Navigating the Challenges of Bi-Vocational Ministry

Construction-workerPastor John puts away his tools for the day. His shift at the construction site ends in 10 minutes. Already, he has begun switching gears and thinking through the evening ahead. Tonight is the board meeting, but first he has to get home, shower and check in with his wife and kids.

Like many pastors, John has to divide his time and attention between a “day job” and his calling—to pastor a church.

Bi-vocational ministry has a unique set of challenges. If you asked John what his No. 1 problem is, he would say time—time to give every activity the attention it needs. Like many startups, his church is full of young Christians who need to be discipled.

Yet if given the chance, John would probably find a way to stay at his day job (although working part-time would be nice) because he loves being with people who don’t know Jesus. He loves the daily reminder of why we do church.

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Thousands of pastors in the U.S. are bi-vocational—some of them by choice. Others find that they must be in order to provide for their families while pursuing their calling. This is not an easy road to walk, particularly if your day job drains all your energy.

Here are some things that might help:

1. Revisit your calling. Why do you live this crazy schedule? What did God call you to do? In as much detail as possible, journal that journey. When did God call you? What did He say? What was it that hooked your heart and wouldn’t let go?

2. Find congruity. Look for ways that your calling is fulfilled in the place of work God has placed you. Would it be possible to consider your place of work your mission field? (If you said no, what if you lived in a country where it was illegal to share the gospel—would you be able to find congruity in your day job and your ministry there?)

3. Master time management. If you have been at this very long, you are probably a master at time management already. However, here is an exercise that might help: Keep a 10-minute journal for a whole week (a 10-minute journal is a running time log of what you do with all of your time, much like a food log). Every time you switch activities, log it. If you take a break at work, what do you do with the time? Log it. At the end of a week, you will discover things you didn’t realize about how you use time.

4. Consider the options. You probably dream about a life that is less stressful, but have you sat down with an advisor and looked at what it would take to just do one job?

5. Practice thankfulness. During difficult times, it is easy to worry about our problems. Instead, purposefully look for things to be thankful for.

6. Take time off, but don’t retreat. It is tempting under stress to just turn on the television and let the whole evening fly by—yet we still feel worn out and wish the kids would play someplace else. We all need recreation—to renew ourselves and our family relationships. Recreation should be an act of re-creation in you. If you get to the end of an evening off and haven’t really been refreshed, consider that you might be retreating instead of recreating.

7. Build trust. When we do the solo thing for very long, we begin to depend a lot on ourselves. Every time you do anything, look for who God might be bringing alongside you to lighten the load. As you draw people inside your life to help you with ministry, you build a trust relationship. As they trust you, they will begin to help with the load and multiply your efforts.

In the end, all you really need to know is why you work both jobs. Did God call you to both? Then He will provide the energy you need to walk the time crunch. If you feel like He backed you into a corner and gave you no other choice, then it might be worth asking Him if He has another answer. There are times that we react in fear instead of waiting in faith and take on more of the burden than God asks us to. In these cases, the best thing we can do is lay it all at Jesus’ feet and ask for His wisdom and direction.

Remember Moses and the rock? God spoke to him and told him to strike the first rock, and he did. Later, in a similar situation, God told him to speak to the rock. In the heat of the moment, Moses relied on what he knew to fix a very tough situation. God still provided, but Moses had to live with the fact that he had not chosen God’s best, the path of faith.

Pastor, thank you for all the hard work you do—both to support your family and to advance the kingdom. Your work is not in vain. You are making a difference in many lives—both at work and church—much of which is not seen. Please take a few moments to let God encourage you.

Are you a bi-vocational pastor? I’d love to hear from you so I can better address your unique situation. What are some of the things you love about being bi-vocational? If you could change one thing, what would it be? What would you lose or gain if you could just do one job? You can email me here.

Kim Martinez is an ordained Assemblies of God pastor with a master's degree in theology from Fuller Seminary. She is a ministry and life development coach and can be found online at She writes a weekly column for

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