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How to Make the Transition to Bivocational Ministry

I receive a phone call from pastors who are concerned about the finances of their churches every few weeks.
This concern is often centered on the prospect that they will be asked to become bivocational.

Pastors usually have some questions about what that looks like. It’s not uncommon for pastors to state that they really don’t know what else they can do.

In some cases, ministry is all they’ve ever done. After high school, they went to college and then on to seminary to prepare for ministry. Other than summer jobs, they’ve never worked in anything but ministry-related work.

Sometimes, I am able to help them identify some ministry skills they have that might be transferable to other employment.

One pastor told me his major in college was education and his original career choice was to be a teacher until God called him into ministry.

I asked him why he couldn’t become a teacher if his church did ask him to be bivocational.

At the very least, he could probably find steady work as a substitute teacher. If this was something he enjoyed, it could work out very well for him and the church.

Although it doesn’t work for everyone, being self-employed can be a great option for a bivocational minister.

It certainly allows the minister to have more flexible hours, which helps him or her to be more accessible to the church when needed.

Often, a bivocational minister will find that a hobby or interest can become the springboard to a successful small business.

For example, for several years I have enjoyed going to auctions and buying antiques and collectibles that I resell on eBay or in my booths in a local antique mall and in a flea market mall.

That interest led me to become a licensed auctioneer, and I now have an auction business in addition to my ministry.

I would caution anyone thinking about turning a hobby or interest into a business to do some research first.

If you still feel ready to start a small business after doing your research and talking with others who have learned by experience, you are more likely to be successful.

While transitioning from being a fully funded pastor to a bivocational one is never easy, it will give you opportunities to meet new people and minister to them in ways that serving in a church will not.

For instance, a lady called me one evening saying she had to hand over the keys to a house she had sold in a few days and could not move everything into her much smaller apartment. She didn’t know what to do and was advised to call me.

I was able to take her extra items and sell them at auction. Not only did she not have to worry about what to do with her extra furniture, she also received a nice check to help with her moving expenses.

During the course of our conversation, I had the opportunity to let her know I was a minister.

The very next week, I was asked to be the auctioneer at our local United Way annual meeting to kick off this year’s fundraising effort.

My introduction to a large group of people I had never met included my previous pastoral ministry and my current role in judicatory ministry.

My bivocational ministry provided me a great opportunity to connect with some of our community leaders.

If you believe your church may ask you to become bivocational, don’t panic. Take some time to look at your skills and gifts and see which ones might transfer into a secular position.

You may want to seek some guidance from someone who has already made this transition or you may want a coach to help guide you through it.

Don’t look at it as a negative, but see it as a new opportunity to connect with and minister to people who may have never come into your church.

Dennis Bickers served as the bivocational pastor of Hebron Baptist Church near Madison, Indiana, for 20 years before accepting his current position as a resource minister with the American Baptist Churches of Indiana and Kentucky. A version of this article first appeared on his blog, Bivocational Ministry, and is used with permission. You can follow him on Twitter @DennisBickers.