Thursday, February 12, 2015

Transitioning into bivocational ministry

This week I received a question from a reader of this blog who senses that he will soon transition into bivocational ministry after spending years as a fully-funded pastor.  One of his primary concerns is what he will do to supplement his ministerial salary.  It is a question I receive with increasing regularity.

The concern goes something like this.  An individual graduated from college and seminary and went directly into pastoral ministry.  Other than summer jobs he or she has never really done anything except ministry.  Now it appears that he or she will need to become bivocational or find another church to serve.  The minister really doesn't want to change churches, but at the same time isn't certain what kind of skills he or she has that will be marketable outside the church.  

When this issue is raised there are some questions I like to ask as I coach them through this transitional challenge.
  • What kinds of jobs have you had outside of ministry?  Maybe these were summer jobs, but they gave you work experience in the secular world.  Did you find these jobs enjoyable, and is this something you can do again as a bivocational minister?
  • Did you always know you were called into the ministry or did your sense of purpose change as you were going through college?  One pastor replied to this question that he actually planned on going into teaching after college, but before graduating realized that God was calling him into pastoral ministry.  As we discussed this he became excited that he could fulfill his earlier desire to teach while serving as a bivocational minister.
  • What was your major in college?  This is a close cousin to the previous question in that it reveals a previous interest in a potential career.  It also shows the minister that he or she has some education in a career other than ministry.  It opens up possible options for them.
  • What pastoral gifts do you have that might be transferable into other careers?  A pastor who is naturally gifted in counseling may consider pursuing a career in counseling alongside his or her pastoral ministry.  One who is gifted in the area of administration might find work as a leader in an organization.  I know one bivocational pastor who was asked to head up a local organization that works with families and youth.  It is a perfect match for his gifts and passion.  You may have to take some courses before being certified in some field, but this could be a great investment in yourself as you transition into bivocational ministry.
As you begin to answer these questions it will quickly become apparent that you have many marketable skills that are needed in the secular workplace.  It then becomes a matter of seeking out the right position that will be a good match for those gifts and that will be a good match for your ministry.

Transitioning from being fully-funded to becoming a bivocational minister is often difficult, but it's not impossible.  Spend some time with a good coach, work through these questions, pray, discuss things with your spouse and church leadership, and then begin looking for the right opportunities.  If God is calling you to make this transition you can trust him to open doors that will make it possible.

No comments: