Monday, October 11, 2010

Working the Bi-vocational ministry

We, as average church pastor's often face the challenge of making ends meet. Many of us have experienced the concern for the financial state of our church, and concern for making ends meet for our own families. Many of us have to supplement our income through work outside of the church. Many churches understand this need, while others seem hard pressed to understand that the minister's family has needs.

I have worked in a variety of jobs through out my time in ministry and in training for ministry. I always tried, as most ministers do, to work a job that would not interfere too much with my ministry needs for the churches I have served. I have worked as an early morning stock person, which left afternoons and evenings to minister and visit in the church. I have worked as a substitute teacher, which if you get to know the school well, offers flexibility to say no if there are emergencies that arise. I spent time working in restaurant work in the overnight hours, which again offered afternoons and evenings free for ministry. Then there was a couple years I worked a few days a week in grocery sales. While the grocery sales called for a full days commitment, it left most of my week free.

Some things I learned early on in regard to Bi-vocational work. First, keep your church informed of what you are doing and the hours you are making available to them. One of the concerns of parishioners is when and how they can get in contact with you for counsel or needs. You may want to print regular office hours, or available times in your bulletin, or other obvious place.

Second, be honest and upfront with your employer from the get go. There will likely be minor conflict with in your heart when crisis' arise; however, these times are less than we often think they are. You need to let employers know your first priority is your ministry, but that you will work diligently in all that you do. We must remember our witness in our work will be scrutinized more, because we have made our stand of faith. When you are upfront about who you are and what you do I have found for the most part that my work has not overshadowed my ministry.

Third and most important have faith that God will see you through. It takes faith to be honest with employers at the start, because we all know there are hundreds of people applying for the same job. Yet, I have found that God will open the right door of opportunity to meet your needs and fit your schedule. Often living in faith becomes a good witness to your church and those you work with at your job. It also helps you in facing your church with the reality that you have to work to add support to your family, which unfortunately seems at times to be the hardest part of the whole situation.

Remember you are not alone in your plight. There are probably more pastors working at least part-time outside of the church than do not. Be encouraged that Paul supported his ministry as well. Trust God and be diligent in the care of your family, as well as the care of your ministry. May God bless you in your ministry, your witness, and your work.

Keep on your journey with Jesus today


Dr. Terry Dorsett said...

This are excellant point and I can tell you have been there and done that. May I suggest to you and to your readers the new book, Developing Leadership Teams in the Bivocational Church, published by Crossbooks and also available on The first half of the book gives a biblical and cultural defense for bivocational ministry (great for giving to people who want the pastor to serve the church full time even though the church doesn't pay enough). The second half of the book contains six easy to use lessons for training lay people to assist the pastor in the ministry so he does not get burned out. God bless you and keep up the great work.

Dr. Terry Dorsett, Director
Green Mountain Baptist Association

Daniel G. Shipton said...

Thanks for the input. I have not had opportunity to read this book, but look forward to it in the future.