I’ve been bi-vocational for some time and I wish I had something positive to say about it. The reality is, you’re going to be put into impossible situations where you can’t possibly see to the needs of the church, your other occupation, and your family at the same time.
There will be times when you just can’t be there for the church and some people will be upset about this. There are times when the demands of the church will put a strain on your other employment. There are times when your wife and children just aren’t going to see you much. While we shouldn’t sacrifice our families to our work, we have to provide for them and you’ll have seasons where your occupations DEMAND every waking moment.
For example, a couple weeks ago, one of our breaker boxes went out and to get it fixed has required days sitting in government offices for permits and inspections (long story how it came to that). This has lead to me working from 7:00AM to 11:00PM (16 hour work days!) every day for the last week and a half to take care of all the obligations that are on me. Sometimes these sorts of things happen and there just isn’t going to be anyone who can help and it’s going to all fall upon you. In the above example, everyone else has jobs and can’t be available or can’t legally represent us with the county.
Now…what does a building’s electrical system have to do with our calling to preach the gospel? It doesn’t, but practically, as the only member on staff in the church you’re probably going to have to oversee many things that other men with jobs can’t (even though you have another job too!).
There is also likely to be a challenge with finances. When expenses come up for the church, and people say, “let’s just trust God with the money”, what that really means is YOU are going to have to trust God with the money because any shortfall is going to come out of your support check. What’s worse, I’ve seen people who say, “let’s trust God with the money”, pull up into the church parking lot in a brand new SUV right after my having received a substantial pay-cut. Trusting the Lord with church finances often means that only the pastor’s family is eating beanie weenies.
You may think that a man embittered in the ministry is writing this but I actually happen to pastor a wonderful little church. While my situation could be greatly improved if everyone would faithfully tithe (I’ve never seen that in any church), the people at CRC are very supportive and encouraging. I think in many ways, my situation is fairly optimal as a bi-vocational pastor.
What I am saying is…it is going to be HARD, especially as the years roll by and the bi-vocational situation remains. My advice is, KNOW WHAT YOU ARE GETTIN INTO! Discuss these matters with your wife. Lead her and pray that God grant her commitment to this as well as yourself. You are going to need her understanding and support and never forget that she is the most important congregant you need to shepherd. If the burdens become to great for her, it will likely cause you to need to step out of the ministry.
So…my number one bit of practical advice to the bi-vocational pastor, love your wife fervently, and lead her into the joys of Christ. I remain in the ministry today with all of the burdens it has placed upon my family in large part because my wife is supportive and on board with this calling. She is a wonderful, godly Christian woman and no doubt used by God in a powerful way to help me be much more the man than I could ever be without her. On my part, and more than ever as a bi-vocational pastor, I need to lead and encourage her in the faith.
Robert Truelove, Pastor
Christ Reformed Church