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Monday, September 13, 2010

2nd Monday Discussion: Bi-vocational Ministry

Recently we received an email from Kevin Bobrow, who is developing a website,, as a place to share about working two jobs at the same time when one of those jobs is ministry.

Kevin writes:

I have been keeping my eyes open since the time I started working on the site for a female pastor who is bi-vocational who could offer her thoughts on these same things (also offering a testimonial).  I have not tracked one down yet, and in my conversations with Adam (Copeland) he pointed me toward your blog...

So are you bi-vocational?  Or are there bi-vocational pastors in your relationships through the blog that might possibly be interested in contributing to the site?

I offered to open this up for input from ring members and readers. I hope you'll jump in via the comments. And thanks to Adam for suggesting us.


  1. I have to admit that as a person whose ministry has unfolded while also being mother to school-age children, I feel like I have a second job, albeit unpaid. It's hard to imagine swinging the mental and physical energy for a second paying job, especially when I have no other job skills and no other means of getting insurance. I would love to hear from people who are finding ways to do this, because given the downturn in church membership and finances, this may be the future for many of us, not just church planters.

  2. Hi if you will contact me at sandi.hire (at), I can get you in contact with an elementary school teacher, and a woman with two churches who works full-time and travels in her work. They would both be very interested in what you are doing.

  3. I believe I can lay claim to the description bi-vocational.

    Four years ago I was serving a congregation part-time and was newly married. My husband is disabled, and though he could do some physical work, he was just beginning to put together a business which could bring in revenue. I knew I needed to find additional work to help us survive financially. The challenge? As we all know, there's no such thing as 9-5 parish ministry. Any supplemental work had to have flexibility and pay well enough to make the effort worthwhile. Hmm.

    I ended up becoming a Pampered Chef consultant. Flexibility and pretty good money when you apply yourself. But I had a self-image problem. A professional degree person supplementing with a home-based, direct-sales business? I was stuck in the perception of the dark ages, but didn't know it. PC is an amazing company, and is a godsend in many ways. One critical offering is that through this work I can be "one of the girls," and not feel that life is constrained by the boundaries that hinder relationships as a pastor. It has become an essential ingredient in maintaining sanity and mental health.

    For a long time I struggled with the idea that my role as pastor had to come first. It is my profession, after all, and putting it first is reasonable. Putting it first, however, got in the way of dedicating sufficient time and effort to developing my PC business. I had difficulty reconciling that it was okay to devote time to the means of our supplemental income. And then one day it hit me. I was bi-vocational! It doesn't fit the traditional image of bi-vocational, but that doesn't alter the reality that I do, in fact, have two jobs.

    I have been a Pampered Chef consultant for three+ years now, and I am grateful for the opportunities that I have through it for professional development (yes, I did just say that), for relationships that I would not have otherwise, and for the means to bring added revenue to our household.

    That's my story.

  4. This subject is close to my heart. I am a Presbyterian minister and a writer, but I never seem to have enough "juice" to do them both at once. I do most of my writing in chunks when I'm away from church, so things proceed very slowly. Perhaps if I could wrap my head around the truly "bi" part of "bivocational" I could do both. It's just hard to limit church work. Plus, I'm mother of two, and even when they're older, they still take a lot of energy at various (unpredictable) moments.

  5. I like the word "bi-vocational" because it admits the possibility that secular work is a true vocation.

    I am a newspaper publisher and the pastor of a small church in a small mountain town 50 miles away (and wife, mother of grown children, caregiver for my mother, published writer, community volunteer). The distance complicates matters, but it also serves to clarify the need for my physical presence.

    It's a balancing act, but then life always is.

  6. I started my ministry bivocationally. I was called to serve a tiny church in a small rural town, and they said straight-up that they couldn't pay me enough for me to live on. Fortunately, I had skills and experience as an administrative assistant, so I got a job working half-time for as an admin asst for a large congregation in the city where I went to seminary. This was 3 hours from my congregation, though, so it was an unusual set-up - I lived and worked in Atlanta 4 days a week and in rural southwest Georgia 3 days a week.

    After several months, I felt too stretched to continue. So I took the plunge of moving entirely to the small town, and found an admin asst job at a nursing home in the same town as my church. Bivocational ministry was somewhat the norm in that area, because the churches were so small.

    Martha, I really resonate with what you've said about motherhood and ministry. I am technically only 3/4-time, but honestly if the church told me tomorrow they'd like to pay me full-time, I can't imagine what more I would do. And I certainly can't imagine how on earth I would pick up a 1/4-time position (not because of the economy, though that too, but b/c I can't imagine finding the hours or the energy while also raising young children). When I first took this position, I dreamed of using that 1/4-time to write, but alas....


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