Over the past 2 years, I have been involved in several types of bi-vocational ministry. Bi-vocational ministry (usually known more as “bi-vo”) means you have 2 vocations: one primary and one secondary. Sometimes one is a ministry position and the other is a regular job. In my situation, both are ministry-related but one is with a Christian parachurch organization and the other has been with the local church.
My primary ministry has been teaching full-time at a Christian university in the CU School of Theology. But bi-vocationally, I have been honored to serve as an interim pastor, a ministry consultant, a workshop/conference leader, a Christian writer and a pulpit supply preacher.
After being in full-time church ministry for several years, I had forgotten the benefits of bi-vo, which was a vital part of my early ministry life in seminary. I have found several advantages to this type of ministry.
1. Your financial stability is not church-based which allows you to lead with conviction. When leading in various church settings, the pastor/ministry can be afraid of rocking the boat too much and possibly offending the congregation that pays their salary. Leaders can become timid and avoid necessary change because it would cause them to be in jeopardy with their church. As a bi-vo pastor, my financial security is not tied to my church job and therefore I am able to lead more freely in the local church. I can be a catalyst for healthy change and not be worried about feeding my family.
2. Connection to unbelievers. Unfortunately in full-time church ministry, I had limited contact and connection with unbelievers. As a pastor, I was constantly surrounded by believers. Nearly all of my energy and work was meeting their needs and supporting their spiritual care. To be frank, I only knew a few unbelievers in the neighborhood in which I lived. In bi-vo ministry, your primary job gives you extensive opportunity to meet, talk and engage with unbelievers. Because you are in the “real world” you are surrounded by real people who need to hear about Jesus.
3. Connection with working people. No matter how hard we try to change the perception of pastoral ministry, many people still believe pastors have it easy just working a few hours a week. When you’re bi-vo, you have a Monday to Friday 9 to 5 day-job that puts at least 40 hours on your weekly plate. I believe people in the church connect better if they can identify with your working schedule. You’re as strapped for time as they are.
4. Finally, bi-vo is biblical. We all know Paul was a tent-maker by trade and often would not let a church support him financially. He instead worked and supported himself. This gave him credibility. It showed he was not using his ministry as a means to financial gain. That goes a long way to prove authenticity and genuine commitment to Christ and to the mission of God.
So let’s hear it for bi-vo. This season of my ministry life has been some of the most fruitful years so far.