Insight from a Children's Pastor & Awana Commander

The Bi-Vocational/Volunteer Leader


At the 2016 Children’s Pastors Conference I attended a breakout session entitled “The Bi-Vocational Leader”.  I have never been in full-time ministry. I have always worked full-time outside of the church serving as a volunteer leader most of the time and for a brief time, I was given a small stipend in my role as Pastor of Children & Youth (i.e. bi-vocational).

With the majority of churches in the United States being small churches (total weekend attendance of 250 or less), there is a growing number of people serving in a bi-vocational role. There are various reasons why people serve in a bi-vocational position:

  • Economic reasons, the church cannot afford to pay a full-time pastor, or the pastor simply needs to supplement their income.
  • Low attendance, not enough giving
  • To maintain their skills/resume since pastoral positions can be unstable

There are many challenges that bi-vocational/volunteer leaders face. I face these in my own life:

  • The use of vacation time (personal time off) from the full-time job for ministry purposes. I generally use vacation time for summer camps, conferences, church activities, etc. Seldom is there a vacation to relax from the work schedule.
  • Time management – always wishing there was more time for ministry. I often think about how much more effective I could be if I was full-time. There is also the temptation to neglect one’s family to accomplish all that you think you need to get done.

We were given eight tools to help us serve bi-vocationally, and as a volunteer:

  1. The Word of God – that is what guides our steps and gives us power
  2. We need to recognize our limitations. We cannot do everything and need to learn to say no. We were asked how many of us had a hard time saying no when people asked us to do things. I believe that every hand went up. I have been working on this, but still struggle with it. I jokingly stated that I was working on it and I was 6 months “clean”.
  3. We need to duplicate ourselves and we need to rely on God to help bring people alongside us. Fruitful recruiting cannot be done by our efforts (Acts 6:3)
  4. We need to delegate responsibilities. We cannot do it alone. We should appoint coordinators for volunteers, programs and service.
  5. Need to build a winning team
  6. Plan ahead. I used to plan 6 months or more ahead for many things
  7. We need to take a break, press the “pause button”. We need to refresh ourselves or we will burn out and be no good at all.
  8. Protect your family. Many years ago someone invited us to dinner. My wife said she’d have to check my schedule. I told her she could plan things like that and I would work my schedule around it. Family and relationships were important.  We also need to protect our families from the pressures of ministry. I was not always successful, but I tried.

The one thing that resonated with me was that even if we were full-time in ministry, our schedule would fill up with other tasks. Time management is critical whether one is full-time in ministry or bi-vocational. The one thing I would personally encourage you to do is to find others in a similar situation and build a network of support and encouragement for each other. Bi-vocational and volunteer ministry leaders are key for reaching people for Jesus.

Don’t be discouraged, there are may benefits to being a bi-vocational or volunteer ministry leader.

The Author

1 Comment

  1. Thank you for these articles! Many of us cannot get to these conference. you allow us to benefit from the information and encouragement they offer. And some might be encouraged to make more of an effort to attend another year.

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