I serve as the Director of an organization of 37 churches that work together to start new churches and hold strategic evangelistic activities in Vermont and a portion of New Hampshire. Thirty of those churches lack the funds to fully support their pastor financially. This means that the vast majority of the pastors I work with are bivocational. In discussing the reality of how bivocational ministry impacts them, I developed this list of challenges that bivocational ministers face. I look forward to hearing your thoughts on these issues.
Challenges bivocational pastors deal with regularly:
1. Bivocational pastors frequently discuss not having enough time to do as much ministry as they would like. They often feel like they are “not available” to the congregation because of their second job. This causes them to feel frustrated with and/or guilty about their perceived lack of accomplishments in ministry.
2. Bivocational pastors often find it difficult to spend as much time studying and preparing their sermons as they would like. This often makes them feel inadequate in the pulpit and robs them of the confidence they would like to have when they preach. Many bivocational pastors list this as their greatest challenge to ministry.
3. Bivocational pastors are often so busy they do not have adequate time to do the administrative duties incumbent on pastors. This often leaves them with a feeling of being overwhelmed.
4. Bivocational pastors seldom feel they have enough time for their own families. This results in them feeling an enormous sense of guilt, especially in regards to how much time they spent with their children.
5. Bivocational pastors often feel they do not have time for their own personal growth.
6. Bivocational pastors often feel they do not have the time to be involved in servant evangelism or to take part in volunteer work within the community.
7. Bivocational pastors often feel the need for “breaks” from ministry because of the constant stress but seldom have time to take such breaks.
8. Bivocational pastors frequently are unable to attend seminars, conferences, and denominational meetings because those meetings conflict with their other jobs.
9. Bivocational pastors often express a sense of being “out of balance” when trying to reconcile work, family, and ministry. They frequently mention the need for quiet moments in which they can think clearly about what they need to do next.
10. Bivocational pastors often find it difficult to keep up with simple chores around the house, such as making minor repairs or cutting the grass because of the time demands of their two jobs.
11. Bivocational pastors sometimes feel that their social lives have to revolve around church members and church activities. Those pastors who feel this way express that this gives them a smaller social network than they would like. These same pastors feel that they are not able to be as “deep” as they would like in such relationships because of the danger of becoming “too close” to church members. (Note: Not all bivocational pastors feel this way about their social lives; in tomorrow's post I will share how some bivocatioanl pastors actually see this point as an advantage instead of a challenge.)
Bivocational ministry has many challenges, but it can be done effectively. Churches need to look for ways to help bivocational pastors with these types of challenges so that their pastors can be healthier and so their churches can be more effective. If you are a lay leader in a church, discuss with other leaders how your church might address some of these issues for your pastor.
Dr. Terry Dorsett is a bivocational pastor and church planting missionary in Vermont. He is the author of Developing Leadership Teams in the Bivocational Church, published by CrossBooks and available at CrossBooks, Amazon and 25,000 other online retailers.