Written by guest contributor Pastor Jermaine Wilson – Master of Theology student in the Campbellsville University School of Theology
I have served as a pastor in the African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church for the last sixteen years. Within the 16 years, I have held other jobs. This dual role has taken a toll on me spiritually, emotionally, and physically. It is demanding because it is hard to find a balance with two professions, a wife and two kids.
The reason I continue to be bi-vocational is two-fold: 1) the need for me to provide for my family and 2) my desire not to be a burden on the church.
When I first started out in the ministry, an older preacher gave me some wise advice. He told me to always make mention to every church you pastor, that “your family is second only to your relationship with Christ.” I heard what he said, but at that time, I was still single. I few years later, after getting married and having the first our two children, I understood what he meant. I knew that it was my responsibility to make sure that I was providing for my family.
Over the years, as I was promoted to larger and more demanding churches, I would receive remarks from other pastors that I needed to stop working my secular job. These pastors were telling me this because the churches I pastored, were historically led by pastors whose sole vocation was pastoring.
My father in the ministry has even made the comment to me that I was greedy. I was unpersuaded and still stand on the premise that I need to be bi-vocational. 1 Timothy 5:8 says, “Anyone who does not provide for their relatives, and especially for their own household, has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever” (NIV).
It is very expensive to provide for the basic needs of children. I believe that God wants me to do my best as it relates to providing for my family. I have learned to look pass the comments of others because they do not know my situation.
The second reason I remain bi-vocational is my desire to be a blessing and not a burden on the church. The last three congregations I have served were financially so bad that I had to take a significant cut in salary. All of the congregations had less than $300 in their accounts and one of the three was on the verge of foreclosure. Being bi-vocational not only helped the church but it also kept my family from going without. The people at each church were so appreciative that I was willing to make the sacrifice in my salary, and they saw that I was there to serve them.
I have seen pastors and their families struggle financially because they were too stubborn to supplement their salary from the church with another income. Not only does the pastor’s family struggle, but the church struggles as well. Perhaps these pastors did not want to put in the extra work. Unfortunately, when situations like these arise, it can lead to the pastor doing some unethical things. I know pastors who are so desperate for money that they will ask the members in their church for a loan. This is an unacceptable practice that can cause a major rift in the congregation. I have also seen where pastors will find a way to steal money from the church. This has been done through the pastor taking loans out in the church’s name, receiving rent money from tenants who lease property from the church, and unauthorized use of a church credit card. Not only is this unacceptable, but also a criminal act which could land the pastor in jail.
You cannot be lazy if you are going to be bi-vocational. It requires you to manage your time well, be intentional with spending time with your family and delegating duties. Time management is essential because you do not want to find yourself wasting time. I work 37.5 hours a week on my job. I therefore plan all of the church activities in the evening. There are times when I must take off work and be at the church during the day. These times include funeral services, church conventions, and celebrating an accomplishment of a parishioner. I can only do evening bible studies and all meeting are held at night. Sometimes, instead of having a meeting at the church, I conduct conference calls.
My wife is very helpful with planning family outings. I try not to schedule any church activities on the days I spend time with the family. My goal is to keep my Saturdays open and to devote that time for family. Sometimes, this does not work. On occasion, there are funerals and meetings in my denomination that I’m expected to attend. Friday evenings has also been a time to spend with family.