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.

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5 thoughts on “Bi-Vocational Ministry Is About Work, Not Just Jobs

  1. I have been a “semi-tentmaker” since my second year of seminary. This is where I’ve felt called — to serve churches which otherwise couldn’t afford a full-time pastor. I’ve also concluded that there is no such thing as “part time” ministry, part time pay, yes, but not part time ministry.
    Also, being self-employed helps balance the time requirements of being bi-vocational. Not always easy, but usually doable.

  2. I am serving a church and a para church ministry, both part time. I am completely over the “there is no part time” statement, as it minimizes my efforts to honor the reality that doing both “jobs” and the rest of my life requires discipline on my part and the congregration’s part. The longer we trot that out, the less likely we are to model and encourage mutual care and discipline. It ain’t easy, and yes, some weeks we blow it (kind of like those diet and daily devotional disciplines).

    But I still would like to see us do better as we talk about the challenges of the changing landscape of vocational ministry.

      1. Yes. Do it well and talk it about it in a way that encourages the whole body to share in the full-time nature of caring for one another and our neighbors.

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