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Home > 2013 > January Online Only > Five Perks to Being Bi-vocational

I planted The City Church in 2010, a year after the stock market crashed. We started with 20 people in a living room, and even with the generous support of friends, families, and organizations, there was no way I could pull a full-time salary. When I got the chance to teach part-time public speaking courses at Texas Christian University, I jumped at it—primarily as a means of support but also because I had already spent four years ministering to that campus. Today our church has seen significant growth, is financially "stable," and we have multiple elders and deacons. Some are financially supported; others are not. Three years in, the church could pay me a full-time salary, but I'm still bi-vocational and—don't fall out of your chair—I hope that's always the case.

Generally seen as a last-ditch option, bi-vocationality is a necessity for many in today's economic climate. Especially in new churches or smaller ministries, pastors hesitantly turn to a second source of income for as little time as humanly possible. But I'm here to tell you it's one of the best things I've ever experienced. Here are five ways God can use bi-vocationality to serve his kingdom.

1. Stewarding God's money

Between my two jobs, God provides adequately for my family. One of the organizations for which I work even defines the hours I give them as enough to warrant health benefits. That's not true of every part-time job, but at least some workplaces (most famously, Starbucks) extend benefits without requiring 40 hours.

Consider the benefit to God's church. By working at TCU for the past three years, our church has been able to put money toward things that we couldn't otherwise. We send more to missions, we help hurting couples who can't afford professional counseling, we financially support other folks to use their gifts for the good of the body. Traditionally, a healthy, established church budget should put 50 percent toward staff and 30 percent toward a building, leaving 20 percent (or less in some cases) for ministry and mission. A small ministry is often skewed even further.

First Timothy 5:18 says, "'You shall not muzzle an ox when it treads out the grain,' and, 'The laborer deserves his wages.'" But most of us have only heard—and used—it to justify a pay increase. Have we considered the other side of the coin? For some ministers, 40 hours of work are not needed each week. Is it possible we aren't always worth the wage we want? I found myself creating things to take up 40 or 50 hours of work in the church building. But those hours weren't necessary. I had to ask myself, Are these extra hours worth my people's support? I knew the difference; the hard part was being honest about how I spent God's money.

2. Making disciples

I love the local church, but I know that there are always more people outside the church walls than inside. Before I'm a pastor, I'm a follower of Jesus, and he calls his followers to live out the Great Commission: "Go and make disciples …" (Matthew 28:19). Before I started City Church, I worked for decade in "normal, full-time" church ministry. I was even "successful" by most standards. But over that decade, I became really good at managing Christians and really bad at making disciples.

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Related Topics:BudgetCommunity ImpactFinancesSalariesService
Posted: January 21, 2013

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Displaying 1–5 of 5 comments

Robert Mennefee

February 12, 2013  2:34pm

Pastor Connelly, I agree with everything you said. I was a full time pastor and am now a bivocational one. I enjoy the freedom of not having being fully dependent on a church for support. But the greatest advantage is the skills that transfer from the other job. As a special Ed school teacher God has taught me a lot, about communicating the Word and being an administrator , that I get to use at the church. I just wish, denominational leaders would see value in bivocational pastors. They devalue their worth when schedule meetings, only during hours, the bivocational pastors work often saying, if pastor sees as important he can take off or skip regular job. (Ps, I went to TCU, too)

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Alexander Zell

February 12, 2013  1:54pm

Great article, Pastor Connelly! My research on bivocational church planters in Brazil agrees with your five principles. I share your disappointment that a bivocational speaker would recommend getting out of bivocational ministry as a blanket statement. It isn't for everybody but 25% of my bivocational sample said that they would NOT like to change to full-time ministry for the same five reasons that you gave as well as many other reasons. Keep on keeping on, brother!

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David Rupert

February 03, 2013  10:14pm

All of your reasons are fantastic. As a layman, I have been in several churches with bi-vocational pastors. And in every one of them, it gave me the chance to step up and do more of the work of the gospel. It gave God a chance to use me, and others. I'll be highlighting this article over at The High Calling next week. David, www.RedLetterBelievers.com

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Pastor Gary Logoteta

January 24, 2013  11:49am

Pastor Ben, I'm with you. God led me to plant an independant church in 2008 in Clearlake, Ca. One that didn't walk in the traditional mold and so we attract non-believers rather than the already sanctified. Which is where my heart lies. I have always been bi-vocational and don't see an end in sight. We minister to many poor people and so the church couldn't even support me if it tried. I'm happy, as you, with that. I work at a local High School and have developed great relationships and more than that, respect, from the student body. It keeps me real and relevant in my preaching so I don't get too "religious" and hard to understand or relate to. The church, Crossroads, has topped the 200 mark and is still growing. I have always followed the Ephesians 4 model of training the congregation to do the work of the ministry. I also, can't see the need or work to justify a full time position. I am the only Pastor in our city of a church larger than 10 people who doesn't receive compensation.

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reubandoy

January 22, 2013  7:53pm

I agree with you pastor Ben being a bi-vocational pastor also. Over the years I encouraged pastors under my supervision to find a job to support themselves and the ministry also. I have seen pioneering churches blessed by God spiritually, numerically and financially for just a short period of time after starting up with pastors having personal finances to support them. I believe "Churches must not become ministers' employers." It should be a place for everybody to contribute, invest, and serve God and people.

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