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14 Strengths and Weakness of Bi-Vocational Ministry

John Gilman September 16, 2014

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Many embrace bi-vocational ministry. Others treat bi-vocational pastors as the B team of professional ministers.  Being bi-vocational doesn’t make you any less of a minister.

Paul worked two jobs. He made tents and he started churches. He used the money he made with his hands to take care of himself and his team. Paul’s commitment to the mission of God forced him to work hard and get things done.

Many overvalue full-time ministry positions.  Some people work so hard to obtain full-time ministry that they forget the blessings of being bi-vocational. 

Is bi-vocational right for you?

Strengths of Bi-Vocational Ministry

  1. You can go where you want. Ministers who are financially tied to ministry can stay in an area longer than their passion does.
  2. You know what it’s like to live. It’s easy to tell people how to love families, be involved in ministry, and behave in the marketplace from behind the pew, but living it out is tough. However, it provides fresh insights that allows ministers to connect with real people.
  3. You don’t have to keep people happy. When your living comes from your profession and not the pockets of big givers, those big givers lose their power. If a tithe check walks away, the ministry still goes on and your family still eats.
  4. Your influence outside the church is greater. Many minsters live in a Christian bubble. Working outside the church provides other meaningful connections.
  5. You won’t get tunnel vision.  You’ll understand what it means to live the Christian life. Your idea of the successful Christian life won’t be pigeon holed into Sunday mornings and Wednesday evenings. A more holistic understanding of life and mission forms when your life looks like everyone else’s lives.
  6. It’s rewarding.  You’ll be stretched to your limits. You’ll be forced to rely on God’s grace. You’ll see God do the impossible in and through you.

    Weaknesses of Bi-Vocational Ministry

  1. You don’t have much free time. Your to do list will always be growing. Your life bends to the needs of your family, profession, and ministry. Sometimes, you’ll want to scream.
  2.  You can’t go where you want. Paul’s trade allowed him geographic flexibility. Many today can’t pick up and move careers to the cities or areas we’d like to live in.
  3. You can’t drop everything to meet someone in crisis. Your job and family demand your time, and you’ll have to make choices. People will be in crisis, and you won’t always be able to get to them as quickly as you’d like.
  4. You’ll have to say no. You’ll pass up many opportunities, miss a lot of conferences, and not be able to read a lot of the books and articles you could otherwise.
  5. Your influence inside the church is smaller. You won’t be as involved with people as you’d like. You’ll rely on others and share the ministry. Ministry is too large for anyone to handle alone. It doesn’t matter if you get a salary for the church or not. There’s never enough of you to go around.
  6. You won’t advance in your career as far as you’d like. I’m sure Paul made great tents, but he didn’t make as many as he could if he hadn’t been preaching.
  7. You won’t be able to do all the ministry you’d like to do.  Your great ideas and plans will have to wait. As frustration sets in, you’ll have to trust in the mercy and foreknowledge of God.
  8. It’s costly. Bi-vocational ministry takes a toll on your mind, body, and family. It stretches you in areas and drives you deeper into the grace of God.

It’s not the first century. The demands of our time impact us in ways far different from Paul’s. Bi-vocational ministers aren’t better or worse than full-time minsters. Your calling defines your ministry. Jesus builds the church on both ministry models. He makes the call.

Be who you are called to be. If God’s called you to drive a truck during the week and preach on the weekends…do it. If you’re called to guide a large ministry from an office… do it. Don’t try and fit into a mold that wasn’t designed for you.

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