Doing Bi-vocational Ministry Well
What does it take to do bi-vocational ministry well?
In my opinion, a lot. A whole lot.
It’s been bumpy for me at times. However, I remain committed to planting a church that has highly decentralized ministries but is still officer-led. It's a learning experience. I think figuring this out will pave the way for a reproducible model which can work in economic distress locations and/or times. I don’t think this is THE model but, given our times, something worth attempting.
A key aspect to this vision is bi-vocationalism. Again, I don’t think this is for everyone. It seems like it might even be restricted to exceptional cases. Here are a few components which I think are generally required for it to work, especially if you have a church of approx. 150 or more individuals.
1. You need a good clutch. The bi-vocational life requires the ability to quickly shift gears and intensity. You need to be able to transition from work time to ministry time to family time back to ministry, etc at the drop of a dime without throwing out your “clutch.”
2. You need a solid employer relationship. The bi-vocational life requires an employer who is at least relatively supportive of your ministerial commitments. This is a rare gem but they do exist. I say find a place where you bring so much value that they are happy to have you aboard even at part time capacity.
3. You need a good ecclesiastical relationship. The bi-vocational life requires a church and elders board who understands you have commitments outside of ministry. This is trickier than you’d think. Pastors tend to be criticized for either 1) not being busy doing “real work” or 2) not being available at all hours. It can be a catch-22 situation. So it’s key that you have well-defined roles and expectations. These need to be communicated often. This is also why sharing responsibilities across a plurality of elders is essential.
4. You need ironclad routines. The bi-vocational life requires a whole lot of structure. You need a morning and evening routine. You need scheduled uptime and downtime. You need set reading, writing, and counseling time. You need to block out time for meetings and phone calls. It simply can’t be done organically, especially at scale. You’ll just never stop working and eventually everything will suffer for it.