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Bi-Vocational? How to Merge 2 Jobs Into One Life

The life of being a bi-vocational minister is really a work of art. There is no set formula for bi-vocational. It is a navigation that changes with time. It ebbs and flows through the entire history of a missionary. It cannot be considered a strategy. It is a chosen way of life. To me it is the future of ministry in the fields of mission in North America. Here are three topics we should be talking about:

1) Look At The Way You Make Money Differently.

Being bi-vocational means you look at money, career, job skills entirely differently than the average North American. How you go look for a job will be different. What you will expect when you start a job and what your expectations for money and job advancement are has a whole new logic to it. Where you start in a job has little to do with where you will go or whether you will stay. You will focus most intently on learning a skill, becoming very good at it so as to eventually be able to manage your time within structures. This is a long-term strategy not a short-term one. This is a skill for life. There may come a time, due to your gifts for ministry being blessed where a church will ask you to step down from using your job skill to devote more time to ministry. Nonetheless, you will keep up with your skill. It is a badge of the revolutionary to have a job skill in ministry that is other than ministry.

2) You Will Pastor With at Least Two Other Pastors (Minimum).

As a bi-vocational pastor you will necessarily work with at least two other pastors. I strongly recommend that no one begin bi-vocational ministry alone. Each pastor will devote no more than 15 hours a week to the organizational functions of ministry. Together, the three (or more) pastors function as a “community of organizers for the Kingdom.” They will learn to know each other in their gifting in relation to the others. They will know each others’ weaknesses. They will learn to stay within their limits and trust God for work that is left undone. This will foster a culture of participation versus spectatorship. They will work to organize and empower other leaders. The leadership structure will work out of mutual submission, not hierarchy. This will push leadership and power outward. The whole leadershp culture will grow in submission to one another and the whole community.

3)  Bi-Vocational Is Not Two Jobs—It is One Life.

Bi-vocational is actually a misnomer. There really is no “bi.” The life of bi-vocational is one life lived under one Lordship. For many North Americans, this will take cultivating a new imaginatiion. Many Christians cannot help compartmentalizing their lives. They separate their work life from their family life from their church life. They seek balance. They seek to maintain control. But the life of bi-vocational calls the family, the work and church leadership to be under one umbrella. All are brought under submission to Christ and His Lordship. Though we my get paid for leadership in the church, it really is not just another career path or a job. It is part of who we are and our calling in the same way being a father/mother or a worker is our calling. And so as you enter ministry, you must be able to rethink how you see/understand yourself in the world as a ‘pastor.’ It requires an entirely different imagination.

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David Fitch is a bi-vocational pastor at Life on the Vine and the B.R. Lindner Chair of Evangelical Theology at Northern Seminary.