Are Pastors to Follow Paul’s Bi-Vocational Ministry Example?


Given the average church size in America, I have to assume that most pastors in the U.S. are bi-vocational. In addition to the duties and responsibilities they have of shepherding a flock, these men find themselves working part-time or even full-time jobs in order to make ends meet; for many pastors, bi-vocational ministry is out of necessity. Some pastor minister in a low income context where supporting the pastor and his family is just not an option. Others minister is smaller contexts and the church budget just doesn’t allow for a full time salary. Then there are those who are in bi-vocational ministry as a matter of choice. They enjoy the evangelism opportunities it affords them or they just don’t want to burden or trust their congregations with the financial responsibility of caring for them and their families.

Whatever the reasons, the fact remains there are many pastors who are bi-vocational. So the question is not whether bi-vocational ministry is right or wrong—I don’t think the Bible tells us that—the wrestle is with whether it is best, both for pastors and local church members.

Let’s start with pastors. As noted, there are certainly some benefits. Of significance is the fact that it opens up the Pastor to a wealth of evangelistic opportunities. Let’s face it, full-time pastors have to be intentional about putting themselves in the way of unbelievers. Most of their interaction is with church folk, and therefore the opportunities for personal evangelism are few and far between. Bi-vocational pastors, on the other hand, bump into spiritual conversations all the time. And if deliberate, they can have a fruitful influence and ministry in the marketplace. Along with this is the benefit of a steady pay check that doesn’t rely on the giving whims of the members. There are other benefits, but these two seem to rise to the top.

However, along with the benefits come challenges. Pastoring is never a part-time job. There are no timeclocks to punch or timesheets to fill out. Which means, any job added to that of a pastor, be it part-time or full, is on top of an already jam-packed schedule. Men called to the ministry are not super human. They may have particular gifts set aside for the office, but they are given the same amount of time as everyone else. Working two jobs means that inevitably something will suffer neglect. And unfortunately what often gets pushed to the side is family. Truthfully, this is not just a bi-vocational pastor’s challenge; all pastors deal with this tension. But there is no denying that this is particularly hard for the man who labors in two jobs.

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SOURCE: The Front Porch
Philip Duncanson