Bivocational ministry is an approach to ministry that includes the pastor holding a full-time or part-time job, along with a ministry position in a church. This has become a big conversation in North America as less money for ministry is available due to less percentage giving by church members, higher maintenance and facility cost, and an emphasis on church planting, which at least 50% of the time requires a bivocational approach. I’ve been bivocational for most of my ministry, holding down side hustles as a fireman, janitor, teacher, and now a full-time denominational strategists. In Louisiana, where I serve, I know pastors and church planters who do everything from rocket science to handy man work. Talking to Pastor’s today, the conversation is not IF he is bivocational, but WHAT does he do on the side to make ends meet.
I believe Bivocational ministry will continue to grow as churches decline and new churches are planted. Here’s a few Pros and Cons for Bivocational ministry:
- It’s Biblical. At least for apostolic, church planting type leaders; a bivocational ministry approach puts you on firm Biblical grounds. The foundation is the Apostle Paul who served as a tent maker, and while he taught the churches the necessity of paying godly pastors, he did not demand salary for his ministry of church planting and leading the movement that became Christianity in the 1st century.
- It’s a Reproducible Model. If reproduction is the goal, then accepting a bivocational approach as normative will be necessary. It is reproducible because there are so many people that already have jobs they love, while wanting to engage in fruitful ministry. So equipping those with the gifts of teaching, leadership, apostleship to plant churches along side their day job is something we must aim for.
- Ministers can serve the church without being dependent on the church for income. Pastors can feel hand tied by the need to make tough decisions and keep people attending and giving. A bivocational minister with a full-time income is freed completely from this dilemma. The minister is also able to be an example of Biblical stewardship from the same perspective as those he leads.
- The church can have a higher percentage of funds available for ministry and missions. The cost of personnel and facilities is often 65% to 80% of a churches budget. This leaves small amounts for the work of the church and the needs of the world. Take out the personnel line and it can drastically reduce that percentage and free up money for fruitful ministry.
- Every member ministry is affirmed. When the pastor and staff are bivocational, every member is needed to make ministry happen. The gifts of the people are not something we consider once per year when the nominating committee is meeting. The gifts of the people are desperately needed for every week. The pastor needs to be freed up to use his limited time (due to being employed 25-40 hours per week) to prepare sermons, seek God’s will for the vision of the church, and reaching the lost. Churches with bivocational approaches must mobilize every one for ministry.
What about the Cons? If your pastor is bivocational here is what to expect:
- Things may move slower than churches down the road. Idea implementation may take a little longer because there isn’t people working on implementation for 40 hours each week. Bivocational / Every Member Ministry churches move at the speed of the team, not the speed of the pastor.
- The pastor WILL feel inadequate and struggle with his time. Most bivocational pastors would love to have more time for the ministry and may be working toward that. And they feel the pressure of comparison to larger churches with staff. He must take up the task of mobilization and the people must take up the task of affirmation and servanthood.
- The church must manage expectations of the role of the Bivocational Pastor and the work of the church. The pastor may not be the first one there when something happens. The church may not move as fast as the churches with full-time staff. But if everyone uses their gifts and the expectations are right for the situation, bivocational churches can grow and thrive in any community.