Should I Become a Bi-Vocational Pastor?

Joe is a typical bi-vocational pastor, one of 106 pastors from four mainline denominations that were part of a survey.1 He has a job as an accountant as well as his pastorate, working a total of about 55 hours a week. In addition to earning his bachelor's degree, he is also a seminary graduate.

Some of Joe's bi-vocational pastor friends are anticipating the day when they will have full-time positions, but he, like most others, is very happy with his current life and firmly committed to his ministry just as it is. Joe feels that he can better relate to his congregation by having a job outside the church and enjoys the additional area of outreach it provides.

Helpful Tips From Bi-Vocational Pastors

As part of the survey, bi-vocational pastors were asked if they had any words of advice for other current and future bi-vocational pastors. They were more than happy to share some of their accumulated wisdom to help others considering bi-vocational ministry. The following are their suggestions:

Answer the call — Many pastors emphasized the fact that bi-vocational ministry is as significant and valid a "call" as full-time ministry. Your motivation for entering such a ministry shouldn't be the need for more money or the inability to get a full-time job. "It is a bare-bones ministry as described in Acts."

Select a flexible job — Being a serious bi-vocational pastor requires that you be able to take time off from work on your other job. One pastor stated, "Choose a vocational experience that gives flexibility to conduct funerals and respond to emergencies."

Prioritize — "Decide what are the high priority tasks." Pastoring with limited time and energy means you must identify the greatest needs of the congregation and minister to those. Focus on what is most important, or else you may end up having two full-time jobs.

Encourage lay leaders — You will not be able to handle all the problems of the church, so expect and encourage each "layman [to] take more responsibility for routine church ministry (phone calls, etc.)." If you are willing to train people, you will generally find that people are willing to help out.

Schedule family time — Do not neglect your family. Be intentional about setting aside special time for them. One experienced pastor said, "I had to learn as a young minister to give more priority to my family." Many pastors admitted that their families suffered the most from them having two jobs.

Fellowship with other clergy — Many times, bi-vocational pastors feel that they are "out of the loop" with full-time pastors. Full-time pastors often aren't aware of the need to reach out to you, so you should to take the initiative to get to know them. Also, ask your denominational body to schedule meetings at times that would be good for you as well as the full-time pastors.

The best advice that the majority of those already in bi-vocational ministry have to offer those considering it: (1) Think carefully about how the decision will impact you and your family, (2) consider the cost, (3) find support and (4) answer His call.

Article copyright © 2000, Focus on the Family.
All rights reserved. International copyright secured.
Used by permission.

1 Source credit: L. Ronald Brushwyler, D.Min., Midwest Ministry Development Service.

Erick Underwood was a student intern in Focus on the Family’s Pastoral Ministries department at the time this article was written. Hailing from Hawaii, he was taking courses at the
Focus on the Family Institute in Colorado Springs.