The Joys and Chaos of Sharing Bivocational Ministry


We are overjoyed to have these opportunities for work in specialized areas that would not be possible in pastoral ministry alone, Jackson writes.

July marks the beginning of my fifth year as a bivocational minister.

Not only do I serve a local church as pastor, but I also work for a graduate theological school.

To complicate matters more, my husband works as a bivocational minister in much the same way, as both local church pastor and retirement community chaplain.

Together, we actually job share the pastorate of a small church. So, ours is a household of two persons with three ministries.

Dull moments are rare. Our journey thus far has been replete with both the joys of freedom and challenges of chaos. We have learned a great deal in the process.

Working bivocationally has granted us tremendous creative, intellectual and relational freedom to pursue ministry interests and passions outside the local church.

Though we both love our congregation and church work, I thrive in an educational setting, the world of books and ideas, while my husband excels at pastoral care, the world of people and feelings.

We are overjoyed to have these opportunities for work in specialized areas that would not be possible in pastoral ministry alone.

Multiple income streams afford us freedom to be generous with others and ourselves in ways we never experienced while living on a single income.

We have always been faithful, disciplined givers, but now we practice even greater generosity in planned giving and special giving without hesitation.

In addition to the ability to give so much more to the church and the world, we enjoy travel experiences that we never dreamed possible.

Adopting a bivocational work style frees us from significant financial stress.

Church compensation often does not increase with the cost of living; it is difficult to provide for today and plan for the future when salaries do not keep pace with economic patterns.

Because we are not solely dependent on pastoral salaries to provide for our family's needs, we experience fewer worries related to church budgeting. Though we might be disappointed by lack of salary increases, we are not completely devastated.

On the flip side, bivocational ministry life is exceedingly messy.

As a person who prizes order and thrives with a routine, this aspect of our life is the most challenging for me.

Though we share a pastorate, we keep opposite church schedules and then go to other jobs on opposite days also.

Because of that, we serve together only on Sundays, and if we need to work together on something, we must do that during evenings at home. That, of course, cuts into family time.

While we prioritize time for self-care and Sabbath, the only way to keep necessary appointments in some cases is to use evenings or days dedicated to rest.

On top of that, we occasionally forget each other's schedule, so doing a calendar together about once a month is absolutely necessary and helpful in calming the chaos. Admittedly, some seasons feel more chaotic than others.

The learning curve is steep for bivocational ministers, and we experience this firsthand.

We are learning to set boundaries and say "no" for our own sake, each other's sake and the sake of healthy working relationships.

We are learning just how imperative it is to communicate clearly with our employers and with each other; if we do not, our schedules, work and personal lives suffer.

We are learning to balance not only maintaining the delicate and familiar work-family-home balance but also juggling the vocational expectations of multiple employers.

We are learning to divide the labor at home in equitable ways. While I formerly maintained the home, now we share the tasks of meal preparation, laundry and housekeeping so that the burden does not fall to one person.

Needless to say, we are still learning.

As we mark this ministry anniversary, I am exceedingly grateful for every opportunity to serve. The joys of freedom far outweigh the challenges of chaos, even on the craziest days.

Though we will never master ministry and we are still learning how to be faithful to this unique calling, I am confident that the one who began this good work in our lives is faithful to complete it.

Angela Jackson serves as money and ministry program director at Central Seminary in Shawnee, Kansas, and co-pastor of Gage Park Baptist Church in Topeka, Kansas. She is especially interested in financial formation for faithful ministry; it is the subject matter of the doctor of ministry research in which she is presently engaged. You can follow her on Twitter @pastorangie43.

Editor's note: This article is part of a series focused on bivocational ministry.

The previous article in the series is:

Meeting the Needs of Emerging Bivocational Ministers

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Tags: Angela Jackson, Bivocational Ministry, Church Trends


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