When God Calls Twice

Sometimes God's call carries a double meaning.

While every pastor would probably say he was called to pastor, some are called to other work as well, or they're called to part-time ministry.

Smaller churches often can't afford a full-time pastor, and a part-time pastorate doesn't support a family. The situation, despite its additional juggling requirements, allows these pastors to pursue multiple interests and minister more to people outside their churches.

Christoph Pott, pastor of Celebration Christian Center in Longmont, Colo., works as books product manager for Group Publishing. "It's really a marrying of all my passions, so it's worked great as a second career. ... I have a much more rounded viewpoint."

Clem Boyd, pastor at Xenos Christian Fellowship in Dayton, Ohio, and a freelance writer, says his jobs are complementary. "On several occasions, I've worked on a story and I've been able to use the information from that story in my Sunday teaching or during discipleship."

Ray Linder says, "I believe God has called and equipped me to be outside the four walls of the church and to be in the world; to show non-believers what a godly businessman looks like." Ray serves as the assistant pastor at Cornerstone Chapel in Leesburg, Va. He is also self-employed as the CEO of Goodstewardship.com.

"I enjoy being able to scratch all my vocational itches. I'm not a one-job-for-life kind of person or someone who wants to have one particular career. I constantly need to do new things."

I have a family here somewhere

Resolving the strains between ministry and family is difficult for any pastor, but the addition of a second job makes it even harder for bivocational pastors. In a research report on bivocational pastors, L. Ronald Brushwyler found that 49 percent said this type of ministry negatively affected family life more than being a full-time pastor. This makes being intentional about family time and boundaries essential.

"I'm blessed that [my wife] Katie helps me so much in the ministry," says Barry Kitchens, pastor of Orchards Baptist Church in Loveland, Colo., and the CPA/controller at an agricultural agency. "She teaches Sundays and works — she's as bivocational as I am."

Kitchens makes sure that he and Katie have time together apart from ministry by guarding their Friday date nights. If a church function happens on Friday night, they designate another night that week as date night. They go out for coffee, a walk or any other activity that assures time to talk and connect.

Boyd, on the other hand, works at home, so he's with his family during the day. "Of course, that gets balanced out when I have to travel for a story or spend evenings on ministry-related business," he says. "Sometimes I have to be very intentional and say, 'I'm not going to work right now; I'm spending time with my wife and kids.'"

The good, the bad and the stressful

Many pastors say time pressures are the biggest burden of being bivocational. Pott says it's a constant juggling act of "never feeling quite where you should be. People ask how I do both, and my short answer is I don't do both well — or at least as well as I'd like."

Kitchens, too, often feels the strain of being short on time. "I come to church tired a lot of times, especially weeknights. A lot of things happen during the day — people go to the hospital or get sick, or there's a funeral. I can't be in two places at the same time.

"A lot of times, I'm preparing my sermon on Saturday or adding the finishing touches to it. That's not at all how I want to be. I want to be working two weeks in advance on my sermons. Right now, I feel like I'm a preacher, but I don't get to be a pastor."

And one job may overlap the other, such as when Boyd has a writing deadline and a church obligation at the same time. In spite of the pressures, these bivocational pastors seem to enjoy the benefits multiple jobs bring.

"It's almost impossible to get into a rut," Pott says. "When I think about my ability to connect with people as a pastor, the opportunities are pretty limited. When I think of other pastors, they're pretty limited in coming into contact with people who aren't in their church, so that's what I like about [bivocational ministry]."

Kitchens sees his connection with other people as the greatest benefit of a secular job. "When someone shows up here on Wednesday night and talks about how tired he is, I'm right there with him. Others talk about trouble at work, and I'm right there with them. It gives me a dual-dimensional aspect that I wouldn't have as a full-time pastor." Simultaneously, people in his church pray for him more because they know that he's carrying a heavy load.

Having another job outside the church can make a pastor seem more approachable to the unchurched. "Most people see pastors in a kind of one-dimensional way. It blows their minds to hear I'm a reporter and writer," Boyd says. "They see me in a new light. Non-Christians seem to open up a little bit more, especially when I talk about some of the interesting people I've interviewed."

The one-sided "pastor image" can work positively as well. "People have a certain image of a pastor that I think helps me with them," Linder says. "They trust that I care about more than doing a job and making a buck."

Heart matters

Emotional issues can be especially tough for bivocational pastors. "I've never felt inferior about my education or my abilities, but I have felt somewhat inferior when people say, 'Oh, you have to work another job,'" says Pott. He also says he went through a transition time of wondering if he really was a minister or just pretending to be one.

Ultimately, bivocational pastors have to realize God is in control of their professional lives, whether at a church, in the marketplace or both. "The bottom line is I am doing work that I believe God has uniquely crafted me for, given me a passion for, and given me opportunities to do," Linder says.

One thing that helps Pott is not to categorize things as "ministry vs. secular." "What keeps me sane," he says, "is saying this is where God has me for now, and it's all ministry."

Taken from the Pastor's Family Edition of
Focus on the Family magazine, Jan. 2003.
Article copyright © 2003, Kristi Rector.
All rights reserved. International copyright secured.
Used by permission.

Kristi Rector is associate editor of Rev. magazine,
a periodical for pastors.