Thursday, August 5, 2010

Challenges of Being a Pastor as a Young Adult

Tom graduated seminary full of passion and enthusiasm. Even though he was still a young adult, he knew he could use his faith to make a difference in the world. He and his young wife were so excited when a small church near his hometown called him as pastor. Their commitment to making a significant difference in their community through their church caused them to throw themselves into as many activities as they could. Like many small churches, Tom's church was not able to fully-fund his salary, so he worked a second job at a local business to help support his family. At first the excitement of it all kept Tom energized and passionate about his new role as the pastor of a small church. But as time went by, the pressure of raising a family, caring for the needs of the church and working a second job to help pay for it began to have a negative impact in Tom's life.

As the pressure began to build, Tom began to lose his excitement and energy for ministry. He tried to pray more in order to regain his passion, but he was often so exhausted that he would fall asleep during his prayer time. His wife tried to help all that she could, but with two small children at home and her part-time Internet business, her time also had great demands on it.

Tom began to have anxiety attacks. His blood pressure rose to unhealthy levels. His wife would often gently remind him of how long it had been since he had been home for dinner with the family. Finally, four years into what Tom thought was going to be a lifelong adventure, Tom resigned from the church and moved his family to a larger community where he took a full time job teaching at the local community college. When friends and family asked Tom if he was ever going to re-enter the ministry, he would respond that he did not want to talk about it.

Every year godly pastors such as Tom, who serve small churches that are unable to fully support their salary, leave the ministry. Some of these pastors will eventually re-enter the ministry, but many will never return to a calling they once found so fulfilling. Such pastors are often referred to as bivocational pastors because they have two vocations, one that is ministry oriented and another that is outside the church. While there are many reasons why bivocational pastors may leave the ministry, a significant one is that they simply burn-out. The pressures of working secular jobs and carrying on the duties of leading churches become too great for some bivocational pastors to bear. When these pastors leave the ministry, the churches are deprived of their experience, their passion, and their unique gifts and talents. Churches cannot afford to continue to lose so many good leaders.

But there is hope. Practical materials have been developed to help young pastors like Tom remain in the ministry and change their world through their passion and faith. One resource is Developing Leadership Teams in the Bivocational Church. Another resource is to join groups on Facebook such as Bivocational Pastors Global Association or Smaller Church Pastors. The church needs the passion that young pastors bring to ministry but churches increasingly have a difficult time paying the salaries that young pastors need to properly care for their families. More and more young pastors are going to have to face the reality of bivocational ministry. Bivocational ministry can be scary, but it can also be effective if young adults use all the resources at their disposal.


  1. Thanks for the helpful links. Can't wait to get the book!

  2. Terry,

    In my opinion the Holy Spirit didn’t call Tom to the Gospel Ministry at that particular time. I can’t think of a single instance where God has called a man to do something without first making certain he would have everything necessary to accomplish the task.

    Pastor Mike Cunningham

  3. Mike,
    Thanks for sharing your thoughts. I know many men who were called by God to ministry but other things got in their way and they were unable to fulfill the call. None of us are perfect and therefore we all makes mistakes. But building good teams can help us overcome our weaknesses and grow.

  4. Looking for practical ways to put some of the principles in this blog post into action? Purchase my book, Developing Leadership Teams in the Bivocational Church. The first part of the book explains why bivocational ministry is biblical, normal and missional. The second part of the book explains how to mobilize the laity to do high level ministry in a team setting with the pastor so that the church can be effective in reaching its community for Christ.
    The book is published by Crossbooks and you can buy the book directly from them at:

    The book is also available on, Barnes and and a many other online bookstores.
    If you live in Central Vermont, you can purchase a copy at the Faith Community Church in Barre, VT.