UPDATE: 12 Reasons I Affirm Bivocational Ministry

More and more pastors are beginning to embrace as their primary calling the role of bivocational minister. Some even intend to remain bivocational regardless of the size of their church as it grows. If the Lord were to call me into a bivocational church role, below is why I would gladly follow His leading (and, here’s my understanding of my own calling and bivocational work). 

  1. Bivocational ministers serve the church without being dependent on them for income. I affirm full-time pastors. Further, I do not want even to hint that being dependent on a congregation for salary somehow leads to compromise. Nevertheless, I do suspect there is some freedom in leading a congregation that does not pay the bulk of your salary.
  2. Bivocational ministers are often more connected to non-believers. Unless they intentionally fight against it, full-time pastors can be cocooned in the church world. Bivocational leaders can be equally cocooned, of course, but their work outside the church at least provides a roadblock to that process.
  3. Bivocational ministers lead churches that often have a higher percentage of funds available for ministry and missions. In most churches with full-time staff, the largest percentage of their budget goes toward personnel. The church that has fewer personnel commitments, though, can free dollars to reach their neighbors and the nations.
  4. Bivocational ministers make starting more churches possible. To reach North America, we need more healthy, outwardly focused churches. Young churches, however, usually don’t have the funding to support a full-time pastor. A bivocational church planter can provide leadership without straining the church’s budget.
  5. Bivocational ministry models good missiology. Beyond the work of full-time missionaries, men and women start business platforms to do the Great Commission around the world. Bivocational pastors can model that same general approach in North America.
  6. Bivocational ministers must learn how to train workers and delegate ministry. Burnout is always a danger for the bivocational minister unless he learns to share the load. The wise bivocational minister realizes he cannot do ministry alone – a lesson I wish I had learned years ago as a full-time minister.
  7. A bivocational role can help balance the stresses of ministry. I realize that trying to do both can be stressful itself, but sometimes having another job can actually be a welcome relief from the ongoing pressures of ministry. 
  8. Bivocational leadership affirms vocation as ministry. Pastors speak the language (“Every member is a minister”), but we don’t always help our members understand this truth. The bivocational minister, however, brings these worlds together. His workplace is his mission field.
  9. Bivocational ministers likely better understand the struggles of laypersons. Bivocational pastors know what it’s like to work in the secular world for eight hours, run home to have dinner, and then spend the evening at church. They understand the pull of a world that daily beckons church members to live like that world.
  10. Congregations may be more realistic in their expectations of bivocational ministers. I say “may” because even these congregations can be unrealistic—but many will recognize that their pastor must learn to balance his roles well. They’re at least more likely to have the conversation.
  11. Bivocational ministers can now get theological training without leaving their place of ministry. Via online and hybrid education, bivocational ministers can now earn fully accredited undergraduate and graduate degrees while keeping their lives planted among the people they seek to reach. 
  12. Bivocational opportunities invite us to challenge all our church members to consider God’s calling. Following God’s calling does not always mean leaving home and occupation. It might mean staying where you are and doing what you do as a base for ministry. Indeed, it may mean recognizing that God has given you your job so that you might lead His church.

What other thoughts would you add?  What might we learn from bivocational ministers?

 

7 Comments

  • James Goins says:

    I am a bi vocational pastor, and it’s the worse thing for a pastor. Your non ministerial job take away a great deal of your energy and time from being the best pastor you can be. I would never recommend this for a pastor.

  • Ken says:

    I’m not bivocational, but I have tremendous respect for those who are. Frankly, I don’t know how they do it! When I lived in Missouri, bivocational pastors were the backbone of our association.

  • Jacob Jackson says:

    I agree with James. Bivocational is a very trendy thing right now. A lot of articles are written about it. Maybe all of this zeal for bivocational ministry started as an attempt to encourage bivocational ministers who need encouragement. I know because I am one. For years I was a full-time pastor who was fully supported by the church. Now I am a bivocational pastor. Bivocational ministry is not the new answer for our declining churches. It is a prosthetic. Where there should be a healthy limb there is instead something that is compensating in its place. We would never talk to an amputee and tell them that their prosthetic is better than their intended healthy limb. But I see this happening all the time as it pertains to pastoral ministry. And yes there are some benefits to a prosthetic. You can slam it in the car door and it won’t hurt for instance. But we would never say that the prosthetic is better than the original healthy limb. Healthy churches support their pastors. I dont know a bivocational minister that isn’t working g toward the goal of having their church be able to support them. Not because they are lazy or can’t hack it, but because they desire for thier church to be healthy. These 12 affirmations are silver linings in what is otherwise a dark storm cloud.

  • George B A Fountain says:

    I served as a Bivocational Pastor that planted the church and served that church for 26 years. We started in a public school and met there for 7 years. We acquired property and built our building with volunteer teams. Finished it ourselves. I remained Bivocational for the first 16 years then fully funded for the next 10 years. No regrets. No regrets. You are spot on with your comments. I remain convinced that Bivocational Ministry has it’s place in church planting and in some locations long term ministry as well. It is as vital to that location as First Baptist is to Dallas, Texas. It has unique challenges. Whether the Pastor is duality funded or fully funded the goals are the same. I would only add, the bivocatiinal pastor needs to keep his family in the forefront of all that he does. Yes to delegation! Organization, delegation, and motivation.

  • Joe Wright says:

    It grieves me that bivocational ministry is often looked upon as second-class ministry and that a fully-funded ministry is the successful image of ministry that everyone should strive to achieve. I believe this to be counter to God’s will in most of the churches of the SBC. According to LIfeWay research, at least 51% of SBC churches have less than 49 people on average in them every Sunday. Our large convention is mostly made up of small churches. These small churches are for the most part, not able to fully fund a pastor. We should not look upon them as second-class churches and their pastors as less than successful as those who are allowed to pastor larger-membership churches.

    Maybe it is time that we begin to communicate a more biblical view of success as it applies to the church. Obedience is always spoken of while budgets, buildings and buses aren’t. Bivocational ministry is not a second-rate way of doing ministry! It deserves much more respect than what we are presently giving this important strategy. Thank you Chuck for bringing attention to this very needful strategy for many local churches.

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