I spent my first few years of ministry as a bi-vocational pastor. For those who may not know the term, in order to fully support my family, I had to seek other work to supplement my income I received as a pastor.
I still have a heart for those who hold down two jobs—sometimes both of them approaching full-time. And I think more pastors may have to consider bi-vocational ministry in the years ahead. I don't think that is completely bad. My years in the secular world greatly helped me in ministry. That is our mission field.
But I love assisting pastors and I especially want to help these dedicated servants. They work harder than many pastors receiving a full-time income from the church.
Let me share a few things I learned and have observed from working with other bi-vocational pastors. I'm going to share 5 suggestions of things I believe you should do, followed by 5 suggestions of things I would suggest you should not.
Things You Should Do
Be accountable. As a bi-vocational pastor you need to allow people to speak into your life. You may feel more independent if you're not completely dependent on the church for your income, but you still need accountability—like we all do.
Be disciplined. You have to stay healthy in all areas of your life. We all do, but you have more pressure as the bi-vocational pastor to do so.
Be organized. Have someone help you if needed, but develop systems to do everything you have to do in a week. I find the busier I am and the more I am doing, the more structure I need to provide myself. There will always be interruptions, but you're better prepared for them when you start your week with a plan.
Be intentional. It's hard work, but you have to keep both business and church worlds running well—and still be a good family man. It will require intentionality on your part.
Be diligent. In all areas of your life, you must do your best. Your witness is at stake.
Things You Shouldn't Do
Complain to the church. It's tempting, because the work is hard. They should know you do—and hopefully they will give you consideration for it. But it's not fair to them to hear you complain about it all the time.
Lose sight of vision. The reason you are a bi-vocational pastor is to complete the call God has on your life. And what you do is valuable. Life-changing. Eternal.
Let yourself burn out. Stay healthy physically, relationally and emotionally. Again, let people speak into your life who recognize when you are stretching yourself too far. You may have to say no to some things so you can do other things. (Some will need to read that last sentence again.)
Allow one world to outshine the other. This is the hard part, but you have to be good in all your worlds if you're going to continue. You'll need God's strength, but again, it's your witness.
Neglect your family. Here's another hard one, but they are your first commitment. They will be there after either vocation.
One key to your success long-term will be to continually improve personally, so you can do more professionally. Ask God to help you with that. And I'm pulling for you.
Have you ever had to balance dual careers? What advice would you give?
Check out my new leadership podcast on the Lifeway Leadership Podcast Network. It's a short, helpful conversation about issues you will deal with every day. I'd love if you would subscribe, review and share it to spread the word.
As a consultant and coach for almost 20 years, Ron Edmondson has helped thousands of leaders and organizations get better. He has served as CEO of Leadership Network and as a pastor. He has helped revitalized two churches and planting two churches. He also has a long history in business, government and nonprofit work.
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