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Bi-Vocational Ministry: The Future of the Church?

This summer’s travel to Dallas to meet up with pastors and ministers from across the country has reminded me of the importance of creating relationships with colleagues in ministry. This is especially important for those who are working in bi-vocational ministry and as single-staff church leaders who don’t have colleagues to brush shoulders with everyday.

There is a double-edged sword to being a bi-vocational minister. It is impossible to be there for everything the church does or everything that church members need. This enables a leadership model that empowers the people of the church (or a multiplicity of leadership) to minister to each other and to do the work of the church because quite simply there isn’t someone who is paid to take care of everything all the time.

I really do believe the church is called to into a multiplicity of leadership if it wishes to engage mission. There can be no hierarchy in the church on mission because hierarchy centralizes authority and power. For a church to engage Mission we must do the opposite: disperse authority and power.

On the other hand, having one person who is responsible for the theological guidance of the church can be dangerous because pastoring and ministering are never part time.

These demands aren’t part time. In fact, the early church appointed deacons because they recognized that the time demands on a pastor are big enough that they need to be kept from doing other things…Frankly, pastoring just takes lots of time. It takes sitting with people andsimply listening to them. Pastoring is slow work. Pastor’s are often called to just be present, not looking at the clock, wondering if this is going to go past their 10–15 hours this week. Pastors are called to pray and listen to God with their Bibles open, without hurrying.

If anything is evident from the recent Pew research, it’s that the model we have been using for years isn’t something that will last into the future. This means by necessity or by design bi-vocational ministry is going to become more and more of a reality for ministers and churches.The practicality of bi-vocational ministry runs in contradiction to the 9-5 typical work week and schedule of other industries. This means that ministers who are bi-vocational ministry are going to have to be creative about the work they do and the times that work gets done.  If bi-vocational ministry is the future of the church, then we have an awful lot of work to do as ministers and as congregation in dreaming up new ways to do church.