Welcome to part 2 of the bivocational series. In part 1 of the series, we discussed the upside of bivocational ministry. In this post, we will talk about some of the challenges and downsides of bivocational ministry; then in part 3, I will share some practical tools to help you survive the rigors of bivocational ministry.
The Downsides of Being Bivocational
The most difficult part of being bivocational (in my opinion) is the time factor. After all, time really is our most precious resource. Though I really enjoyed working outside the church and it often felt like a break after arduous mental labor and taxing people issues; I still felt like I was always racing against the clock. Physical exhaustion was also an issue. Because of the demands of my job as an urban youth worker, I would return home at night mentally, physically and spiritually exhausted with not much more than fumes for my family. During the last 6 months of working bivocationally, our church was planning a large scale launch or “grand opening” which added even more to an already busy schedule.
It was during this time that God taught me some transformational things about resting in the Lord. If you want to know more, you can get my free e-book here, Rest Assured: Seven Days to Stillness, Sanity and the Sabbath You Need. Burnout becomes a very real challenge when working bivocationally so we must learn how to rest in the midst of what God has called us to do. After all, His yoke is easy and His burden is light (see Matthew 11:28)
Jack-of-All-Trades Master of None
Twice a year, at my urban youth worker job, we were required to participate in a semi-annual performance review. During my last performance review before going full-time with the church, I received a 2.5 out of 4. Although it wasn’t an awful score (according to the review), I was still disappointed, but I also understood why I had scored just average. You’ve probably heard the saying, “Jack-of-all-trades master of none.” That’s exactly how I felt working bivocationally, and it wasn’t just my job. I felt like I was pulling a 2.5 in every area of my life – marriage, family, the church and my job. The amount of time I was spending on each thing was enough to get by but not enough to really advance in any of those areas. The lesson I learned was this:
Obviously, marriage and family were the ones I was most concerned about. I was at my capacity and if something had to give it wasn’t going to be that. So I made the only decision I knew I could make: I chose to put my family first, the church second and my job last. That doesn’t mean I didn’t do my best, but if something had to give it was going to be the part-time job first. In my heart, I knew God wasn’t disappointed with me because I was doing my best and choosing what was most important.
Working In the Church VS. Working On the Church
Finding time to work on the church rather than just in the church becomes nearly impossible when working bivocationally: at least it was for me. On the church front, I was usually doing only what needed to be done but rarely did I have the opportunity to step back, look at the big picture and do what could be done. Maintaining status quo was enough for that season, but it’s really tough to advance a vision long-term while working bivocationally.
Bivocational ministry comes with some great opportunities and some very real challenges. As I previously mentioned, time is the biggest issue. If you have a family and you are not careful working bivocationally can have a negative impact on your family and your soul. Regardless of how you cut the cake, it seems as if everything else gets the best of your time and your family gets the leftovers. You do what you have to do to make things work but you pray it doesn’t last forever. Some people may disagree with me or thrive in these types of circumstances, but for me it was difficult to maintain my focus. God has given me the grace to do it – in different seasons – but it’s easy to lose steam and grow weary when there is no end in sight. If it’s in your control, working bivocationally for a specified amount of time is better than doing it for an indefinite amount of time. That being said, God has abundant grace for you however long that season may last. After having done it for 9 years on and off, my hat goes off to the people who do it consistently. They are my heroes because I know what it requires.
Next time, we will talk more about how to survive the rigors of bivocational ministry.
I would love to hear your thoughts, opinions and experience on this (Please comment on my blog if you can).
Other Parts to the Series
- Five Ways to Survive the Rigors of Bivocational Ministry (Part 3)
- Bivocational: Blessing or Curse? (Part 1)
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