For generations small rural churches have been faithfully led by pastors who worked other jobs. Such pastors were often local farmers, carpenters, or cowboys who felt a call to ministry and labored to serve the church while remaining in their previous profession. Because bivocational ministry has been so common in rural areas, many people have begun to equate bivocational ministry with rural ministry. But this is simply not the case.
There are many small churches in urban areas that are also served capably by bivocational pastors. This might surprise some people because urban areas typically have better jobs and more financial resources than rural areas. Since this is the case, why would urban churches need to be bivocational?
The simple answer is that though urban areas may have more financial resources, they are also much more expensive to live in than rural areas. Pastors must endure the same cost of living as everyone else; therefore, pastors serving urban areas may be paid more than rural pastors, but their expenses are significantly greater as well. A church of 75 committed adults with an average middle class income may well be able to fully fund a pastor in a rural area, but it is unlikely that the same size congregation in an urban area would be able to fully fund a pastor even though their budget might be significantly higher than a rural church. This is especially true if the rural church has a parsonage for the pastor to live in (as is often the case) but the urban church does not (which is also often the case).
Both urban and rural bivocational pastors are often neglected when it comes to finding resources, conferences and training materials that meet their unique needs as bivocational pastors. But since many people have equated “bivocational” with “rural,” what few resources are being developed to help bivocational pastors are typically geared toward meeting the needs of those in rural areas.
Denominational agencies, seminaries, conference leaders and church health consultants need to consider the needs of urban bivocational pastors when developing resources. Bivocational ministry is growing in America, so this is an issue that is not going away. The church must accept the reality of this and adapt current thinking on resource development and organizational structures of seminaries and training conferences so that ALL bivocational pastors can be resourced adequately.
Click here for an example of a resource that can meet the needs of both rural and urban bivocational pastors.