • Ron Whited says:

    When I was being interviewed by my(then) denominations leadership prior to beginning the licensure process,it was made very clear to me that they had no use for what they called “part time”preachers.
    Thankfully,the Lord delivered me from that environment and its archaic ideas.

  • Travis p says:

    I have served as a bivocational asst pastor for 3 years (out of 6). It’s not the easiest but it’s doable.

  • I am a young pastor, 29, on my first paid church job. I have no wife or children, just a dog, and while I disdain the situation can live with my parents for rent free living. Perhaps I’m just being stubborn but while I agree that some ministers need to bivocational, I read your post from 2014 about reasons for bivocational ministry, I feel lead to giving totally to the Church even if the wages are meager. The argument could probably be made I’m being irresponsible and maybe I am but when I first started the church I’m at I was also working in a coffee shop. My boss there understood when she hired me that I was unavailable on Sundays and after a certain time on Wednesdays (I was previously doing volunteer ministry at a church in the same town) so I could do my last minute prep for children’s ministry. For a while this worked out and then once I was better trained so I could run things in the shop without her being there my boss decided she was going to schedule me based on her desire to take more time off and began trying to schedule me overlapping with the time I told her I needed off for ministry. Maybe she is one bad apple among others who more generally would work with my schedule but she left a bad taste in my mouth to consider giving it another try. As I previously mentioned I am deeply committed to the church even if the wages are not in keeping with the amount of work I put into it and I wouldn’t dream of letting a secular job that I only take to have more money get in the way of my ability to perform my best (I don’t even feel like with just the church I do well) for the Church. Am I being irrational or reading something into your thoughts that isn’t there?

    • Chuck Lawless says:

      Thanks for your thoughts. I’m not arguing that bi-vocationalism is for everyone, but I would argue that it’s possible to give your absolute best to the church while also being bi-vocational. Just because a person is full-time doesn’t mean that he’s fully committed to the task. Sometimes bivocational work forces you to be more focused, disciplined, and intentional — while also requiring you to reproduce disciples who can work beside you.  

  • Russ says:

    I was called late in life which meant the long journey of getting my undergrad and seminary. I have a career of over 20 years, a wife of 24 years, a rising junior in college and a rising freshman in college. I am currently working full time in the industry where I have served as a leader, while working on my Advanced M-Div at SEBTS, and pastor a church. I do not feel it’s wise to burden the church beyond its abilities to pay its staff any more than it is reasonable for me to expect my family to put their life on hold. The Lord led me to this congregation and they to us. My responsibility is to serve Him however He leads and for me, for many, bi-vocational ministry is our faithful service to our King.

  • Chuck,

    I am a little confused by you last sentence. Without putting words into your mouth I think you are emphasizing the need for Bi-vocational Pastors in the modern world and that those training for pastoral duties should be encouraged not to forgo such positions. Am I correct on this? While not in seminary I am working on Th.M and have heard many say you need a degree from ________, to get the better job. What ever happened to God’s calling to the position? Have we become that selfish?

    Also I would add Chaplains to that list. Many jail/prison Chaplain positions are volunteer and/or self funding making it helpful if the person is bi-vocational or as in my case retired military.

    • Chuck Lawless says:

      You’re misreading my words, Michael. It’s simply that the needs of the world are so great that all the full-time positions in the world won’t be enough workers to reach billions of people. Thus, we need both full-time and part-time leaders, all operating under the call of God. I also think all folks doing ministry, regardless of full-time or part-time/bivocational, should be trained. Good thoughts about the chaplain position. 

  • Bi-Vocational Missionary in Training says:

    Hello! I landed on this page because I am currently heavily involved with a non profit missions organization that is too small to have paid employees, and I am in the middle of a major life transition. I have finished Bible college and am about to move out on my own, and I feel as thought God is calling me to continue working with the non profit organization. This means both dedicating time during the work week to this ministry and being overseas without pay for several months every year. Therefore I am in need of supplemental income as I do not wish to raise 100% of my needed support throughout the year as a full-time missionary. Being bi-vocational seems like it fits my going-to-be lifestyle, however I am not sure where I can find sufficient work that is flexible enough to have time for mission work and long travel periods. Do you know of any places that will hire someone like me? I really only would need to be making around $25,000-$30,000 per year to live and save for the future. Any suggestions would be extremely helpful!

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.