I’m a bi-vocational pastor.
In my particular case, this basically means that I’m an associate pastor who doesn’t receive his compensation from the local church, but by another means. I have two vocations: pastoral ministry is one, and Healthcare / IT recruiting is the other.
I’m very blessed to love my job and love the work of ministry. Monday through Friday, the majority of my day is spent working at Provisions Group, a Nashville-based Healthcare / IT staffing and consulting firm. A large portion of my weekends, then, and several evenings a month, are devoted to ministry.
The Bible and The Briefcase
I haven’t always been bi-vocational. In Knoxville, for nearly 8 years I was a full-time pastor with a local church in the area. In the fall of 2012, I re-entered the business world, moved back into my previous profession of healthcare recruiting, and relocated to the greater Nashville area in order to help plant Redeeming Grace Church in Franklin, TN.
Over the past 2 years, I’ve reflected a great deal on the beauty and benefits of bi-vocational ministry (I’m also aware of many of the challenges that exist).
I know I’m not the only one. On our particular pastoral team, 2 of the 3 pastors are bi-vocational. I’ve also interacted with a number of pastors in recent years who are serving their local churches while working full-time jobs, and I’m always encouraged to hear their stories of God’s provision and enabling grace.
With that said, I feel a strong call to bi-vocational pastoral ministry, and I have a growing heart for encouraging my fellow bi-vocational pastors.
Here are a five encouragements I would share with my fellow bi-vocational pastors:
1. God has uniquely positioned you for service in the community and in the church
Don’t forget that there are so many benefits to being bi-vocational. For one, you have the built-in platform of constantly living and working with people in the world, and this holds wonderful opportunities for the gospel. You also have the joy and privilege of contributing to the building of your local church both in terms of your time and your personal finances (Not receiving compensation for the work of ministry is a gift to your local church, and every financial contribution you make through your tithes and offerings is a gift, as well). God is using your service to build his church and the gates of hell will not prevail against it (Matthew 16:18).
2. Do whatever it takes to get your soul happy in God, consistently
At every turn, you are likely pouring out your soul in service to others. Because you can only give what you have stored up in your heart to give, you need the continual replenishment that only comes by the Holy Spirit through communion with God, feasting on the Word, and pouring out your heart to God in prayer and faith. It’s not selfish to take time for your own soul to be replenished and nourished. It’s essential for effectiveness in bi-vocational pastoral ministry. So, do whatever it takes to get your own soul happy in God. Your family, your employer, and the church you love will all be grateful and will benefit from you as you receive fresh grace from God.
3. Make sure to take care of your family first
No amount of influence in others’ lives is worth sacrificing those closest and dearest to you. If you are married, God has blessed you with a gift in your wife and He has called you to love her as Christ loves the church – to nourish and cherish her and lay down your life for her good (Ephesians 5:25). Sometimes this love will involve saying “No” to the endless needs, desires, or demands of others. Again, that is not a selfish thing; instead, it’s a right ordering of priorities. (To be sure, some seasons will involve greater sacrifice from the family, but if the family begins to feel like they are receiving nothing but left-overs, something is askew). Love, enjoy, and care for the family God has blessed you with.
4. Wherever you are, be all there
This is a helpful phrase for me to remember. Road signs instruct us not to text-message others while we drive, because statistics have shown that it can lead to serious accidents. When we drive, we need to be fully-engaged. In the same way, to serve effectively in this calling, we need to be fully-engaged in whatever it is we are doing at the moment. Multi-tasking is very hard for a bi-vocational pastor. When we’re at work, we should work hard for our employer. When we’re at the dinner table, seek to be fully-engaged with the family. The same goes for doing the work of ministry. Ultimately, it can be an expression of trust in the Lord when we give ourselves to what is immediately in front of us and entrust the rest to God, knowing that He works on behalf of those who wait for Him (Isaiah 64:4).
5. Enjoy the grace of God
Finally, my encouragement to bi-vocational pastors is to enjoy the grace of God. You are on an amazing ride and a wild adventure. God knows your limitations. He knows when you’re weary. He knows when you feel weak – And He still delights to use you, even you, for the advancement of His wondrous gospel and the glory of His Name. Your labor in the Lord is not in vain. “For God is not unjust so as to overlook your work and the love that you have shown for his name in serving the saints, as you still do” (Hebrews 6:10). Be strengthened and be encouraged. Thank you for what you do.
Question: If you are a bi-vocational pastor, what encouragement would you have for other bi-vocational pastors? If you are not a bi-vocational pastor, is there a bi-vocational pastor that you know who may benefit from this discussion? (Please feel free to leave a comment below, or forward this post along).