Become a Bi-Vocational Pastor — Why Not?

Jun 29, 2022

We’ve been talking with a lot of pastors lately who are exploring the idea of becoming “bi-vocational” or “co-vocational” and flipping the script on what they’re currently doing — working full-time as a pastor, living paycheck to paycheck, and wishing for more freedom with their time and money.

In our conversations, we’ve discovered that pastors often have a few things that hold them back from moving forward. Most roadblocks are mental and are based on false beliefs about themselves, their surroundings, or the subject; that is, creating a lifestyle of financial and time freedom by using their God-given talents, skills, knowledge, and experience. 

Here are some common road-blocks and false beliefs: 

If I go into business and quit shepherding a church, am I abandoning my calling?

Sometimes our calling from God is manifested in our vocation, but it doesn’t have to be. Being a pastor and shepherding a church is not the only true “calling.” It may not even be your only calling. Every single person in the church has a calling. So just because you aren’t fulfilling a role as a full-time, paid, traditional pastor does not necessarily mean you are abandoning your calling.

Your primary calling is to be a follower of Christ. That may be manifested as an employee of a church, and it may be expressed in another vocation. Many people find ways to do both. 

For instance, Jody Pistore is a full-time pastor of a growing ministry. He also owns several businesses that provide for the causes he cares about and that force him out of the four walls of the church building to be salt and light in his community. 

Don’t forget that real ministry is happening in the marketplace. In fact, most of Jesus’ ministry happened in the marketplace as opposed to a religious gathering. You may actually be able to answer your calling to ministry and have more positive influence in the marketplace than you can within the four walls of a church.

Now, don’t get us wrong. We aren’t advocating that every pastor needs to submit their two-week notice. But take some time and think about what is possible. Get a pen and a piece of paper and start to write down all the things you could do to fulfill your calling. Write down everything that comes to mind, no matter how crazy it sounds. Nothing is off-limits. God is able to do exceedingly, abundantly above what you are able to ask or think. 

If I try to do both (pastor and marketplace), how will I have time to do both?

This is where we have to “flip the switch a bit.” Take a moment and think about what you would do if you weren’t “a church employee.” How would you make money to take care of your family?

Now, imagine with us for a moment if you were to do like the rest of the church and serve as a volunteer or at least on a part-time basis. Many pastors who have done this find that they are actually giving more of their best to the church, both in working in their own sweet spot or zone of genius vs. just doing something because it has to be done and the pastor has always done it. 

Plus many pastors often discover they are invigorated by a full, purpose-driving schedule. We’ve noticed that busy people, especially kingdom-minded people with responsibilities in the marketplace, get a lot done in a single day. We all have the same 168 hours in a week. Why do some people seem so productive when others ask, “Why does it seem like I didn’t get anything done today?” One reason is that people who want to accomplish much are forced to be disciplined about their schedules. They are careful about what they agree to. They realize that for every “Yes” they agree to, they must say “No” to something else.

I’m not sure I feel good about “taking away” from my church in order to meet my own needs and those of my family.

For this one, let’s read Ephesians 4:11, where the job of a pastor is spelled out. Paul didn’t say the job of the paid staff (pastor) is to do all the work of ministry. He said the role of a shepherd is, “ to equip His people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up.” It doesn’t say to attend every church committee meeting or to keep office hours from 9 am to 5 pm every weekday. In fact, it doesn’t say a lot of the things that we as pastors think is “our job,” and that our church members think is “our job.”

Now, we also want to be clear on this one. We are not advocating a shirking of responsibilities here. We’re not saying you should just quit doing your job so you can work in the marketplace, but it may be time to rethink the amount of time you're spending on your pastoral duties vs. how many of them may be able to be done by someone else. What is best for the church? 

And while we’re at it, let’s rethink the belief that so many of us have that we are paid for our time. When we think in terms of time, we start to think that we can’t work on our side business at 10 am on a Tuesday because that’s “church time.” Actually there is no such thing as “my time” and “church time.” It’s all God’s time, and we are to be good and wise stewards of how we use the 168 hours in a week that God gives us.  

Let’s be honest here, pastor, I’m sure no funeral or wedding or any other church event has been moved from a Saturday afternoon because it’s the pastor’s “free time.” Although I do know a pastor who told a church member he wouldn’t golf on a Friday because that was his off day (No kidding. That’s a true story. The pastor considered golfing with a church member as work). The point is, we should focus on getting the job done, not just trading time for money. 

We need to shift our thinking to being paid for responsibilities and results. Yes, we need to have accountability, but as a Christian professional we shouldn’t need someone to look over our shoulder or check to see if our car is in the church parking lot.  

So let’s summarize with some action steps:

  1. Consider your calling as much bigger than your profession, although it does include your job. The expression of God’s calling on your life is deeper and broader than any one occupation. 
  2. Talk to people you know who are bi-vocational, co-vocational, or multi-vocational to better understand how they accomplish so much in their weekly 168 hours. 
  3. What are some things you can do today to start expressing more of an EntrePastor way of life? We talked through several of these on Episode 21 of our podcast, where we actually let you listen in to a coaching call with Ben Watts. Listen here.

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