My doctor of ministry project focused on the impact of coaching for bivocational ministers. Several bivocational ministers were coached as part of this project. This study later became a book, and the following is an excerpt from one of the chapters.
Pastor B struggled with his sense of call to the ministry. A few years prior to our coaching relationship, his wife had filed for divorce.
The church he was serving terminated his employment due to the divorce. He felt forced to resign from a recent bivocational staff position due to an increased workload.
These events led to Pastor B having trust issues with the church. The internal pain due to his church experiences caused him to struggle with God’s call on his life.
Even if he overcame his trust issues, he knew few churches in his denomination would consider him for a ministry position due to his divorce.
In our first coaching session, Pastor B wanted to discuss returning to bivocational ministry. He believed a smaller church might be a safer place to re-enter ministry and might be more open to a divorced person.
I asked him to identify any possible roadblocks he felt he might encounter in his search for a bivocational church to serve, which he did.
It was also evident in our conversation that he had a fear of failure. I encouraged him to read John Maxwell’s book, “Failing Forward.”
His other assignment was to talk with three people who supported his return to ministry to hear what they would say.
In our next session, he reported that all three persons were supportive of his return to ministry, including his new wife.
However, she was unsure whether she could live up to her preconceptions of what a pastor’s wife should be. We spent the remainder of our time discussing bivocational ministry.
He had two projects to complete before our next session. One was to develop questions to ask potential search committees so he might better know that church.
His other project was to encourage his wife to talk to the wife of a bivocational minister to get her perspective on her role as a bivocational minister’s wife.
Our third session began with him sharing the questions he had developed for my feedback and reporting that he had updated his resume.
He was also excited that he had found a new position in his career that would make serving as a bivocational minister easier. Pastor B felt this was a sign that God still wanted to use him in ministry.
However, his wife had not been able to talk to another wife because they did not know any bivocational ministers. I suggested one in his area to contact.
In our next session, Pastor B gave several reasons why they had not been able to talk with another bivocational minister’s wife. Finally, he admitted that the real reason was his ongoing fear of returning to ministry.
We spent much of our time listing the reasons for that fear and addressing each of them. He concluded by expressing confidence that God had called him into the ministry.
For the remainder of our session, Pastor B wanted to talk about how he could be at a church for a lengthy period of time.
His previous ministries had been relatively short term, which he did not want to repeat. In my response to a question, he listed several conditions he felt could lead to a long-term ministry.
He and his wife had still not talked to the other wife before our next session, but they did have an appointment to do so.
One assignment he had before this session was to talk to his wife about his fears, which he did do. She expressed her support for his decision to return to ministry.
For this session he wanted to focus on his resume. Specifically, he wanted to know how to refer to his previous divorce.
He read a statement he had written about the divorce. I thought it was thorough, honest and appropriate to include with his resume.
As we began our final coaching session, Pastor B reported that he and his wife were greatly encouraged by their meeting with the bivocational pastor and his wife.
He admitted that these sessions were emotionally difficult for him but felt he had grown by being forced to address the fears and concerns that were preventing him from following God’s will for his life.
Pastor B was a young man who had been deeply wounded by both churches he tried to serve. Unfortunately, he is not alone.
Many pastors have left the ministry because of such treatment, which this pastor also considered doing. Most believe they have no one to whom they can share their pain. This is why I believe coaching can be so helpful to such pastors.
Coaches provide a safe place for them to honestly discuss their pains and fears related to ministry.
Today, Pastor B continues to fill pulpits when pastors are absent and is searching for the next church he can serve as a bivocational minister.
Dennis Bickers served as the bivocational pastor of Hebron Baptist Church near Madison, Ind., for 20 years before accepting his current position as a resource minister with the American Baptist Churches of Indiana and Kentucky. He blogs at Bivocational Ministry, and you can follow him on Twitter @DennisBickers.
Editor’s Note: This article is adapted from his book, “The Art and Practice of Bivocational Ministry: A Pastor’s Guide,” which is available here.
Dennis Bickers is a church consultant and author. He served previously as the bivocational pastor of Hebron Baptist Church near Madison, Indiana, for 20 years followed by a 14-year ministry as a resource minister with the American Baptist Churches of Indiana and Kentucky.