Pastoring is always a challenge, but being a bi-vocational pastor or staff member has its own unique set of challenges. I wouldn’t say it’s more difficult than being a full-time pastor, just different. Being bi-vocational means you’re not only working two jobs, you’re also working as a parent and husband. Like your paycheck, it’s easy for your whole week to be spent for before you have it in hand.
As a bi-vocational pastor you can often feel frustrated by the lack of time you’re able to commit to a particular task or perhaps feel disconnected from any other full-time staff—as if you’re always coming in half-way through the conversation. Lead pastors need to recognize the unique challenges their bi-vocational pastors face and even though you can’t offer them regular financial payment, there are plenty of little things that can be done to honor your fellow pastors.
Every church has a different salary circumstance. At my church we have one full-time pastor and everyone else is bi-vocational. That’s the framework for my thinking. At larger churches with more financial freedom, I’m sure there are more options to bless the bi-vocational pastors among you.
- Book Allowance — Leaders are readers, as the saying goes. And if you want your pastors to stay equipped and on top of the latest issues and trends, then a book allowance is a good way to do that. The amount I received was $100 per year, which works out to about 7 books. It was the best perk I ever received—a giant, “thank you”, that lasted all year. If your church can’t afford $100 than consider something less. It doesn’t have to be much, just something to give in lieu of a regular salary.
- Encourage Regular Time Off — Since bi-vocational pastors work 2 jobs (not counting family) they can often get tired of the grind. A good lead pastor encourages them to take regular scheduled time off, not only for them, but the health of their family. This could take a couple different shapes. It can be a regular scheduled vacation, one week off a quarter, or just staying home from a couple of meetings. Whatever the break, it should be regular, planned, and anticipated. Of all the gifts you could give, this is probably the most important. Time off allows your pastor to rest, think, rejuvenate, and play with his family. Family is our first ministry, so a gift that strengthens and builds the family is a indeed a good gift. There’s also a spiritual reward to encouraging time away: learning dependency upon God. Maybe it’s just me, but bi-vocational pastors are worker bees—it’s what makes us effective at our jobs. The downside of that is often we feel the need to always be around. As if the house burns to ground when we’re not around. Scheduling time away breaks down those sinful tendencies and encourages trust in God’s strength and provision.
- Gift Cards for Family Time — As a corollary to #2, you could pay for your bi-vocational pastor to take his wife out to dinner for their anniversary. This is a small way to encourage his first ministry as well as show his wife your conscience of the sacrifices they make, and care about the health of his family.
- Pay for Training — Since the bi-vocational pastor isn’t receiving regular payment, a good way to care for them would be to pay for training. This can mean sending them to a conference on their particular area of oversight or an online class they want to take to further their education. Conferences are an especially good way for pastors to network, meet fellow laborers, and learn some best practices from others in their field. And it doesn’t have to be for the entire amount either. Any gift a bi-vocational pastor receives is a blessing.
I’m sure there are other ways to bless the bi-vocational pastor in your church. These are some of the ways I’ve been blessed and other ways I’ve considered. The point to remember is that bi-vocational pastors often ask nothing more in return for their service, it’s done with a joyful heart. But saying “thank you” goes a long way to fuel the tank of service. So consider these simple ways of honoring your fellow pastor and perhaps think of a few I haven’t considered.