Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Two Jobs, One Ministry

Two Jobs, One Ministry is the subtitle of my 2004 book The Bivocational Minister.  A common temptation for some bivocational ministers is to focus so much on their church work that they neglect their other employment.  I have known bivocational pastors who were nearly fired from their jobs because they kept missing work to conduct funerals.  I've known others who spent time on their second jobs calling members of their churches and conducting other church business.  From personal experience I know how easy it is to become so focused on something occurring at the church that your mind isn't on your other work even when you are there.  There are a couple of problems when these kinds of things happen.

One, you are stealing from your employer when you are focused on your church work when you are at your other place of employment.  That employer didn't hire you to be a pastor; you were hired for a task at this place of employment.  The pastor I mentioned earlier who almost got fired for absenteeism for conducting so many funerals was angry when he was written up for excessive absences and told he would be fired if he missed another day within a certain period of time.  He complained to me that the company didn't understand that he had a responsibility as a minister.  I responded he evidently didn't understand that he wasn't hired by this company to be a minister.  He didn't care a lot for my response, but it was the truth.  Actually, I worked for this same employer, and they were very understanding when things came up.  His problem was that he took advantage of their understanding.  I saved a few vacation days for emergencies such as funerals and took virtually no personal days to do church work.  If something unexpected came up and I had to take off, the company was understanding because I didn't abuse it.  I think the New Testament is clear that Christians are to be excellent employees, and that includes those of us who are bivocational.

The second problem is that we can't ignore our responsibilities at our job all week and then flip on the switch and become a great minister on weekends.  If we goof off at our second job we will likely goof off at our ministry work as well.  The problem many of us have as bivocational ministers is that we do not find our second jobs very exciting or fulfilling.  They may pay the bills, but they may not make good use of our giftedness, so we don't have the same enthusiasm at that job as we do when we are ministering.

My primary spiritual gifts are preaching, teaching, and leadership.  For nearly all of my twenty years in a bivocational pastorate I worked in a factory on the assembly line or one of many machining lines.  No matter what job I had in the factory, it did not allow me to use the primary areas in which God has gifted me.  If I allowed it to, that work could have become very boring, and I would have coasted through my work just trying to make it to the weekend.  I decided to not do that.

I enrolled in college taking courses that benefitted both my work and my ministry.  My employer paid for my tuition which allowed me to earn my bachelor's degree at minimal cost.  The company I worked for offered a lot of in-house training, and I took as many of those courses as possible, especially the ones related to computers.  I served on the company's community relations committee which allowed me to better understand the needs of the community in which I lived and ministered.  My final two years with that company I had a very unique position that allowed me to provide leadership in the plant even though I remained a member of our union.  Even though I looked forward to taking early retirement, when the day came there was a measure of sadness because that company had allowed me to grow and develop as a person, and through that development I believe I became a better minister.

It is important to remember that regardless of which job you may be doing, you are still a minister.  When a person asked me once if I was a full-time or part-time pastor I responded that I was a full-time bivocational minister.  No matter what I was doing, I am a minister 24/7/365, and so are you.  Don't be one thing at your day job and try to be something else as a minister.  Ecc. 9: 10 says, "Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with your might...."  Regardless of what you are doing, you are a minister.  Exercise that ministry wherever you are.

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