Monday, March 5, 2012

Rethinking Our Perception of Bivocational Ministry

Though many people think of bivocational ministry as being a negative experience, I do not share that opinion. Though bivocational ministry has its challenges, it always had great rewards.

One of the challenges that bivocational pastors must overcome is a perceived second-class status in ministry. Over time, this perception of bivocational ministry being second-class has resulted in a negative social stigma being attached to the concept of bivocational ministry. Some pastors feel a sense of inadequacy when serving in bivocational roles. They may not even want to think of themselves as bivocational because of the perceived stigma attached to the term. I have heard many pastors declare that they are not bivocational, they just work a second job. They deny the reality of what they are because somewhere along the way someone told them that being bivocational was negative. I want to challenge that notion and proclaim to everyone that being bivocational is not a bad thing.

Due to a lack of understanding, people will occasionally refer to bivocational pastors as part-time pastors, a misnomer because all pastors are on call twenty-four hours a day. Therefore, there are no actual part-time pastors. There are a number of full-time pastors who are only being partially compensated for their work and therefore have to seek additional employment in order to support their families. Do not insult a bivocational pastor by referring to him as part-time. He deserves more respect than that from the people he serves and from his fully-funded peers.

Though some people may misunderstand this special calling to bivocational ministry, it is a calling that the early church knew well. The Apostle Paul was bivocational. Down through the centuries there have always been bivocational ministers. Sometimes the percentage of bivocational pastors has been higher, and sometimes lower. This has resulted in many waves of bivocational ministry ebbing and flowing as the situation dictated. The wave of bivocationalism that is currently sweeping North America is a combination of a general weakening economy, a lack of commitment to stewardship within the churches, and a new understanding of the importance of bivocational ministry.

Small churches need good pastors. Many of those pastors will likely be bivocational. Those pastors will need to overcome the false impression that they are second-class pastors. Pastors much educate themselves and their congregations about this issue. One tool that can be used in this education process is Developing Leadership Teams in the Bivocational Church. I wrote this material not just for pastors, but for all leaders in the small church. As leaders read it together, they will be able to rethink bivocational ministry. They will learn to value and appreciate the pastors of small churches, which is essential for effective bivocational ministry.


  1. Church Planting Pastor of Immanuel Baptist Church, Pana IlllinoisMarch 5, 2012 at 7:54 AM

    I have always had to be bi-vocational. Despite the fact that I would rather work full time for the Lord, it is not going to happen. Presently, I do not receive any pay for my ministry as a church planter but God meets my families needs. Support your pastor everyone, it is not always easy but what a joy.

  2. I never envied the "professional Pastors" and was always glad that God blessed me in such a way that my tentmaking was sufficient to allow me serve a church without extracting a lot of its resources.

  3. Rick Justus, pastor in JapanMarch 5, 2012 at 10:48 AM

    It's been completely positive for me these 25 years. In some cases, it's the only way to go!

  4. My husband is QUAD-vocational! He pastors a small church, works M-F 8 hours a day as a teacher's aide, does minor construction and home repair after school and on some Saturdays and he took special training at the school for a computer program which enables him to go into schools and give presentations which he gets paid for....AND he's not the only pastor in our area that has more than two or three jobs! Seems like so many folks really have so little idea of what bi-tri-quad vocational pastors have to do. It's so hard to move FORWARD - when you're just trying to stay afloat.