We are taught in seminary that as vocational ministers there are certain words we should not use. If used, a minister can adversely affect their ability to effectively minister to people.
The professor would warn their aspiring ministerial students to avoid using profanity. You know, those four-letter words your parents told you not to say. Those bad four-letter words that should not be spoken by God-fearing people.
But bi-vo, short for bivocational, is not one of them.
Bi-vo is not a bad four-letter word. In fact, it is a good and honorable word. Being a bivocational minister is a notable thing.
There is no difference in calling, competence or character in the bivocational minister. The bivocational minister is not a part-time pastor or one who is not worthy of full funding from the church.
The bivocational minister is one who works fully at two vocations – one at church and the other within the community.
Typically, they are not fully funded by the church because of the financial limitations of the church to provide a salary that is able to provide for their family’s full financial needs.
Here is the reality: The vast majority of churches in North America have less than 125 members, and there is a trend that many churches are experiencing a decline in average weekly attendance.
Also, the number of medium size membership churches are declining with mega-churches getting larger and the number of smaller membership churches increasing.
With these realities, the need and necessity for bivocational ministers are ever more apparent.
In fact, there will be more and more vocational ministers who will be bivocational by choice and not because of the financial limitations of a congregation.
Thom Rainer, president and CEO of LifeWay Christian Resources, suggests a new bivocational minister has and will continue to emerge.
This new bivocational minister will be bivocational by intention. They will rise out of the pews as lay members who are convinced, and rightly so, God is calling them to lead congregations as shepherds.
They will be business persons whose personal incomes are far more than many congregations can afford to underwrite.
They will be non-seminary-trained individuals whose doctrine may be sound but who are unlearned just like the early apostles.
And then, there will be the seminary-trained minister who will need to work in both a church and nonchurch vocation.
In an effort to meet the needs of churches and ministers, denominational conventions must develop a new model to address the needs of this emerging new bivocational minister.
That is why the Texas Baptists Bivocational Pastors Ministry office is working with local associations, theological institutions and bivocational pastors to develop a new model for bivocational ministry.
They are suggesting that seminary students should have another viable, marketable degree or career.
Having an undergraduate degree in business administration, engineering, marketing or education allows the bivocational minister the opportunity to provide financially for their family while serving the local church faithfully.
Our theological institutions will have to deliver formal theological training in ways that are conducive to these unlearned yet called ministers. There will be a need for certificate of ministry to master-level degree delivered in various ways.
For the millennial bivocational minister, an all-online degree may do well. While, the Gen Xer may want a hybrid, both in-class and online, approach to theological training.
Whatever the delivery method, the need to have well-equipped ministers will be essential.
Ira Antoine is director of bivocational ministry at the Baptist General Convention of Texas. A version of this article first appeared in the March 2016 edition of Texas Baptists Life Magazine. It is used with permission.
Editor’s note: This is the first article in a series focused on bivocational ministry.