I’m a proud bi-vocational pastor. I’m also bi-vocational by choice. I have enough on my resume to get a full-time job as a pastor: I’ve been in full-time ministry for 9 years, have my Masters in Biblical Literature, and am an ordained reverend. I’ve been on the full-time side of the fence.
UPDATE DISCLAIMER (6/11): I have tons of respect for those in full-time ministry, and am fully aware there are significant caps to what can be done in a church when it doesn’t have a full-time pastor. The post was getting too long, so I didn’t write all that in. But I’m thankful to the one soul brave enough to write me and ask! Ok, back to the original post:
So why this bi-vocational route? I love it! There’s a ton of freedom, great fulfillment, and no pointless meetings. I believe bi-vocational pastors will become a more acceptable trend, especially for those who elect to do so rather than out of necessity. It’s a unique blend of worldviews, abilities, and leadership. I’ve grown leaps and bounds. Here are a few reasons:
1. The Importance of Thanks
The majority of people serving “in ministry” are bi-vocational. A church’s workforce is comprised primarily of volunteers–Sunday school teachers, worship teams, cell group leaders, you name it. A small church can’t afford to pay a large staff. A large church has too many demands for just a few people to meet them, even if there’s money to hire a staff.
One stat says that each full-time worker a church hires results in serving opportunities being taken away from about 5 people. So if a 100 member church hires two people, involvement opportunities have just been taken from 10% of that congregation. That’s tough; most pastors know a healthy congregation is an involved congregation.
Because of my situation, we have a lot of people involved in church. When I ask John Doe to help, I actually know what I’m asking for; I work almost 60 hours a week excluding church. If Mr. Pastor Guy asked me to volunteer 5 hours on top of my work week, the least he could do is be nice, say thanks, and remember my name. Being bi-vocational has made me a more empathetic leader. I write lots of handwritten thank-you cards and snail mail them to our people and their families. I’m so thankful for them!
2. Principles-Driven Leadership
What compels someone to give up those 5 hours a weekend? The CAUSE. My responsibility is to continually leak vision for the cause. “We won’t ever throw away a service.” “We have to do circles as well as or even better than we do rows.” “We’re all a mess, were a mess, or are one stupid mistake away from being a mess, so don’t judge.” I drip these sayings repeatedly.
I also speak in principles. This empowers people to draw their own picture of how to respond to our cause. They have to; I’m not full-time! I also lead this way because our church is brilliant. Our leaders are free-thinking, problem-solving people with lots of masters degrees and income. Worker bees, they are not.
For us, principles are better than outlining a prescribed method. Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “As to methods, there may be a million and then some, but principles are few. The man who grasps principles can successfully select his own methods. The man who tries methods, ignoring principles, is sure to have trouble.”
3. It’s OK to Have Friends
I’ve heard the mantra that you can’t be friends with people you lead. I understand the premise of not befriending who you lead at work. I’m in the C-suite at my job and lead everyday. They are colleagues, not necessarily friends. But I don’t understand that in church. The foundational premise of the religious sector is different than the business sector. This mantra is a poor excuse for ministers to hide behind a position or not go outside their comfort zone. Most pastors are better at monologues than dialogues. It’s sad, especially considering they are in the profession of communicating and relationship.
Seriously, isn’t it weird to be counseled by, cared for, and taught week-to-week by someone who has no friends within the very organization that pushes you to make friends in a “cell” group? Unless you’re a monk that forsook all friendships to master the Five Point Palm Exploding Heart Technique, I’m not going to live my life based off your teachings. I’d like my pastor to have a life outside of teaching. Maybe that’s just me, but it seems alot healthier.
Our generation is looking for humanity in our leaders when there is no crisis, and superhuman feats when there is a crisis. Unfair, I know. But still, people want to know a leader is human. Otherwise, there are better preachers on YouTube, more down-to-earth people at the bar, and better music at the club. The pedestal that leaders stand on lowers everyday. The veneer of celebrity is waning. Even the famous actor Tom Hanks said, “Hollywood is high school, just with more money.”
I’m not friends with everyone in my church. That’s impossible. What is possible is to have friends within my church. The leadership by-product is that I’m more relatable, approachable, and effective!
Question: What qualities do you admire in your pastor?
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