Bivocational pastors and staff members were viewed by many people within our denomination as “second class” ministers thirty years ago. That perception is no longer true in the 21st century. Many ordained pastors and staff members choose to serve bi vocationally.
They see ministry in the church and marketplace as an opportunity to share the gospel with people who will not attend church gatherings. Bivocational ministers enjoy the freedom of serving the local church and being a witness for Christ in the marketplace.
The need for bivocational pastors and staff members is increasing. More of our smaller churches are struggling to provide income, retirement, and health insurance to a fulltime pastor and staff. Bivocational ministers and church staff give local churches the option of having quality leadership and continue her mission of fulfilling the Great Commission. Some growing churches are choosing to call bivocational ministers as part of their leadership teams.
Bivocational pastors need support from all of us. Many bivocational pastors and staff members are discouraged. Some quietly wonder if exhausting schedule of working at a job and then serving in the local church is worth their efforts. Here are some practical ways we can encourage our bi vocational pastors and staff members.
- Verbally acknowledge the challenge that your bivocational pastor faces balancing work and church responsibilities. Many bivocational pastors and staff members deal with a sense of guilt that they do not have more time to minister in the local church. There is always the constant tension of balancing the demands of vocational work, church, and family responsibilities. It encourages your pastor or church staff member to hear that you understand their struggle. A simple word of appreciation and empathy is very motivating.
- Fairly compensate your bivocational pastor or staff member. Bivocational pastors and staff member’s time should be valued by the church they are serving. Many bivocational pastors and staff members make financial sacrifices in their vocation to serve the local church. Local associations and state conventions can assist church leadership in finding the right compensation range for their bivocational pastor. Honest communication between the bivocational pastor and church leadership concerning compensation will aid in developing a healthy long term ministry relationship.
- Schedule a regular time of rest for your bivocational pastor. Full time and bivocational church staff members need to schedule regular times to have a day off, or take a vacation. Scheduling vacations and breaks is often difficult for bivocational ministers. Work, family, and church responsibilities can take up their time 7 days a week. A lack of physical rest can lead to the deterioration of a bivocational pastor’s health. One veteran bivocational pastor I know has an agreement with his church that every eighth Sunday, he will be off. This scheduled break gives him time to physically rest. He has served the church for twelve years, and the congregation continues to grow numerically and spiritually. Consider giving your bivocational pastor a scheduled time to physically rest from his church and work responsibilities.
- Encourage Continuing Education for your Bivocational minister. Bivocational pastors need the time to improve their ministry leadership skills the same as full time ministers. Set aside money in your church budget for your bivocational pastor to attend training conferences, or register for online education. Fortunately, ministry organizations and denominations are becoming more sensitive to the needs of bivocational pastors by offering abbreviated training schedules and one day conferences.
- Respect the calling of the bivocational minister. The call of a bivocational pastor is significant in our Father’s eyes. Jeremiah 1:5 describes the call of God’s servant this way: “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart…” Although bivocational pastors and church staff members may work beside us in the office, classroom, store or warehouse, their call is no less significant than those who serve churches in full time vocational ministry. Recognize their anniversaries of service. Honor them in October during pastor and church staff appreciation month. Honoring the calling of bivocational ministers will bless their lives and strengthen your church.
Danny Hedgepeth is a bivocational pastor in Athens and serves as interim pastor of Cloud’s Creek Baptist Church in Serepta Association. He also serves as a member of the Church Revitalization Team for Serepta Association.