For almost thirty years I was paid to be in full-time staff ministry, first as a youth pastor then a church planter and finally an ordained senior pastor of an established church. Then God did something unexpected. He called my wife and me back into church planting but this time as a bivocational pastor. At first I looked at bivocational work as a stepping-stone to full-time. You know, eventually the church would grow to be able to support my full-time salary.
I no longer believe that or even want it to happen. Even if the church could support a full-time pastor, I would not want to change anything. This was affirmed to me at the BiVo conference in Denver, CO hosted by the Missio organization that I attended with my wife a couple of years ago. Both my wife and I believe a healthy answer to empowering all the saints as ministers is to keep the budget simple and less stressed by putting significant monies toward full-time staff.
There are many benefits to ministering bivocationally. First, you are more able to decentralize ministry to the people and their passions and callings. People know I work at numerous things, so involvement by all is crucial to develop inroads to the community. Everyone expects to do their part. Second, I have more "street cred." I have a part-time job at a local cigar shop. Some of my best networking among business people and locals takes place in that shop. God has used this place to make incredible connections and gain respect by the local community. Even the owner of the shop has come to faith. Our group even met in the shop on Sunday evenings until we outgrew it. I’m also a blues musician and have been able to connect with locals playing in the pubs and third spaces. God has opened incredible doors through it.
And yes, my wife does work. She works sixty percent time at a school as a resource teacher. Before she got that job, she started her own tutoring business for special needs children and found it rewarding although not that financially sustaining.
Another benefit is freedom. I believe it was Hugh Halter (author BiVo, Brimstone, Tangible Kingdom…) who said, "You only teach and preach to the level your salary will allow" or something like that. Again I go back to the value of decentralizing the ministry of the church. When leaders are bivocational, teaching, evangelism, discipleship and crisis management are decentralized. Those who are gifted, willing and able participate. And this freedom allows you to model the behaviour of missional life and engage your community in a deeper way.
I have come to learn that my calling as a pastor is not necessarily equated with a salary or even the profession for that matter. To me that's incredibly freeing not to mention that it also keeps me on my knees trusting in God's provision.
Could you be BiVO? Would you? What are your concerns?
You can also learn and join in the conversation about bivocational ministry April 24-25 at What Role Will Bi-Vocational Ministry Play in the Future of the CRCNA? a mini-conference put on by the Finanical Shalom Project of the CRCNA.
This is a VERY important conversation so please join us. Register below. It's FREE to register. You do pay for your room.
Allen Kleine Deters is CRC Pastor of The Bridge, a new missional community plant in Niagara Falls, ON.