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:
- The Word of God – that is what guides our steps and gives us power
- 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”.
- 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)
- We need to delegate responsibilities. We cannot do it alone. We should appoint coordinators for volunteers, programs and service.
- Need to build a winning team
- Plan ahead. I used to plan 6 months or more ahead for many things
- 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.
- 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.