The Upside of Being Bivocational
Bivocational simply means having another vocation in addition to your ministry role, but is it an effective strategy for pastors and churches? Is it sustainable? Is it better or worse than “full-time” ministry? What are the advantages and disadvantages of being bivocational? How do you survive the rigors of bivocational ministry? These are some of the things I want touch on over my next few posts.
There is a lot of talk these days about bivocational ministry. It seems church planting is becoming more expensive and many churches are just too small to support a full-time pastor. Having been bivocational for many years myself, there may be some unique and helpful perspectives I have to offer. Although I am currently not bivocational, the majority of my sixteen years of ministry have been (9 years bivocational, 7 years full-time).
There seems to be a stigma about bivocational ministry (or maybe it’s just perceived from those of us that are or have been bivocational). As a bivocational minister, you sometimes feel that you are not quite as successful, spiritual or don’t have the same level of faith as those who are in full-time ministry. Although some of it may be our own insecurity, there is a reality to this. There are also many pastors that have great respect and empathy for those who are bivocational because they realize the commitment and sacrifice required to do such a thing. Essentially, there is no such thing as a part-time senior pastor.
The Benefits of Being Bi-vocational
Despite the difficulties, there are many great things about being bivocational. In my own life, the only regret I really have is the pressure it put upon my family, mostly in the way of limiting my time, but overall it was a positive and growing experience. There are so many lessons I’ve learned that I wouldn’t trade for the world: Through being bivocational, I learned:
- How to be a spiritual leader in your workplace, even when Jesus isn’t what you share in common with people.
- How to better relate and empathize with my congregation and understand the challenges they face when attempting to live out their faith in secular culture that is antagonistic toward Christianity.
- How culture really thinks and feels about Christians and the Church.
- How to share my faith more effectively with the unchurched and even those who may be hostile toward faith in Christ.
- Jesus needs sold-out, spirit led, fully surrendered Christians in the workplace to be salt and light to a dying world.
- That spiritual gifts are still in operation and the Holy Spirit is active no matter what setting you find yourself in.
Being bivocational has given me the opportunity to work up close and personal with Mormons, Muslims, atheists, agnostics, and skeptics. In working with these diverse types of people, I’ve discovered people aren’t as closed to the gospel as we think. In fact, if you serve, show love, act non-judgmental, are intentional about asking questions and gently sharing your faith when the opportunity presents itself, you may be surprised how spiritually open people really are. They may not immediately embrace Christ but they are more willing to talk about it than you think.
The Holy Spirit in the Workplace
One day I was hanging out before work with my boss and another coworker when out of the blue, my boss asked me, “How did you know you wanted to be a pastor?” I shared as best I could that it was something I felt “called” to by God and after I came into relationship with Him, I knew it was His plan and purpose for me. I went on to explain that we all have a plan and purpose greater than ourselves that God wants us to discover. At that moment, my boss blurted out, “Woh! Did you feel that? When you were talking about purpose, I felt something powerful!” She felt the Holy Spirit! It was a divine moment where the presence of God broke into my workplace. I didn’t feel a thing, but they felt the Holy Spirit’s presence.
At the same job, after nearly two years of working and living out my faith in front of the my coworkers, I noticed there was some spiritual hunger and I had the opportunity to start a Bible study before work. It was a simple discussion about the Bible, sometimes topical and other times taking them through the story of Jesus and the Gospel. It was an incredible opportunity to see God at work. One of the young ladies from the study came to our church and gave her life to Christ. She shared her testimony on Easter Sunday.
The Conversation Continues…
As I mentioned, there are upsides and downsides to being bivocational. In future posts, I will share more about the downsides as well as some practical tips about surviving the rigors of being a bivocational minister.
What are your thoughts about bivocational ministry? I would especially love to hear from those who have experience in this area!
Other Posts on Bivocational Ministry
- Jack-of-all-trades, Master of None – Bivocational Part 2
- Five Ways To Survive the Rigors of Bivocational Ministry – Bivocational Part 3
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