This is Part 2 of a 4 Part Series on Vocation and Ministry. This post explores the Bivocational Model.

Many pastors are serving their churches in a bivocational capacity, or BiVo. They are earning a living from both serving their church and from another job. For some of them, it’s a deliberate choice. They believe this is how God wants them to operate.

But for others, it’s a necessity they tolerate. Their current church cannot afford to pay a full-time salary, so they have to supplement their income with a second job. These leaders, for the most part, would rather be serving their church in a full-time capacity. They may feel that God will eventually open that opportunity for them, so they plug on, doing what has to be done to make ends meet.

Truth be told, some BiVo leaders resent their status. They see themselves as sitting at the children’s table at denominational meetings, that is, if they can get off work to attend these gatherings. And, sadly, some full-time leaders view the BiVo guys as “not real pastors.” So, yeah, there is some marginalization in the BiVo domain.

But it does not have to be that way. BiVo leaders are incredibly important to the work of the kingdom and to living out the gospel. If you are a BiVo, you are not some second class pastor/leader. You have opportunities for gospel impact that your full-time colleagues may never be able to tap into. In your other job, depending on what it entails, you likely are rubbing shoulders with everyday regular people. Most of your full-time buddies are cloistered away in their studies while you’re making hay while the sun shines.

Consider these advantages to the BiVo model of ministry leadership:

  1. Your pool of relationships is more extensive. You most likely have co-workers or customers that you are building relationships with. You may be meeting new people on a regular basis. Some of these relationships naturally lead to others, because of the business you’re in or due to the quality of service you provide. The breadth of your influence only grows.
  2. Daily opportunities to declare and demonstrate the gospel. Think about it. Every day situations arise in the workplace that test your patience, or that may earn you some recognition. As people observe you in real life situations, they get to see how you respond in ways that turn the attention to Jesus. Your behavior and attitude will prompt some questions from others about how you respond or why you do what you do. Point them to Jesus as the reason.
  3. You can be more authentic with your church, because you can identify with their daily life more. There’s just something about a pastor who has a job just like everybody else. They know that you “feel their pain” when they talk about struggles to balance work with other parts of life. You can speak authoritatively in your preaching and teaching because you are experiencing what they do in the work week. Not to mention, you’ll have some great stories you can use as sermon and teaching illustrations. You are able to share with great credibility how to live as a committed follower of Jesus in the workplace.

See? Being BiVo can be a really cool thing. Sure, it has its challenges, too, and I don’t want to just gloss over that fact. Your time is usually at a premium, juggling work with sermon prep, training/equipping people, and the myriad of meetings that go with church life. Time with your family is critical, too. You have prioritize your free time. There are sacrifices as well, like not getting to attend those awesome conferences and workshops because of work. I’d highly suggest finding other BiVo leaders in your region and connect with them for networking, sharing resources, and mutual encouragement. Start or become a part of a local BiVo network.

So, if you find yourself in the BiVo boat, don’t seek to bail. Maybe a full-time gig is down the road, but don’t rush ahead of where God has you now. Or, you may be very much at home in this model of leadership, and have zero desire to do it any other way. Well, good for you. Keep at it! But there is no reason to ever look down on yourself or others who are serving our King Jesus in a bivocational role. God bless the BiVo minister!

Recommended Resource: BiVo, by Hugh Halter