What does it mean to be a bivocational pastor? Well, in a nutshell, a bivocational pastor is a pastor with a second job or secondary source of income. Bivocational pastors perform their church duties, and they work another job as well. Bivocational is me. Actually, I’d be tri-vocational or possibly even quad-vocational but that’s for another post.
Being a pastor is a full-time job IF the attendance and the demands of the congregation demand full-time attention. Right now, the demands of my specific congregation do not. My youth group is small and our young adult’s group is small as well, but as I look to the future and church planting I wonder what the future holds.
You see, when I was going through a church-planting program at a previous church I was introduced to the idea of “fundraising” my (or any church planter’s) salary. What this means is that I would have been responsible for raising money to support myself while I prepared to plant my church. This involves connecting with people in the community where I planned to plant, and asking them for support (money) to help get the church off the ground. A large part of that support would have gone to my salary.
I don’t mean to criticize those who have done it this way, but I wondered then and I wonder now, why do we need to pay you a full-time salary for a church that doesn’t exist yet? If your church plant has zero members, why do you need to pay yourself $40,000 per year?
As I look to the future, I don’t see my bi-vocational status changing anytime soon, and why should it? The apostle Paul was bi-vocational. Jesus was bi-vocational! My goal is to change the way that we look at church, and one of the greatest fears of the unchurched (never been) and the de-churched (used to go to church but don’t now) is that the church just wants their money. So how do we change that? By being bivocational.
Let me ask you this. How would you feel knowing that your pastor is punching a clock just like you are? Bivocational pastors have the advantage of being active (living and working) side-by-side with their congregation in the community rather than being only in the church. The relational benefits are astounding.
Bivocational pastors also have the advantage of making a salary away from the church which means less stress on the people to provide for his or her salary. What would you think about your tithes and offering going to local charities or people in need rather than to a pastor’s salary?
Likewise, Bivocational pastors are forced to rely on other pastors and staff to get their work done. This sharing of vision and responsibilities can only make a church stronger. The church in Antioch (Acts 11:19-30, Acts 13:1-3) is a great example of shared responsibilities and backgrounds contributing to the church in amazing ways. Bivocational pastors would need to have a similar approach to how they run their church because they have to. It couldn’t all fall on one guy.
Jesus was a carpenter first and a rabbi second. Paul was a tentmaker (leather-worker) and would often go back to his trade when entering a new location to avoid relying on the people to make his living (Acts 18:3). The demands of their respective ministries forced them into full-time status. I can’t say that I would be bivocational forever, but until the attendance and/or the demands of the congregation required it, I will keep making tents.