One of the biggest trends in churches in recent years is the decline in the number of members of older congregations. One of the most difficult transitions a church must make is when they are no longer able to afford a full-time pastor. For most of these churches the next option is either a part time pastor who has retirement income, or a bi-vocational pastor. An increasing number of our churches are now pastored by people who work another job.
These Bi-vocational (BiVo for short) pastors face unique challenges. Since many of these churches are accustomed to having a full time pastor, often the people can’t understand that their new pastor isn’t available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. They don’t realize it, but they expect full time work for part time pay.
Depending on the nature of their “secular work”, quite often that job demands priority over scheduling. The church sometimes feels stuck with the “left-over” time from their pastor. A real dilemma comes when the other job is self-employment (such as handyman work). In this case, priority must be given to accepting a bid or contract since there is no guarantee when the next job will come along. Again, the church work can end up taking the back seat.
Time management is crucial for the BiVo pastor. The ideal situation is a part time job with a specific number of hours per week with some flexibility as to scheduling those hours. With this set up, the pastor can manage his time wisely; making sure the church gets his best.
Another crucial item for BiVo pastors is the importance of developing leaders within the church. This is difficult since he already has a busy schedule. But time spent developing others to share the load of ministry pays off in the long run. Having a team of people equipped to help with the shepherding allows the pastor time to do the other leadership functions that come with the job.
Any way you look at it, a BiVo situation is a compromise at best. It does have some advantages, but it also has many challenges. If your pastor works two jobs, be aware of these challenges. Be patient and offer to take some of the load. Help to protect the pastor’s family time and time off. With everyone working together, a BiVo situation can work.