Part-Time vs. Bivocational Ministry

At the CBF General Assembly this year, I led a breakout session about bivocational ministry. Throughout my time in divinity school, we talked about the future of ministry being bivocational ministry, but I was surprised to find out that when I tell people I am bivocational, they are surprised. The more ministers I meet, the more I am discovering that bivocational ministry is not an unusual concept, and yet to many people it still seems out of the ordinary. If bivocational is indeed the future of the church, then it is important to distinguish between bivocational ministry and part-time ministry for churches and ministers. What I have found is that the two terms are often used interchangeable when the expectations are quite different.

I have found more than once a listing for a bivocational ministry position that is really a part-time position. There are several ways to distinguish between the two. Part-time positions are often stipend positions and as such there are not negotiations or considerations about pay raises or the possibilities of pay raises. Part-time positions don’t include discussions of benefits or any kind of “add ons” to the position. Part-time positions don’t always have an advanced degree expectation from the applicants and are often filled by seminary or college students. Part-time positions also often include a rotating amount of hours.

In comparison, bivocational ministry should look a little bit different. If the position is truly meant to be bivocational, then it means that the person who takes the position should be able to double his or her salary and arrive at the averages salary for a minister. The average salary for a minister can be found by consulting denominational leaders or can be compared to teachers in the area with similar education and years of experience. Since the bivocational position is meant for the person who holds the position to work two jobs, then the hour expectations should fall within the 20-30 hours per week expectations. In addition, the hour expectations makes it difficult if not impossible to hold a full-time job in addition to this position, so the discussions in a bivocational ministry position should include some talk of benefits and/or “add ons” to the salary. Salary discussions should also include plans or possibilities of raises. Bivocational ministry positions often have the expectations of a completed advanced degree or work towards an advanced degree.

This discussion is important because it empowers the minister who is looking for a position and a church who is looking for a position to be accurate in their expectations of a position. In addition, if bivocational ministry is the future of the church, then we need to better understand what that term means and what a minister who seeks a bivocational ministry position needs in order to provide for himself or herself. These conversations maintain a respect and understanding of the professional nature of ministry and minister even within the changing landscape of church life and church leadership.

When expectations are clarified and understood by both sides, then ministers and churches have a better chance of working together to further kingdom work.