Bivocational Ministry

12 Reasons I Affirm Bivocational Ministry

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More and more pastors are beginning to embrace as their primary calling the role of bivocational minister. Some even intend to remain bivocational regardless of the size of their church as it grows. If the Lord were to call me into a bivocational church role, below is why I would gladly follow His leading (and, here’s my understanding of my own calling and bivocational work).

  1. Bivocational ministers serve the church without being dependent on them for income. I affirm full-time pastors. Further, I do not want even to hint that being dependent on a congregation for salary somehow leads to compromise. Nevertheless, I do suspect there is some freedom in leading a congregation that does not pay the bulk of your salary.
  2. Bivocational ministers are often more connected to non-believers. Unless they intentionally fight against it, full-time pastors can be cocooned in the church world. Bivocational leaders can be equally cocooned, of course, but their work outside the church at least provides a roadblock to that process.
  3. Bivocational ministers lead churches that often have a higher percentage of funds available for ministry and missions. In most churches with full-time staff, the largest percentage of their budget goes toward personnel. The church that has fewer personnel commitments, though, can free dollars to reach their neighbors and the nations.
  4. Bivocational ministers make starting more churches possible. To reach North America, we need more healthy, outwardly focused churches. Young churches, however, usually don’t have the funding to support a full-time pastor. A bivocational church planter can provide leadership without straining the church’s budget.
  5. Bivocational ministry models good missiology. Beyond the work of full-time missionaries, men and women start business platforms to do the Great Commission around the world. Bivocational pastors can model that same general approach in North America.
  6. Bivocational ministers must learn how to train workers and delegate ministry. Burnout is always a danger for the bivocational minister unless he learns to share the load. The wise bivocational minister realizes he cannot do ministry alone – a lesson I wish I had learned years ago as a full-time minister.
  7. A bivocational role can help balance the stresses of ministry. I realize that trying to do both can be stressful itself, but sometimes having another job can actually be a welcome relief from the ongoing pressures of ministry.
  8. Bivocational leadership affirms vocation as ministry. Pastors speak the language (“Every member is a minister”), but we don’t always help our members understand this truth. The bivocational minister, however, brings these worlds together. His workplace is his mission field.
  9. Bivocational ministers likely better understand the struggles of laypersons. Bivocational pastors know what it’s like to work in the secular world for eight hours, run home to have dinner, and then spend the evening at church. They understand the pull of a world that daily beckons church members to live like that world.
  10. Congregations may be more realistic in their expectations of bivocational ministers. I say “may” because even these congregations can be unrealistic—but many will recognize that their pastor must learn to balance his roles well. They’re at least more likely to have the conversation.
  11. Bivocational ministers can now get theological training without leaving their place of ministry. Via online and hybrid education, bivocational ministers can now earn fully accredited undergraduate and graduate degrees while keeping their lives planted among the people they seek to reach.
  12. Bivocational opportunities invite us to challenge all our church members to consider God’s calling. Following God’s calling does not always mean leaving home and occupation. It might mean staying where you are and doing what you do as a base for ministry. Indeed, it may mean recognizing that God has given you your job so that you might lead His church.

What other thoughts would you add?  What might we learn from bivocational ministers?


Editor’s note: This post was originally published at

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MDiv Preaching and Pastoral Ministry

The Preaching and Pastoral Ministry track prepares students for pastoral ministry in the local church with a special emphasis on expository preaching.

  • Bivocational Ministry
  • Pastoral Ministry
Chuck Lawless

Director of the Center for Preaching and Pastoral Leadership

Dr. Chuck Lawless currently serves as Professor of Evangelism and Missions, Dean of Doctoral Studies, and Vice-President for Spiritual Formation and Ministry Centers at Southeastern Seminary, in addition to serving as Team Leader for Theological Education Strategists for the International Mission Board. He previously served as a Vice-President for Global Theological Advance for the IMB. Prior to that, he was dean of the Billy Graham School of Missions and Evangelism at Southern Seminary in Louisville, KY, where he also served as Vice President for Academic Programming and the Director of Professional Doctoral Studies. He received a B.S. degree from Cumberland College and M.Div. and Ph.D. degrees from Southern Seminary. He is the author of eight works, including “Membership Matters,” and “Spiritual Warfare,” and has contributed numerous articles to denominational periodicals. He and his wife Pam have been married for over 25 years and reside here in Wake Forest, NC.

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