Freelancing, Money, and Finding a Job in Bivocational Ministry

Bivocational ministry means you’re intentionally leveraging all of life into one calling.

My wife and I have served in bivocational ministry for over 25 years. With our first church plant, we served in the inner city, so we often faced the pressure of “Do we take more money from the church or do we spread out the leadership and help people benevolently in our community?” Looking back over the years, I don’t recall ever taking more than one-third of my salary from our church budget. So, I’m guessing you want to know how I’ve made it work as a bivocational minister?

What is bivocational ministry?

When you think about bivocational ministry, you cannot think of it as doing two things poorly. That’s how most people view bivocational ministry. Many would say, “I’m not quite good enough to get a full salary from my church, and I’m not that good at business, so I’ll just try to do two things in a really lousy fashion and survive.” That’s not what bivocational means.

Bivocational ministry means you’re intentionally leveraging all of life into one calling. It’s not a single option, one-size-fits-all story. Bivocational really is any way to get it done. Getting it done isn’t just paying the bills. Getting it done is building the team and establishing a way of ministry that other people can follow. If you are able to multitask, enjoy doing different things, intentional about how you plan your schedule, and communicate well with your spouse, then you will likely love bivocational ministry.

Over the years, our financial buckets have varied from a combination house painting, driving a delivery truck, writing books, and/or raising financial support, along with some financial support from the church. Most of the time, we weren’t juggling serving our church and one job. We were juggling serving our church and many jobs.

Smart Jobs vs. Not-so-smart Jobs

Many of you have probably tried a job and thought, “Man, that was a bad job.” There is a difference between smart jobs and not-so-smart jobs for bivocational ministers. Smart jobs typically involve making a substantial amount of money relatively quickly or connecting you to a lot of people.

You must know your gifts and abilities to find a job that best fits you as you serve in bivocational ministry. For me, I’m evangelistic and like to be with people, so a bad job would be one that puts me in a cubicle running numbers. However, for some of you, that same job may sound appealing and fit your gifts and skills.

I once talked to a megachurch teaching pastor who regretted giving up his real estate company because he felt called to ministry as a teaching pastor. He later resigned his church salary, remained an unpaid teaching pastor, and went back into the real estate business because it enabled him to engage people in his community and financially support his family and church. This bivocational teaching pastor/real estate agent found a way to get it done and leverage all of life into his calling.

And when you find a smart job, don’t overlook developing your skills or trade. You should invest in and develop your skills just as much as you develop your theology.

What should a church pay you to do?

If you’re serving in a team-based bivocational ministry, you should get paid for what you can do or what no one wants to do for your church and community. Don’t ask for a title or position and the subsequent financial remuneration, and don’t base it on a hierarchy or years of service.

I know a church that has an all bivocational ministry team. Each role is compensated based on total weekly hours given to the church and community. In this church, the director of the church’s homeless shelter is paid more than the teaching pastor because the director role requires more hours in community involvement and engagement.

Remember that serving in bivocational ministry allows you to architect the life you want to live. Commit to your church the things that are unique to your skill set and commit to your trade to financially support your family and get to know the people in your community. That’s how to best leverage all of life into your bivocational ministry calling.

This content by Hugh was adapted from our Bivocational Ministry course. 

Published December 9, 2017

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