8 Benefits to Bivocational Ministry
- Sunday, May 15, 2011
BARRE, Vt. (BP)--"But I don't want to be bivocational." That was the declaration of a young man whom I recently talked to. He was nearing graduation from seminary and felt led to do ministry in a lesser-reached area of the nation.
Vermont, which is the least churched state in America, definitely fits the bill for being lesser reached. As the Vermont director for the efforts of my denomination, I have plenty of openings in which he could fulfill his calling to a lesser reached area. But when he found out that most evangelical churches in Vermont have less than 100 people in worship on a typical Sunday morning and that few could sustain a fully funded pastor, he was discouraged.
I can certainly understand his frustration. After all, he had invested a significant amount of time and money in seven years of schooling in order to gain his master of divinity degree from an accredited seminary. In any other field, such an investment of time and money likely would produce a lucrative career. But if a person feels a calling to ministry, and wants to do that ministry outside the Bible belt, the likelihood of finding a fully funded position drops significantly.
For those who may not be familiar with the term "bivocational," it simply means that the minister must work a second job in addition to serving a church. It does not mean that the minister is "part-time." It simply means his ministry position is not fully funded and therefore he must find additional income from some other source.
The reasons that people want to avoid this situation are numerous, but the most obvious is that it is a lot of hard work. Balancing two jobs and a family is a challenge. Pastoral burn-out among bivocational pastors is notoriously high. Unfortunately, bivocational ministry is a reality that is not going away anytime soon. Both the current economic situation in the nation, as well as the giving trends of younger generations, indicate that churches will continue to struggle to fully fund pastoral positions for some time.
However, just because there are challenges to bivocational ministry does not mean that such situations should be viewed in a negative light. There are actually a number of advantages that bivocational pastors have over their fully funded counterparts. Before dismissing bivocational ministry, pastors should consider these advantages:
1. Bivocational pastors are not as dependent on the church for their financial support as fully funded pastors. This relieves them of the stress of what might happen to their families if they were dismissed from the churches they serve. In some situations, bivocational pastors actually have more personal resources than fully funded pastors because they have two sources of income.
2. Bivocational pastors often find more opportunities to witness to the lost than fully funded pastors because they spend more time with non-Christians through their secular employment.
3. Bivocational pastors seldom live in a "bubble" where only church people inhabit. Their secular employment requires them to interact with and understand better the needs of non-Christians. Therefore, they frequently feel they relate to the people in their congregations better than fully funded pastors because they "work" just like the laypeople do. These frequent interactions and the increased sense of relating to laypeople often help bivocational pastors have more realistic sermon illustrations and greater credibility in the pulpit.
4. Bivocational pastors have the ability to serve a larger number of churches because they can serve churches that cannot fully fund pastors. They also get to experience the joy of allowing churches to fund other needed ministries instead of so much of the churches' funding going to support their own salaries.
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