Monday, September 8, 2014

What can I do if I need to become bivocational?

Every few weeks I receive a phone call from a pastor who is concerned about the finances of his or her church. This concern is often centered on the prospect that he or she will be asked to become bivocational. The pastor usually has some questions about what that looks like. It's not uncommon for the pastor to state that he or she really doesn't know what else they can do. In some cases, ministry is all they've ever done.  After high school they went to college and then on to seminary to prepare for ministry. Other than summer jobs they've never worked in anything but ministry-related work.

Sometimes I am able to help them identify some ministry skills they have that might be transferable to other employment. One pastor told me his major in college was education and his original career choice was to be a teacher until God called him into ministry. I asked him why he couldn't become a teacher if his church did ask him to be bivocational. At the very least, he could probably find steady work as a substitute teacher, and if this was something he enjoyed it could work out very well for him and the church.

Although it doesn't work for everyone, being self-employed can be a great option for a bivocational minister. It certainly allows the minister to have more flexible hours that allows him or her to be more accessible to the church when needed. The articles I post nearly every day on Facebook are usually divided between being ministry related and small business related. The reason I do this is that I am interested in both subjects, and I know many of my readers are owners of small businesses.

Often, a bivocational minister will find that a hobby or interest can become the springboard to a successful small business. For several years I have enjoyed going to auctions and buying antiques and collectibles that I resell on E-bay or in my booths in a local antique mall and in a flea market mall. That interest led me to become a licensed auctioneer, and I now have an auction business in addition to my ministry.  I would caution anyone thinking about turning a hobby or interest into a business to read The E-Myth Revisited: Why Most Small Businesses Don't Work and What to Do About It. This classic will explain some of the challenges that small business owners have to overcome when starting a new business. You may also want to read an e-book I wrote titled Mistakes: Avoiding the Mistakes that Will Close Your Small Business.   That book describes the mistakes I made that forced us to have to close a small business that we owned and the lessons I learned from those mistakes.  After reading these two books if you still feel ready to start a small business you are more likely to be successful.

While transitioning from being a fully-funded pastor to a bivocational one is never an easy transition it will give you opportunities to meet new people and minister to them in ways that serving in a church will not. For instance, a lady called me one evening saying she had to hand over the keys to a house she had sold in a few days and could not move everything into her much smaller apartment. She didn't know what to do and was advised to call me. I was able to take her extra items and sell them at auction. Not only did she not have to worry about what to do with her extra furniture, she also received a nice check to help with her moving expenses. During the course of our conversation I had the opportunity to let her know I was a minister. The very next week I was asked to be the auctioneer at our local United Way annual meeting to kick off this year's fundraising effort. My introduction to a large group of people I had never met included my previous pastoral ministry and my current role in judicatory ministry. What a great opportunity to connect with some of our community leaders!

If you believe your church may ask you to become bivocational, don't panic. Take some time to look at your skills and gifts and see which ones might transfer into a secular position. You may want to seek some guidance from someone who has already made this transition or you may want a coach to help guide you through this transition. Don't look at it as a negative but see it as a new opportunity to connect with and minister to people who may have never come into your church.

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