If I could only teach one vocational principle to young pastors-to-be, it would probably be this.
Learn how to pay the bills outside of your pastoral salary. You’ll probably need it.
Whether you want to be a church planter or pastor an existing church, it’s likely you’ll spend at least some of your pastoral ministry being bivocational.
Bivocational ministers (pastors who work outside the church to provide most or all of their household income) may be the most under-appreciated and overlooked leaders in the church.
Here are 9 realities and trends I have picked up from my research, observations, and conversations with dozens of bivocational pastors.
1. Bivocational Ministry Is Not Rare
A large percentage of pastors are bivocational. Always have been.
If you’ve spent your ministry as a staff pastor, or if you live and minister where there are plenty of large churches around, it’s easy to think that full-time, multi-staff churches are normal, even typical.
Even in places where large, full-time, multi-staff churches are normal now, their numbers will be decreasing in the coming years.
2. Bivocational Ministry Is Becoming More Common
Bivocational ministry is how a large and growing number of the world’s churches are pastored. Even in the United States, their number is increasing at a rapid rate as the size of existing churches continues to decline and new church plants pop up.
According to the 2015 Faith Communities Today survey, fewer than two-thirds (62.2 percent) of U.S. churches have a full-time pastor. That’s down from 71.4 percent in 2010. (Click here for more info from Facts & Trends.)
3. A Bivocational Pastor Is Not Half A Pastor
At a recent church-planters conference, Hugh Halter pointed out that, when 1 Timothy tells us “elders who direct the affairs of the church well are worthy of double honor,” it’s not because pastors are more important than others.
Bivocational ministry was so universal for leaders in the early church, according to Halter, that the believers were encouraged to give an extra blessing to those who were making such extraordinary sacrifices for the church body.
Double the sacrifice, double the honor.
4. Bivocationality Is Not A Problem That Needs Fixing
The Apostle Paul was a bivocational pastor. In fact, some people still refer to bivocational pastors as tentmakers because it was Paul’s profession.