Go Cross-Vo Not Bi-Vo

I have been involved in bi-vocational ministry for the past 6 years.  This simply means I work a normal, full-time job (for me on the faculty of a Christian university) and serve part-time in local churches.  I have loved every minute in this dual ministry role.

What I do not love is the terminology: bi-vo.  Bi-vo, short for bi-vocational, has a negative connotation to it.  To most people in the pews it means that their pastor or church staff member is split in two.  That your heart is divided.  That you have to focused on one job to the detriment of the other.  As if you are in a tug-of-war between two jobs – one will win, the other will lose.


In bi-vo ministry, someone wins, someone will lose.

While more and more churches are considering going bi-vo because of financial constraints and/or declining attendance, they feel having a bi-vo pastor or bi-vo worship leader is a sign of defeat and impending death.  In all actuality, bi-vo can be a huge boost in lay-ministry involvement, community engagement and potential outreach.

Therefore, I think we need to change the language.  I think we need to reframe the vision and conversation surrounding bi-vocational ministry.

From this point forward, I will use the phrase “cross-vocational” instead of bi-vo.

  • Cross-vocational means you are living equally in two worlds: the marketplace and the ministry location.
  • Cross-vocational means you have on-going relationships with two groups simultaneously – your brothers and sisters in Christ and those you serve in the workplace.
  • Cross-vocational means you are fluid, entrepreneurial, creative, willing to be flexible, able to lead and succeed in both contexts.

Cross-vocational ministry has been the calling card of our missionaries and church planters for centuries.  They all have had to work both sides of the ministry field, in the world and out of the world, serving those who have yet to hear and to those who are fully committed to Christ.  I believe the cross-vocational spirit will come to more and more pastors and church leaders in the days ahead.

I believe a cross-vocational shift is coming in America for three primary reasons.

1.  Significant differences between the Builders & Boomers and the X’ers and Millennials in giving and stewardship patterns will result in precipitous declines in church budgets.  There will simply not be enough resources to fully-fund church staff, especially in light of health care cost.  (See my recent post on the ending of full-time paid youth ministry.)

2.  As evangelism and baptisms decrease, pastors and church leaders will demand freedom to engage unreached people within their communities.  This access will only come from unhinging themselves from a pervasive Christian sub-culture inside the church and interacting with more non-believers out in the real world.

3.  As churches streamlining and simplifying their ministry efforts and programming (aka the winnowing effect), they will have to say “no” to the secondary, more peripheral ministries in lieu of keeping the essential ministries.  The end result will be less day-to-day work to do.  This means less needed, fully-funded paid staff.

I do not see any way around this ministry shift.

I do see a large number of churches really struggling with this new reality.  But if they want to be proactive, they might consider going cross-vo now when its their choice instead of going cross-vo later when they have no choice.

(To be continued. More on cross-vocational ministry in the days to come.)






8 thoughts on “Go Cross-Vo Not Bi-Vo

  1. Your second point as to why a cross-vocational shift is coming to America is equally disappointing as it is true. Unfortunately far too many churches are satisfied with little to no baptisms each year and commit to very little effective evangelism. We seem to be bringing less lost people into the church yet there are still countless numbers of lost people in almost every neighborhood. I believe this lack of evangelism and salvations has led to the decline in church budgets just as much as the very different giving and stewardship patterns of the different generations (not to take away from your insight. There is definitely a big difference in the giving and stewardship patterns and attitudes of the different generations). I have seen first hand, as I’m sure you have as well, churches that once had multiple pastors on staff but because of a lack of evangelism, salvations, and church growth, can no longer afford multiple full time paid staff.

    Also, I believe that with more and more pastors going cross-vocational, the makeup of the deacon ministry must change in many churches ( and that is not necessarily a bad thing). More and more deacons will need to be responsible for leading ministries and even making some administrative decisions in order to “lighten the load” of the pastor. This is a completely biblical response that goes all the way back to the creation of the deacon ministry.

  2. Brilliant! ‘Cross vocational’ is a appropriate term and I will begin to use it.
    I agree with @waynecathers about leading people to Jesus. If I may be so bold, I will insert that we have made “evangelism” into a program rather than making disciples as Jesus commanded. As soon as we trained people how to share their faith “supra” to their every day life and stopped believing that God works through every person who is living and speaking the good news integrated into their daily life we lost the dependence on the Spirit’s work and substituted the work of the organization.
    Also, following @waynecather the work of the deacon must change. I believe, however, the Biblical standard was not only one of easing the load (which is completely true) but also being persons “full of the Holy Spirit and power.” How often is that an expectation of our congregational servants?
    Finally, what would happen if the ‘church’ did not invest a significant amount of its resources hiring spiritual specialists? Are there other options? Could we more effectively change our community with those resources? Could we “feed, heal, visit and release from bondage” more freely? The answers to these questions will embody the next wave of grace from our Lord.

    Great work Dr. Garrison!

    • Pastor Bob – I love your comments. In the near future, I hope to offer a local church, somewhere, my full pastoral/preaching/leadership ministry for free. Causing no financial burden to be placed on the church (2 Cor. 11:9). In exchange, I would like to use all the personnel funds set aside for the pastoral salary for church planting, missions support, giving to the poor, and social justice issues. Just a dream I have been exploring for several years now. SG

  3. Well said! Though people put little emphasis on word choice, I think it’s extremely important and you make a wonderful point here. Whether consciously or not, people to respond differently based on how they are presented with things. I think it’s important to stay positive and show others how God is working in all kinds of fields.
    Great post.

  4. Pingback: When the Cost of Everything Goes Up and Giving Goes Down | ShaneGarrison.org

  5. Pingback: Why I Keep Saying “Thank You But No Thank You” to Full-Time Church Ministry | shanegarrison

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