Bi-Vocational Ministry Is About Work, Not Just Jobs

I had a long conversation with some people yesterday about bi-vocational ministry, where pastors of congregations have extra-church employment that pays their bills. It’s not a new idea, but it’s one that seems to be gaining urgency as, for example, many of the Associate Pastor calls available to seminary graduates are being phased out.

I have a couple of thoughts about this. First, even though a pastor’s church work is not her main source of income, I have yet to see a pastor engaged in “part time” ministry. Ministry is most often full time, especially during liturgical seasons like Advent and Lent.

I also think this shrinking of church jobs is an opportunity to do some work on the bigger question of work. Because churches aren’t the only places where jobs are going away. The “gig economy” is only growing, and more and more people are having to find ways of making money outside the security of a full-time job with benefits.

So what does it mean for people with calls to the ministerial vocation to find ways to do that work and be paid for it outside the structure of called position in a congregation that can afford them?

That’s a big question, and I don’t have many answers right now. But I see people writing, creating publishing companies, podcasting, and chasing other creative pursuits. I’m inclined to watch those folks. They’re working on more than a job to fit into a bi-vocational arrangement. They’re working on work.