The Freedom of Bi-Vocationalism

I don’t post much during times of transition because I don’t want to speak out of turn or spill the beans prematurely.  I’ll say this for now: I have been contemplating a bi-vocational pastorate position. Most of my ministry life has been bi-vocational. My last church ministry position was full time. I was unprepared for the stresses which would be related to my family’s financial survival being tied to a church body and the purse string holders. What began as a dream (my livelihood and ministry being one and the same) became a nightmare (for many reasons beside the financial). It almost caused me to abandon church altogether. God has been good and gracious, sustaining me through it all, constantly drawing me back, and never letting me go.

These few months away from church leadership have caused me to reevaluate ministry as employment.  Out of the blue I was approached by a struggling church in need of a bi-vocational pastor. Despite the struggles inherent in such a position, I’ve felt increasingly drawn to this group of people.  I don’t for a moment think I can “fix” them. I do feel called to help them refocus on the Gospel of Christ in every aspect of their lives. I see the lessons I have learned over my struggles being applicable to their situation. I’ve come to realize there’s a freedom in having my paycheck coming from outside the church.

These thoughts aren’t finished, but that’s all I’ll publicly share for now.

2 thoughts on “The Freedom of Bi-Vocationalism

  1. I would be interested to know your description of the “freedom” you mentioned in your post as it relates to being a bi vocational pastor. I believe that i could relate to that freedom in getting my income from outside the church. Simply put, the ministry I have been doing in the church of many years does not rely on my getting paid to do it. I have been bi vocational in all of my years of youth ministry. In the beginning it was because the church couldn’t afford to pay me full time. I am self employed and a youth pastor of a small to mid sized church (where i get a part time salary) and I must say I love having my job outside of the church for many reasons. I have had offers for full time positions and have turned them down. I am bi vocational by choice. I believe that because it is by choice that I can function well in this capacity because I am not distracted by the hope or aspiration that someday I will be “full time”. I would love your thoughts on this.

  2. While bi-vocational service is limiting in some ways (e.g. most pastor conferences and events are scheduled with the “full time” pastor in mind) it is freeing in two specific areas:

    1) Having marketable skills allows me to serve churches that cannot afford a full time pastor. We are seeing a trend in the U.S..fewer and fewer churches are able to support a full-time pastor. The cause is both spiritual and economic. I often counsel young men (who share with me a desire to pursue pastoral ministry) to not take students loans (taking longer to work their way to a degree if necessary) and to learn a marketable trade. This ensures they will be able to go anywhere in ministry service.

    2) Having one’s livelihood provided from outside the church provides a freedom from financial control. As mentioned in the post, there are those who will seek to control a church in general and the pastor in specific by their wallets. Having income outside the church means that a pastor is free to follow God’s leading without worrying about how it will affect his family’s livelihood.

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