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The Demands and Benefits of the Bivocational Minister

As a bivocational pastor, you can be many things but you cannot be lazy. You must be a self-starter, willing to work longer hours than many fully funded ministers.

As a bivocational pastor, you can be many things but you cannot be lazy. You must be a self-starter, willing to work longer hours than many fully funded ministers.

There are at least three reasons to consider bivocationalism:

  1. The church you serve is not financially able to pay you enough to meet your family's needs.
  2. The field in which you serve is so small that you are not sufficiently challenged.
  3. You feel led of God to serve in a dual role (called intentional bivocationalism).

Advantages of bivocational ministry

  1. The financial base of both church and pastor is usually stronger.
  2. (Your church can do more for missions and ministry when staff financial needs are kept to a minimum. Your family can live with less financial strain when there are two incomes).
  3. The bivocational pastor often experiences greater freedom to lead, because non-supportive leadership does not threaten your total livelihood.
  4. More laypersons, of necessity, become involved in the ministry of the church.
  5. As a bivocational pastor, your people may not expect you to be superman.
  6. As a bivocational pastor, you are usually more in touch with the real world.
  7. As a bivocational pastor, you may have more opportunities for personal witnessing.
  8. Because of time constraints, you are less likely to succumb to temptation to become lazy.
  9. As a bivocational pastor, you do not have time to become involved in convention controversy.
  10. The bivocational pastor-led church is more apt to allow their pastor to be real.
  11. Often, your family has a more flexible social life.
  12. Bivocational pastors are more often able to plan and work toward reasonable goals.

Four issues you must address

Self image

No one who is a bivocational minister should allow himself to feel or be treated as a second-class preacher. If you are where God has led you there is no move up. The Apostle Paul made tents while he preached and he appeared to have been quite effective. In the Southern Baptist Convention, most pastors also taught school or farmed until the 1950s when there was a push to get pastors to be fully-funded. It appears that in the future the number of bivocational pastors will rise significantly.

Time management

The pressure to keep everything going is very intense and very real. You actually may end up concluding that you have two full-time jobs. Each situation is different. You must decide how you will divide your time and not be stressed by what others say or think. God is your judge and He is the one you should seek to please.

Family priorities

As a bivocational minister, you must guard against allowing your family to suffer while you pastor a church and work another job. The temptation will be to short-change your family because of the pressure of other issues. A minister's family is more important than church or job. Your home is the most powerful message you will preach.


Because of your busy schedule, you may be tempted to operate as a "Lone Ranger". While you may not be able to participate in every associational event throughout the year, you should make time to stay connected to the rest of God's family. Fellowship with other ministers is vitally important to a healthy perspective.

Ray Gilder is the Bivocational Ministries Specialist at the Tennesee Baptist Convention and is also a bivocational pastor.