The life of being a bivocational minister is really a work of art.
There is no set formula for bivocational. It is a navigation that changes with time. It ebbs and flows through the entire history of a missionary.
It cannot be considered a strategy. It is a chosen way of life. To me, it is the future of ministry in the fields of mission in North America.
I’ve had a growing frustration over the misunderstandings and wrong expectations that continue to swirl around those leaders entering ministry as bivocational. So I organized recently a gathering to discuss the topic.
We focused on three issues that, time and again, I’ve seen bivocational ministry nearly destroy a person who failed to understand these dynamics.
1. Looking at the way you make money differently.
Being bivocational means you look at money, career and job skills entirely differently than the average North American.
How you go look for a job will be different. What you will expect when you start a job and your expectations for money and job advancement have a whole new logic to it.
Where you start in a job has little to do with where you will go or whether you will stay.
You will focus most intently on learning a skill, becoming very good at it so as to eventually be able to manage your time within structures.
This is a long-term strategy not a short-term one. This is a skill for life.
There may come a time, due to your gifts for ministry being blessed, where a church will ask you to step down from using your job skill to devote more time to ministry.
Nonetheless, you will need to keep up with your skill. It is a badge of the revolutionary to have a job skill in ministry that is other than ministry.
2. You will pastor with at least two other pastors, as a minimum.
As a bivocational pastor, you will necessarily work with at least two other pastors. I strongly recommend that no one begin bivocational ministry alone.
Each pastor will devote no more than 15 hours a week to the organizational functions of ministry.
Together, the three (or more) pastors function as “community organizers for the kingdom.”
They will learn to know each other in their gifting in relation to the others. They will know each other’s weaknesses.
They will learn to stay within their limits and trust God for work that is left undone. This will foster a culture of participation versus spectatorship.
They will work to organize and empower other leaders. The leadership structure will work out of mutual submission, not hierarchy.
This will push leadership and power outward. The whole leadership culture will grow in submission to one another and the whole community.
3. Bivocational is not two jobs; it is one life.
Bivocational is actually a misnomer. There really is no “bi.” The bivocational life is one life lived under one lordship.
For many North Americans, this will take cultivating a new imaginary. Many Christians cannot help compartmentalizing their lives.
They separate their work life from their family life from their church life. They seek balance. They seek to maintain control.
But the life of bivocational ministers calls the family, the work and church leadership to be under one umbrella. All are brought under submission to Christ and his lordship.
Though we my get paid for leadership in the church, it really is not just another career path or a job. It is part of who we are and our calling, as is being a father or mother, a worker.
When you enter ministry in a bivocational capacity, you must be able to rethink how you see and understand yourself in the world as a “pastor.” It requires an entirely different imaginary, as I discussed previously.
David Fitch is the Betty R. Linder chair of evangelical theology at Northern Seminary in Lombard, Illinois. A version of this article first appeared on his website, Reclaiming the Mission, and is used with permission. You can follow him on Twitter @fitchest.
David E. Fitch (PhD, Northwestern University) is the B. R. Lindner Chair of Evangelical Theology at Northern Seminary and the cofounder of Missio Alliance. He is the founding pastor of Life on the Vine Christian Community, a missional church in the northwest suburbs of Chicago, and is currently on the pastoral staff at Peace of Christ Church in Westmont, Illinois.