A new idea gaining some traction in vocational ministry these days is purposely choosing bivocational ministry when making that choice isn’t necessary.
I think that’s a bad idea. Let me share why I think bivocational ministry should be avoided when possible.
First, let’s deal with what I believe is a false premise for the new allure to bivocational ministry. The key argument for choosing to be a bivocational pastor is that it provides a greater evangelistic opportunity for the pastor by making new relationships in a secular setting. Of course, if a minister takes on a secular job, it would allow for a new opportunity to make relationships with non-Christians. However, a minister doesn’t have to take on a second job to find opportunities to connect with non-Christians. Opportunities for getting to know unbelievers can be made by engaging with people in the community in a variety of ways and settings without having to take on the responsibility of an additional form of employment.
Further, this idea tends to feed the mistaken notion that the pastor is the person in the church responsible for evangelism. The truth is, the pastor is as responsible for evangelism as are all the other members of his congregation! You wouldn’t expect the members of your church to take on the difficulty — and it is a burden! — of adding a second job just to increase opportunities for evangelism. In fact, while a minister carries out his own personal responsibility of being an ambassador for Christ, it IS his job to equip the congregation for ministry (Eph. 4:11-13), which includes equipping disciples of Jesus to be able to effectively share the Gospel with non-Christians. The idea of unnecessary bivocational ministry takes the focus off a minister’s key responsibility of equipping the saints to doing the evangelistic work himself; let’s keep the minister focused on equipping so that all of the members of the congregation will be trained to share the Gospel.
A key reason to avoid bivocational ministry when possible is the important issue of TIME. Every month, hundreds of pastors quit the ministry for a variety of reasons. Among those reasons is these men have “burned out” by not having enough time to do all that is demanded of them. Of course, too often too much is demanded of them, but I have never once met a minister who has said he has too much time on his hands! Quite the opposite is true — the constant mantra of those in ministry is one of not having enough time to do the things they need to do. To take on a second job means the time for doing so must be taken from somewhere else. That could mean that time given to vital needs will be reduced, such as …
Less time with God. Our leadership will never exceed the quality of our followership, yet ministers serving in full-time vocational ministry routinely say they lack opportunity for spending the time they really need for personal Bible study and prayer. Taking 15, 20, or more hours each week for a second job will likely lessen the time for personal spiritual disciplines. That will affect the minister’s own relationship with God, and the quality of leadership as a shepherd.
Less time with family. Another common complaint from full-time vocational ministers is a lack of time for family. Again, taking a chunk of time from what is currently available to give to a second job won’t help resolve the existing need for more time with family, it will compound it.
Less time for shepherding. Members of congregations today already complain they get little real interaction with their church leaders; by ministers adding a second job, they will get less.
Less time in important things that take time. Preparing good sermons takes time. Preparing Bible lessons takes time. Discipling new Christians takes time. Equipping the saints for ministry takes time. Providing spiritual counsel for the members of your congregation takes time. And carrying out your own evangelistic efforts takes time. All these things, and others, will lose time when a minister chooses to add a second job.
It’s one thing if a minister isn’t adequately supported by a church and must have a second job to appropriately provide for his family. But to take on a second job just to supposedly increase evangelistic opportunities for the individual minister will likely deepen existing challenges to ministry while creating new ones and reducing the overall quality of his ministry and his personal life. If a minister doesn’t know how to create connections with non-Christians while working in full-time vocational ministry, it would benefit him (and the church!) if he connects with a mature Christian who can teach him how to make new connections with people in everyday settings instead of doing something as radically problematic as taking on a second job just to meet a few people he otherwise wouldn’t have opportunity to meet.
That brings me to my last point. A second job offers the opportunity to make only a limited number of new acquaintances. Remaining unencumbered from a second job allows the minister to create relationships with people from a variety of settings if he only learns how to say hello to someone!
Today’s full-time vocational ministers will tell you shepherding a church and making time for family and a few friends is a challenging task. To think that being a husband and father, and shepherding a church, would be enhanced by adding an additional job that isn’t necessary for survival seems irrational, and perhaps even a little careless. I don’t question anyone’s good intentions for entertaining the idea of working bivocationally on purpose, but it most cases it will cause more problems than result in rewards.
A final thought on this subject – some ministers are pursuing bivocational ministry because their whole heart isn’t in being a minister. They have other interests, some held as passionately (if not more so) as their calling to shepherd the household of God. And so some men are trying to have it all — a life of holy callings and secular passions. Often in such cases, the minister would be more fruitful for the kingdom to work in the secular world full-time while living his life as a devoted Christian. To pursue something you have a greater passion for than ministering while taking up a paid, full-time minister position will often result in giving a church less than what they need from their minister.
I think those who serve in bivocational ministry out of necessity are remarkable men of faith who need all the support we can provide to them. But let’s not take away all the support they need to provide to their churches, their families, and their personal relationship with God by adding on an unnecessary second job that will require the redirection of a bulk of their time and attention.
This article originally appeared here.