Growing up in the church, it was sort of understood that any pastor worth his salt was “full-time.” By full-time, we meant that he was fully financially supported by his church.
Without a doubt there are great advantages to being fully supported by the churches we serve, but I’ve discovered that pastoring bi-vocationally has strengthened and expanded my ministry in ways I could’ve never experienced otherwise. In our time we should not look at bi-vocational ministry as the Plan B of churches that can’t afford full-time staff. Instead, we should view bi-vocational ministry as Plan A for Kingdom strategy.
Here are seven reasons I’ve found why bi-vocational ministry isn’t Plan B.
Financial stability of the church
With rising insurance costs and the increased costs of living and serving in North American contexts, filling and funding a full-time pastoral position can be a huge obstacle for a local congregation. With the growing number of companies offering insurance and other benefits to part-time employees, pastors can work as few as twenty hours a week and take this financial burden off their congregations.
Leading from Biblical conviction
We’ve all heard stories about the guy who got fired for preaching the Bible. With the entirety of a pastor’s salary controlled by the congregation, it can be a temptation to hold back for fear of being fired.
Utilizing and attracting gifted leaders
Leading in a full-time vocational position may give some pastors the tendency to carry more of the load. This compulsion can potentially rob uniquely gifted leaders of the opportunity to serve in their sweet spot if their pastor leads from obligation instead of passion and conviction. Leading bi-vocationally can provide more opportunities for leaders in the congregation to pick up the weight and use their God-given talents for the Kingdom.
If pastoral leadership is reserved only for the “professional Christians” many gifted leaders will miss opportunities to pursue what God has called them to. Many of these lead hundreds of people and multi-million dollar organizations on a daily basis. A culture of bi-vocational pastors will not only utilize the leaders you currently have, but will also attract other gifted leaders.
Sustainable church planting and re-planting
Southern Baptists (my tribe) are striving to plant 15,000 churches by 2022. With this many church plants and re-plants currently needed, bi-vocational ministry will allow more to be accomplished with less financial struggle. Pastor Jimmy Scroggins writes about the typical church planting plan:
It quickly costs hundreds of thousands of dollars to keep a church up and running…sustainability has nothing to do with reaching people—it’s about getting enough money or you fail.
The need for more Jesus-exalting churches is dire. If we are going to be successful, we must embrace more financially-sustainable church planting practices.
Connection to culture
With suspicion toward pastors growing daily in North America, making daily, real-life connections with our communities is more important than ever. There’s no better place to do this than in the marketplace. Working in the marketplace will give pastors a connection to their culture that they’d find difficult to make otherwise.
Breaking down the professional pastor cliché
In Ephesians 4, Paul is very clear that the job of a pastor is to equip the saints. Somewhere along the way, many followers of Christ started believing that they pay their pastor to do ministry for them. Leading in a bi-vocational role can help to tear down the belief that pastors are the professionals.
Understanding the weight of working and making disciples
Working day after day followed by several church activities a week can take a toll. As a fully-supported vocational pastor it’s easy to forget what kind of challenge this can be. A pastor who works in the marketplace may find a greater ability to understand exactly what kind of sacrifices he is calling his church to make.