Bivocational Ministry, Part 3:
Rethinking Our Perception of Bivocational Ministry

March 28, 2012

Dr. Dorsett is a bivocational pastor and church planting missionary in Vermont. He is the author of Developing Leadership Teams in the Bivocational Church and Bible Brain Teasers: Fun Adventures through the Bible. He also serves as a church planting catalyst with the North American Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention. He has a passion for helping the next generation discover a meaningful faith and become leaders in sharing that faith with others.

This series looks at the importance of bivocational ministry and bivocational ministers in today’s church. The previous articles in this series are:
Part 1: Bivocational Ministry is a Growing Method for Ministry.
Part 2: Lay People Are Willing to Help Pastors – But Only If They Are Trained.

Though many people think of bivocational ministry as being a negative experience, I do not share that opinion. Though bivocational ministry has its challenges, it always had great rewards.

One of the challenges that bivocational pastors must overcome is a perceived second-class status in ministry. Over time, this perception has resulted in a negative social stigma being attached to the concept of bivocational ministry. Some pastors feel a sense of inadequacy when serving in bivocational roles. They may not even want to think of themselves as bivocational because of the perceived stigma attached to the term. I have heard many pastors declare that they are not bivocational; they just work a second job. They deny the reality of what they are because somewhere along the way someone told them that being bivocational was negative. I want to challenge that notion and proclaim to everyone that being bivocational is not a bad thing.

Due to a lack of understanding, people will occasionally refer to bivocational pastors as part-time pastors, which is a misnomer because all pastors are on call twenty-four hours a day. Therefore, there are no actual part-time pastors. There are a number of full-time pastors who are only being partially compensated for their work and therefore have to seek additional employment in order to support their families. Do not insult a bivocational pastor by referring to him as part-time. He deserves more respect than that from the people he serves and from his fully-funded peers.

Though some people may misunderstand this special calling to bivocational ministry, it is a calling that the early church knew well. The Apostle Paul was bivocational. Down through the centuries there have always been bivocational ministers. Sometimes the percentage of bivocational pastors has been higher, and sometimes lower. This has resulted in many waves of bivocational ministry ebbing and flowing as the situation dictated. The wave of bivocationalism that is currently sweeping North America is a combination of a general weakening economy, a lack of commitment to stewardship within the churches, and a new understanding of the importance of bivocational ministry.

Small churches need good pastors. Many of those pastors will likely be bivocational. Those pastors will need to overcome the false impression that they are second-class pastors. Pastors much educate themselves and their congregations about this issue. One tool that can be used in this education process is Developing Leadership Teams in the Bivocational Church. I wrote this material not just for pastors, but for all leaders in the small church. As leaders read it together, they will be able to rethink bivocational ministry. They will learn to value and appreciate the pastors of small churches, which is essential for effective bivocational ministry.