When I was a bi-vocational pastor, it was easy to feel like a second-class minister. I’d often lament the fact that I didn’t have the time needed to invest in the people under my care, or the time I needed to network and build relationships.
It can be emotionally and physically draining to work full or part time while pastoring. When I moved into full-time ministry, I saw this season entirely different. Here are some areas I would have handled differently if I could do it again.
1. Count your blessings
Believe it or not, there are some things that bi-vocational pastors have over their full-time counterparts.
- Bi-vocational pastors are more aware of the trials in the workaday world where most people live.
- Bi-vocational pastors have more opportunities to build relationships with people who may never come to church.
- Bi-vocational pastors will have open dialogue with people at work who wouldn’t be as comfortable talking to a “pastor.”
It’s important for pastors who are working outside the church to recognize and take advantage of their special opportunities.
2. Invite people into your life
You’ll have to be creative when it comes to meeting with people, but it can pay huge dividends. Invite people to have lunch with you at work, step out to coffee with them, or have them into your home after work. When you’re working a nine-to-five job, you’re going to need to find innovative ways to meet your time limitations.
What’s nice is that people will generally open up to you more when your relationship is being built away from the kind, but sometimes intimidating, auspice of the church.
3. Set appropriate boundaries
Every pastor struggles with maintaining strong boundaries. It becomes even more important when you’re working outside the church. I have found that people are more apt to respect your boundaries when you’re working to support yourself apart from the church. Full-time pastors don’t work any less than bi-vocational pastors (sometimes more), but the perspective of your congregation changes when you’re employed elsewhere—they’ll generally give you the space you need.
4. Create a strong infrastructure
Bi-vocational pastors will burn themselves out fast when they’re trying to do it all themselves. It’s important that they create the structure and team needed to get the job done. Like any minister, a bi-vocational pastor needs to pour energy into creating leadership to carry some of ministry’s burden. But they don’t just need people, they need systems and tools to help them, too.
Find tools that other pastors are using to save them time, and use them yourself. Learning to use some of the time-management tools and software solutions available (like Proclaim) will make a world of difference.
Have any other tips for bi-vocational pastors? Tell us about them in the comments!
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