For many pastors, bi-vocational ministry has been a part of their lives at one time or another. Whether you’re bi-vocational or receive full financial support, you will endure times of stress and strain. With fewer hours to devote to ministry in their local church, bi-vocational pastors need to be even more strategic in order to thrive in their ministry.
Here are 3 ways I have found to thrive in bi-vocational ministry.
A daily, Spirit-filled time of prayer and scripture
We can all agree that at one time or another, our time with God is not where it should be. We might study for sermons and for the classes we have to teach, but spend little time actually finding nourishment from well of life.
When I have times of spiritual dryness, I can nearly always trace it back to a lack of daily, intentional time of praying, reading and meditating on God’s Word. Especially for a bi-vocational pastor, drawing from the well daily needs to become a primary, instinctive discipline if we hope to minister for the long term. If you’re reading this and you’ve not spent time in prayer and scripture, stop reading this now and go spend time with God.
Pastors have the tendency to take on too much. We feel pressure from ourselves, from our congregations (real and imagined) and we feel pressure from the weight of our calling. But God never intended for us to bear the burden of leadership alone. Christ Himself set the perfect example for leaders, and certainly bore the heaviest burden in history, and yet he still intentionally recruited, trained and delegated to leaders.
Shared leadership means watch your language. In order for others in our congregations to carry any credibility in leadership, we must grow a culture of shared leadership. Start small and choose your language carefully. I’ve stopped referring to myself as “The Pastor.” While it’s recognized in our congregation that I am a pivotal part of our leadership, I began to refer to myself as “one of the pastors.” This with other incremental changes has allowed other pastors and leaders in our church to grow into positions of authority and credibility as they’ve exercised their gifts and callings.
The Apostle Paul agrees, “and what you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful men, who will be able to teach others also” 2 Timothy 2:2 (ESV).
Imagine if Paul had attempted to carry the full burden of leadership in the churches he planted? I don’t believe he would have planted as many churches as he did. We must pass on the knowledge of the Gospel, but without opportunity to put this knowledge into practice, many pastors and leaders in your church will never develop the skills they need to grow in their calling. For many, the lack of practice does not come from lack of personal desire, but from lack of opportunity.
Shared leadership means let them preach. From the vantage point of the congregation whoever is speaking in the front, and especially whoever preaches, has credibility. For this reason, we need to be careful about who preaches, but not by holding this responsibility solely.
One of the greatest obstacles I overcame when becoming a lead pastor was the weight of preaching week after week. Giving other faithful men the opportunity to preach regularly will help prepare them for preaching weekly. And by allowing others to preach, the lead pastor will have opportunity to rest and worship with his fellow congregants. A church is not solely built upon the shoulders of the lead pastor, and your church needs to see this regularly.
Shared leadership means let them minister. When sickness or tragedy strike your congregation, the people will desire pastoral care and counsel. Cultivating a culture of shared leadership will train the congregation that God is raising up other faithful men to help shepherd the flock. You don’t want your congregation to feel neglected because “the lead pastor” didn’t show up. We need to instill in our churches the understanding that each leader has a legitimate role in serving and ministering to the congregation.
The right job
Your first priority as a pastor is providing for your family’s needs. If we fail at this, we have already failed in ministry because we won’t have one. Of course, what “providing” looks like is different for every family and every context. You, your spouse and the Holy Spirit can decide on those specifics.
With that being said, the right marketplace job will allow your bi-vocational ministry to be very effective and long term. Juggling family, church and a job can be a great task, the right marketplace job is the one that provides for your family’s needs, connects you to the culture around you and allows you to work in a field that you’re passionate about.