Mickey Lewis, Aurora, MO — My entire ministry has been bi-vocational. I don’t think it is possible for every bi-vocational pastor to go full time; not every church will be able to swing the financial burden.
Keeping fresh bread is a challenge not easily maintained. My advice to young men is family comes first, church second, work third.
Burnout is a real problem in today’s ministry. I have faced burnout a few times, myself. Talking with a mentor, attending meetings on a sectional, district and national level can help you see you are not alone. Whatever you do, don’t isolate yourself or your family.
Brentt Williams, Ontario, Canada — I have been bi-vocational in the ministry for over 15 years. It is very easy to let spending quality time with your family take a backseat to work and ministry. Plan your day. This will help you avoid losing track of your valuable time. Beware of spending too much time on social media; it can and will take up all of your time that should be set aside for ministry.
I try to have a date night with my wife and a separate lunch or other activity with my teenage son every week or two. Take at least half a day off per week. Turn off the phone, computer, etc. Take at least a one-week vacation per year that doesn’t involve ministry-related activities.
It is usually best if a pastor can be full time; however, it is not always God’s plan. We often meet key people and build lasting relationships in our vocational employment.
Gilbert Carrisalez, Sanger, CA — I am currently bi-vocational. I would say that my greatest challenge is not having enough time. Besides having a family, I pastor, work, attend a Bible Institute, and am still involved in the mother church. I have to always make sure to manage and balance my time to be most effective.
Working a secular job and doing pastoral ministry can weigh on you and your family. I feel that balance is the key. Plan your days of family time, as well as your time of pastoral ministry wisely.
I haven’t experienced burnout but have been warned of it from my pastor. He said that there are times that we need to take time off to keep from experiencing this issue.
Mitchell McQuinn, Sudbury, Canada — I am currently bi-vocational and have been so for my entire ministry of some 15 years.
Time management would have to be my greatest challenge. Having recently become the senior pastor of a growing church, it can be difficult to make time for my wife. We make sure to set aside time for each other, or it just might not happen.
I have had great opportunities to witness on the job that I would not have had otherwise. I have been able to win some co-workers to the Lord, so I can see the value in being bi-vocational.
Don’t take on too much! One suggestion that has worked well for me is to delegate as much ministry work as possible. If you can get others involved and be part of the team, you will all grow together. It helps you, and it helps your church!
Michael Wiltcher, Bridgeport, TX — I am currently bi-vocational. The greatest challenge I face is how to fulfill pastoral duties effectively within the limited time outside my secular work.
First, never compare yourself as being a sub-standard minister to those who are able to be a full-time pastor. Being a bi-vocational pastor reveals a tremendous passion for God and for the people he pastors, as he is willing to bear up under the heavy load of providing for his family and offer ministry to those in his care. A bi-vocational pastor fills a huge void in cities, towns and hamlets that are unable to support a full-time ministry, and thus is a great asset in the Kingdom.
Set time aside in stone to decompress from the rigors of working a secular job and pastor duties. No one can survive for long under relentless and unending stress.
Develop individuals within the congregation to help you in ministry to the body. Allowing others to minister in the church develops their skills and gives a brief respite for personal recharging and refocusing.
Ron Roberts, Mesquite, NV — I am currently bi-vocational and have been since planting our first church at 23; I am now 46.
The greatest challenge in bi-vocational ministry is making sure that ministry is my career, and my other work is just a job. I believe that it is very easy for these to become reversed, and the church gets the leftovers. I have burned myself out by allowing a job to become my career and rob me of church and family time.
I do believe that every pastor should strive to pastor full time. As long as we remember that our job will bring immediate financial relief and our calling will bring long-term economic relief we have our priorities in order. No job is irreplaceable. Leave your job before it causes you to lose your calling and possibly your family. My last suggestion is always take a family vacation that is not a church event.
Lee Wells, Rockwall, TX — I currently pastor Landmark Fellowship Church, a church plant in Rockwall, TX, while operating two other businesses.
Over time, I have learned to set boundaries and priorities, which helps keep everything moving in the right direction. Boundaries protect my family time as well as my personal private time. Then setting priorities enables me to determine quickly how much time I can allot to issues as they arise.
When people plan their time and prioritize their life with discipline, they find enough time to get the important things done. It may mean less sleep, less golf, or less internet time; but there is almost always a way to get the priorities accomplished if we are able to stay away from the crutch of excuse making.
The risk of burnout seems to threaten us more when we are chronically fatigued. Each one of us must find our own way to rest and relax. There are some times when I just need to “unplug” for a few hours and enjoy a leisure activity where my mind can go into neutral and rest.
Wylie Rhinehart, Dayton, OH — I have been bi-vocational for eight years. Time management is the greatest challenge. Working 40-50 hours per week at a secular job creates a challenge for adequate preparation time for sermons. You must learn to speak with God and let Him speak to you while you are working. You must be honest enough with yourself that you do not have time to do certain activities, or you simply will run out of time.
Ultimately, full-time ministry is the ideal situation. However, a part-time job may provide the insurance and income necessary to supplement the income from the church.
Spending quality time with your family will keep you inspired. Utilizing and developing a team of leaders in your church to help carry the burden of the church is necessary to prevent burnout.