Bi-vocational ministry is becoming more prevalent as pastors around the world are answering God’s call. If you’re discerning a call to bi-vocational ministry, it’s only fair to know what you’re getting into. This kind of ministry has many unique challenges and if you’re thinking about being bi-vocational, it’s helpful to consider some common pitfalls that bi-vo pastors face and how to overcome them. I recently got to talk to Dave Jacobs, a coach and consultant of bi-vocational pastors from www.smallchurchpastor.com, and he shared these things to avoid:
Pitfall #1: Overworking
You may want to say that you’re still a full-time pastor and a full-time employee, but ultimately that will kill you. If you put in full-time work hours and add full-time pastoring, you will probably hurt yourself. You’ll need to set some boundaries while still being flexible to do what the Lord is doing.
There are a ton of opportunities to add things to your plate, to start new ministries, to invest in more relationships, and to do more “stuff”. Yet, there must be balance. You’ve got to make time for soul care, family, hobbies, rest, and solitude with Jesus. Overworking will leave you burnt out. A healthy balance will allow you to be in this for the long haul.
If you want to hear more about how Vineyard Pastors have life balance, you can check out this post on Achieving Work-Life Balance as a Church Planter.
Pitfall #2 Losing Focus
You don’t want to work too much, but you also want to work on the right things. Only so much can fit into the hours you’ll be working part-time. If you divide up those hours like a pie, you can write in those areas what you must do each week. After prioritizing the things that are important for your church to function, you’ll need to ruthlessly guard your calendar by fighting the voices of temptation to add things.
Here are some priorities to keep in mind:
- People time – Carve time out to be with people whether in one on one meetings or at meals. There must be time to build relationships, gather people, and equip them.
- Admin time – Don’t forget the hours that will be spent doing administrative tasks whether that’s folding bulletins, updating a website, writing checks, etc.
- Creative thinking time – Don’t think of this just devotional time as much as simply sitting and planning with God. You’ll need to evaluate with God, asking him questions like, “what should I do next, am I using my time well, and where will I get my next potential leader?”
- Study time – You must be okay with having less time to study than you might like. Many bi-vo’s invest 8-10 hours a week in sermon prep, but you should learn how to do a good sermon in 4 hours or less. Try to work 2 hours less each week than you’re used to on your sermons for at least a month. Then evaluate your previous month’s sermons based on content, listenability, delivery and impact. Are your sermons any worse?
Pitfall #3 Doing it all Yourself
You can’t do it all. And you shouldn’t do it all. It will be a necessity to equip and release a steady stream of leaders. This actually fits in perfectly well with the Vineyard adage of ‘everyone gets to play’. In fact, it fits even better with the Bible’s declaration of the ‘priesthood of all believers’. You have an opportunity to leverage your situation into helping your congregation live this out perhaps better than fully funded pastors. Out of necessity, you will be expected to live biblically when it comes to equipping the saints. Your leaders will help you get things done, but more importantly, your community will get to grow in the gifts God has given them. To learn more about raising up leaders, you can check out our leadership development category on the Multiply Vineyard blog.
Bi-vocational ministry might be difficult on your body, family, and soul, but it can also be freeing and rewarding. It allows you to spend more time among unbelievers and in the marketplace. Your access to your community is a gift that can bring up a lot of cool opportunities and it will certainly be a great tool in God’s hands.