The Quirks of Being Bi-Vocational, part 1

One of the interesting places that I have found myself in this last year is the place of being a bi-vocational minister. This is my third located ministry, but the first time where I have found myself working two jobs: one at the church, and the other in the marketplace.

Why am I bi-vocational? Well, the short answer right now is “because I have to.” I pastor a small church. And often times in smaller churches, you have smaller salaries. In a large city, like Omaha, the cost of living is greater than the salary that the small church can offer.

Being bi-vocational brings about interesting challenges. I would like to spend some time over the next few weeks discussing what those challenges are.

But first, a couple of disclaimers:

  • This is not a gripe session about my church. I love where I am serving.
  • This is not a cry for financial help.
  • All of these posts will not be negative…in fact, there are a couple of very positive “quirks” that have come from being bi-vocational. I will share those as well.

So…without further ado…

Being Between the Proverbial Rock and Hard Place

Smaller churches often have smaller salaries to offer their ministers because they have a smaller amount of income through the tithes and offerings of the church. In order for a minister’s salary to increase, a lot of times what needs to happen is that the church grows numerically so that the tithes and offerings can grow proportionally, thus resulting in more income in which the church can give the minister a raise.

But I am caught, as are many bi-vocational ministers, between the rock and the hard place. I want our church to grow; I want the tithes and offerings to grow; and in those hopes, it would be neat to see my salary grow and I would be able to abandon the part-time job. The rock.

But the hard place is that I have devote one-half of my work week to that part-time job in order to get the bills paid. Do you see the Catch-22?

The church is small and offers a small salary. To get a great salary, it needs to grow. For it to grow, it needs a minister who can be present and focused all the time. To have a minister present and focused means he shouldn’t work two jobs. But he has to work two jobs so he can pay his bills. And because he has to work two jobs, he can’t be present and focused at the church. And because he can’t be present and focused at the church, it suffers slower growth. And because it suffers slower growth, so does the increase in his salary.

The rock and the hard place.

As I stated earlier, I don’t want these to be negative posts. I want them to be positive and constructive. So, a few thoughts…

  1. We must be faithful with what God has entrusted us. The Bible shows us a principle that when we are found faithful with the few, God is compelled to entrust us with more. That doesn’t always translate for people or money, but it can.
  2. We can pray. I have seen God provide for us financially in so many ways, that I was free to take extra time off of my second job and thus concentrate more on my church ministry for those few days.
  3. It’s a challenge…and because the bi-vocational minister cannot feasibly have his hands in every facet of the church, he must depend upon the members of the church to do much of the ministry. This poses great challenges, but also reaps great rewards. This idea will keep popping up as I share about bi-vocational ministry.

10 thoughts on “The Quirks of Being Bi-Vocational, part 1

  1. Good stuff. I am really looking forward to what you are going to right on this subject.

    I am also tempted to make a few comments, but I don’t want to pre-empt what you are going to write as it looks like you intend to make it pretty comprehensive. Thanks.

  2. David #1,

    Thanks for stopping by. Feel free to leave some comments…I value the conversation over the points I intend to make. If you “preempt” them, we will just reference them.

    Thanks for the encouragement. And great work on your blog.

  3. David #2,

    Thanks for stopping by. I looked at your church website…great stuff.

    I’d love to hear some of your story and your thoughts on the bi-vocational life.


  4. Brandon,

    This is great stuff! I have a heart for bi-vocational pastors and pastors of small churches (often, though not always, the same). I am going to link these stories on my blog.
    Hey man, I’m enjoying this give and take!

  5. Pingback: Small churches « Paul Peterson

  6. Hey Paul,

    Thanks so much for your encouragement on this. It’s nice to know that the smaller church hasn’t been lost in the shuffle with the larger ones. It feels that way sometimes. Of course, we know with God we are not lost…but it’s nice to be able to see that with people, that isn’t always the case either.

    Being bi-vocational and being small are not always synonymous. They can be…but so much of those things lie within your culture. If you are in a small town of 200 people, and you have a church of 20 people, you are relatively large in your culture. And you probably are bi-vo, at the same time.


    Thanks again, for your encouragement.

  7. Pingback: The Quirks of Being Bi-Vocational, part 2 «

  8. Pingback: The Quirks of Being Bi-Vocational, part 4 «

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