One of the challenges a bivocational minister must face is choosing a career besides his or her ministry. In recent years I've had a number of conversations with fully-funded pastors whose churches were considering asking them to become bivocational due to financial issues. Virtually, all of them were concerned that they were not trained to do anything else. After some discussion we were usually able to find some possible career choices for them based on their interests or their undergrad degrees, but this can be a difficult decision for one to make when he or she has only seen their calling to be church ministry.
Some of us, like my own experience, had other jobs when we entered ministry so this wasn't a big issue. I had a very good factory job when I became a pastor, and I remained there until I was eligible for early retirement.
However, the future challenge for bivocational ministers is how will they remain employable in the secular world. I worked for my employer for 30 years and qualified for early retirement. Those days are virtually over. People entering the work force today do not expect to remain at one job for 30 years and leave with a gold watch. Many young people today think that a year in the same job is an eternity. Even if people do remain with one company, the needs of most companies are rapidly changing, and the skills required to remain current on many jobs are changing just as rapidly. In his fascinating book, Promote Yourself: The New Rules for Career Success, Dan Schawbel points out that one estimate is that 60 percent of new jobs by 2015 will require skills that only 20 percent of the population currently has.
Several years ago I heard Zig Ziglar warn his audience that there was no longer anything such as job security regardless of your career. He said the challenge was to seek employment security, and the only way to do that was to be a life-long learner. Schawbel makes the same point in his book. To remain employable one must continually be learning new skills and become known as the go-to person in the company.
As a bivocational minister this may seem impossible. How can we serve a church, work a second job, meet the needs of our families, have any kind of life for ourselves, and find the time to continually be learning new skills? It's not impossible, but it's also not easy, but we really have no choice if we believe we are called to bivocational ministry.
Actually, bivocational ministers may find it easier to learn these skills than they think. Many employers now offer classes that will teach those skills in-house. Often, these classes are even taught during working hours. My employer offered numerous courses that almost anyone in the company could attend, and they were all taught during working hours so it didn't require any additional time on our part. I took many of those courses that were related to my work to improve my skill sets, and I took many that were not directly related to what I was doing at the time so I could be better prepared for something else in the future.
Some of those latter courses involved computers. I took some introductory computer classes that began with showing us how to turn them on! Later, I took classes on the various tools found in Microsoft Office and learned how to use them. When I bought my first computer one of the first programs I bought was Office. Not only did I have new skills to use at my work, but I now had new skills that made ministry much easier, and I was able to learn how to use it through classes taught by my secular employer who paid me to attend the classes. It doesn't get much better than that!
Be sure to check with your employer to see if they offer classes or will pay for you to take courses off-site so you can learn the skills needed in the 21st century to remain employable. You'll find that many of those skills will transfer over into your ministry enabling you to do a better job there as well. Being a life-long learner is no longer an option if we want to remain employable in the future, and it's not an option if we want to be faithful to our call to bivocational ministry.