Friday, March 25, 2016

Bivocational ministers and entrepreneurs

Wikipedia defines an entrepreneur as "a person who organizes and manages any enterprise, especially a business, usually with considerable initiative and risk." That also sounds like a good definition for a bivocational minister which is why I believe bivocational ministers are entrepreneurs.

Entrepreneurs are risk takers. They often operate their organization outside the box of traditional thinking. They believe there are better ways of doing what their organization does, and they are not afraid to experiment to find out what works and what doesn't.

Entrepreneurs are hard to control. They often don't conform to standard practices. In a world of suits and button-down collars they think every day is casual Friday. They view most policies as ways to avoid creative thinking. They understand that today's "best practices" replaced what was recognized as "best practices" in the past, and they are convinced that there are better practices that should replace the current "best practices."

Corporate offices are afraid of entrepreneurial thinking. Most organizations are risk-averse. The don't want thinking that takes the organization away from the tried-and-true way of doing things even if those ways are no longer as effective. With their eyes on the quarterly statement, they don't want anything that might affect that statement. An organization whose vision is limited to the next quarter cannot afford to have entrepreneurs who are looking long-term.

Everything I've said about entrepreneurs is also true of most bivocational ministers I've known. The very fact of becoming a bivocational minister is to take a risk. We put ourselves out there knowing that we could fail. We're trying to balance a ministry, a second job, a family, and other commitments. There is a huge amount of risk involved in that.

Churches that call bivocational ministers take a risk. Will he or she be able to provide the ministry the church needs with the other responsibilities that person may have? Who will pick up the tasks the bivocational minister cannot do while at work?

Bivocational ministers are by nature creative thinkers. Adding ministry responsibilities to the other demands on our lives requires creative thinking. We often do not understand why our churches do some of the things they do, and we are often challenging them to consider new ways of doing things.

We frighten many in denominational leadership. Many tend to be less involved in denominational activities than our fully-funded colleagues. We're also less likely to buy into the denominational way of thinking. We know our church better than someone in a far-away office, and we're less likely to follow the "best practices" that come down from denominational headquarters.

Bivocational ministers should embrace their entrepreneurial tendencies. Our churches need such thinking. However, let's not become so independent that we refuse to find ways to work with other churches. Let's not be so certain that we are right that we automatically assume everyone else is wrong and that we cannot learn from others. Our churches do not need a Lone Ranger mentality from their pastors.

Some bivocational ministers believe that everything associated with traditional thinking, traditional worship, and traditional ways of doing things must be replaced. We should be careful of such thinking. As someone once said, "Before you remove a fence, first find out why it was put there." Some traditions should be preserved. Others can be changed, but first let's understand why they exist.

The best bivocational ministers will be wise entrepreneurs, and this is a worthy goal for each of us called to this ministry.

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