Pastoring Bi-vocational Pastors

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Steve Datema is a Regional Pastor in Classis Northern Michigan.

Serving as a Regional Pastor in the CRCNA, I have the privilege to work with pastors from diverse backgrounds in diverse congregations. Congregational size is part of that diversity. There are many churches who are numerically small – making it quite difficult to be able to afford a full-time salary for their pastor. Is it time to consider Bi-Vocational ministry for some pastors in small congregations?

The CRCNA, through the Financial Shalom Project, recently held a conference entitled, “What Role Will Bi-vocational Ministry Play in the Future of the CRCNA?” held in Grand Rapids. As a Regional Pastor I thought this conference would be intriguing and thought provoking – perhaps giving me some insight into this issue that many churches currently face.

I assumed that the conference was going to deal primarily with shrinking congregations who all have shrinking budgets. But my assumptions were in some part quite wrong. Yes, that topic was discussed. One speaker currently pastored two small churches in the same town thereby making it possible to earn a living. This particular pastor was bi-vocational based out of economic need – both for him and for the churches.

I assumed that the conference was going to deal primarily with shrinking congregations who all have shrinking budgets. But my assumptions were in some part quite wrong.

A majority of the focus of the conference was on a clear and focused intention to deliberately work as a bi-vocational pastor. Here we found pastors who intentionally and strategically develop ministries where employment outside of the usual pastorate is considered beneficial to the church as a whole. This employment would provide income for the pastor which would reduce the financial strains on congregations – especially newly forming congregations. This method also would provide fantastic opportunities for the pastor to be active in the local community through one, two, or even more jobs that were worked outside of normal ministry.

Here we found pastors who intentionally and strategically develop ministries where employment outside of the usual pastorate is considered beneficial to the church as a whole.

To these pastors this is “normal ministry.” And in many situations it appears to work – and work well. People are being reached in Jesus’ name and those churches see bountiful fruit from their efforts.

I am grateful for the opportunity to have been stretched in my own understanding of bi-vocational ministry, how bi-vocational ministry works, and how bi-vocational ministry fits in to my role as Regional Pastor. I don’t expect that role to change in light of bi-vocational pastors – for the role of Regional Pastor is to meet pastors wherever they are at, wherever God has called them serve, and to minister to them as needed. This was a fresh reminder that God calls all sorts of people to serve His church. Those people are called to serve God in various ways, in various places, and in churches of a variety of sizes. No one method is necessarily better than another for God will accomplish His goals however He sees fit.

The role of Regional Pastor is to meet pastors wherever they are at, wherever God has called them serve, and to minister to them as needed.

Bi-vocational ministry may not be the preferred method of ministry for many churches and pastors. But God is using this method for His glory – and for the growth of His church. May God bless the efforts of all His leaders no matter where and how they serve the King.

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