Tuesday, January 22, 2013

The positives about bi-vocational ministry

I've blogged before about bi-vocational ministry (6 posts apparently!) and why I think it's important and not just a way of fixing the budget in small churches. In fact I'd go so far as to say that I might just be approaching the conclusion that any minister that is solely focussed on the church is in danger of irrelevance in the bigger picture of the mission of God.

Anyway, that aside, I came across a really interesting article about being bi-vocational on the Leadershipnet website. Here's a summary of the article, it's well worth a closer look.

The author, Ben Connelly, cites 5 ways God can use a bi-vocational ministry:

1. Stewarding God's money
our church has been able to put money toward things that we couldn't otherwise. We send more to missions, we help hurting couples who can't afford professional counseling, we financially support other folks to use their gifts for the good of the body.
2. Making Disciples
I love the local church, but I know that there are always more people outside the church walls than inside...
Through my second job, I'm prayerfully pursuing the Great Commission on the campus that Playboy ranked 2012's number nine party school in the nation...  once in a while, I get a note from a student who finds him or herself in crisis that says—as one young man wrote—"I don't have anyone to turn to for advice, but I think you told us you were a priest or something." By God's grace, bi-vocationality opens doors to disciple-making.
3. Building credibility
My time is divided, and for ministry to happen, I have to pull late nights and have folks over for dinner—just like everyone else in my church. Living in the "real world" and finding points of connection have allowed me to become "all things to all people"—bi-vocationality has built my credibility with those inside and outside our church.
4. Equipping the saints
I used to get paid to do ministry work, so members had a hard time understanding why clergy didn't do all the ministry.
Bi-vocationality removes expectations and pressures from both our church and my family... In other words, bi-vocationality demands all God's people step up and live out Romans 12 and 1 Corinthians 12: everyone plays a part, according to their gifts and passions.
5. Tearing down idols
The the greatest benefit to bi-vocationality hit me somewhere I didn't expect: my soul. Most leaders I know are control freaks. I am, too. Bi-vocationality is one of the most sanctifying things I've experienced. By necessarily giving several hours of my week to work outside the institutional church, God reminds me daily that it's his church, not mine; they're his people, not mine. Jesus says, "I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it," (Matt. 16:18. Emphasis mine). I can't do that. As I put aside the common idea that every waking hour is given to "my" ministry, and that nothing can happen without "my" involvement, beautiful things have happened. 
I know that some of you are reading this and thinking, "I don't have enough hours in the week to do my one job of ministry let alone do something else." But be honest, how much work do you make for yourself to fill all those hours you feel you ought to work just to be worthy of your pay? Ministry is one of the easiest jobs, vocational or otherwise, in which it is possible to look busy and do little. It's also one of the most misunderstood roles in life you can have. I remember being asked how much of my daily prayer time was spent praying for myself and family and how much for the church, as if some of my prayer were legitimate working hours and some were not. If I play tennis for an hour with a church member am I doing pastoral work, if it's with a unchurch person is it mission, or are both just about me doing something I enjoy with people I know?

In the end, whether you're full-time paid or not, the point is surely the kingdom. I just wonder whether the kingdom would be better served and the church better equipped if our ministry budget was used to release ministry through more hands than those of a single leader.

The article, Five Perks to Being Bi-vocational,  is available here


Michael said...


I would be interested to hear more about your passion to Simplify Church

Richard Pool said...

Hi Michael

I'll endeavour to blog a bit about that then, just for you!! I'm just sorting my final exams for a course I've been doing in Sport and Remedial Massage Therapy.

Thanks for posting a comment.

Ben Connelly said...

Thanks for the summary, affirmation, & thoughts on my LJ article Richard. Glad you found it to be encouraging. (I think they're posting a follow-up in the next week or so) Cheers from the States. -Ben C