Bivocational Church

Note:  People who know Shawna Bowman recognize that she’s a genius.  I credit her with this idea of “Bivocational Church” from a conversation yesterday.

Lots of people believe that bivocational ministry will be more prevalent for 21st Century Pastors than in previous generations (except for that very first generation of Jesus followers, of course.)

Bivocational pastors work part-time in professional ministry and part-time in another field.  In a perfect world, that other field would dovetail nicely with preaching, teaching, and pastoral care – say, like a school teacher or social worker.  But I also have friends in bivocational ministry who are part-time baristas, bartenders, and construction workers.

Acts 18:3

Acts 18:3 

The real question is:  How in the world does someone serve a church 20-25 hours a week and still equip that church to grow?  Sadly, many bivocational pastors serve tiny churches that cannot afford a full time clergyperson and after writing a sermon, leading worship, and making a couple phone calls they’ve used up their 20-25 hours.  There is no time for teaching Bible studies, training leaders, offering pastoral care, or connecting missionally with the community.  Often churches with part-time pastors can do nothing but maintenance and it’s almost impossible for those congregations to grow.  It feels like the beginning of the end for once thriving churches with full time pastors.

But . . .

What if the bivocational pastor acknowledged her/his utter inability to “do it all” and instead invited the whole congregation to be a bivocational church? 

Imagine the culture of a congregation shifting with the realization that church is not merely about a “Sunday service” but actually it’s about a way of life?  What if the bankers, plumbers, bakers, and waitresses all saw that their life’s work was indeed bivocational because they, too, are ministers?

  • We are all called to ministry – at least that’s what my own Reformed tradition declares.
  • We are all called to follow the way of Jesus.
  • We are all called to a “Christian vocation.”

What if the crux of the 21st Century Pastor’s ministry tasks involved equipping her/his parishioners to do ministry out in the world?  Imagine spending 20-25 hours per week focused on teaching others to preach, teach, visit the sick, pray, and shepherd God’s people.  What if the bivocational pastor focused on teaching her/his parishioners to be A Bivocational Church?

Image source.


5 responses to “Bivocational Church

  1. ‘Bivocational’ ministry is precisely what should have been happening all along. Many small churches have been doing this for years; it’s the model of the early church as well (think of Paul as tent-maker and church founder).

    • I have come to believe that bivocational ministry is good for some pastors and not for others. But this post is particularly about churches becoming bivocational. My hope is that all of us in churches would see ourselves as having a vocation to ministry.

  2. A wise old seminary professor of mine used to tell us that our goal as ministers should always be to “work yourselves out of a job” (ie equip others to do it). Sadly, the horror on the face of some church folks when I’ve shared that quite with them.

  3. Bivocational ministry (YES) and also how about Paired ministry? Jesus sent his disciples by two, what if we partnered more so its not just one person but a team working together!!!

  4. This is great. This is how I think of myself as a lay person. My passion is (particularly) supporting women in ministry, as well as various ministries of my own parish, which of course includes support of male clergy. Then, there’s what I do for work.

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