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Why Your Bivocational Church Must Share Responsibility

I have officially coached several bivocational ministers and worked with dozens of others over the past few years.
At some point in those coaching relationships, the problem of time has always come up.

I have yet to meet a bivocational minister who doesn’t struggle with finding the time to accomplish everything he or she needs to do.

I’ve addressed this in several of my books and discussed the topic in several workshops for bivocational and small church ministers.

I have found that one of the best ways to ease the stress of time pressures is by developing teams in the church to handle some of the ministry tasks that too many bivocational ministers try to do themselves.

When I began my ministry, I believed that I had to touch everything that happened in the church. I was young and a self-admitted workaholic so that wasn’t a problem, but it eventually caught up to me.

After a few years, I was close to burning out. Around the same time, I was diagnosed with clinical depression that was due, in large part, to pastoring a church, working a full-time factory job, attending a Bible school and trying to meet the needs of my wife and two children.

When I write or talk about the dangers of living an unbalanced life, it comes from my own personal experience.

Seeking to address my struggles, I sought out a judicatory leader who explained that much of my problem was that I was trying to be the church by doing it all.

As a result, I was depriving the congregation of the opportunity for them to be the church by cheating them out of the privilege of doing ministry.

The next week I shared with the congregation what I was going through and my conversation with this leader. I also announced some changes in how I would serve as their pastor. 

The changes weren’t easy, as there was a learning curve for me as well as for the church, but they were both necessary and effective.

â—     My wife and I began to schedule a weekly date night, which we seldom missed.

â—     I had seldom taken both weeks of my vacation, but I began to do that and requested the church give me two additional weeks, which they did.

â—     I no longer attended meetings where my presence wasn’t needed.

â—     I stopped doing things for which other people had accepted responsibility, and if those tasks weren’t done I referred those who inquired to the responsible party.

â—     I scheduled “white space” in my calendar to give me time to address emergencies without it creating unneeded stress.

As I implemented these changes, I began to recognize that self-care was not being selfish but practicing good stewardship of myself.

A resource I wish I had back then is Terry Dorsett’s book, “Developing Leadership Teams in the Bivocational Church.”

Bivocational ministers do not have to do everything in the church, and we shouldn’t, he explains. Our biblical role as explained in Ephesians 4 is to equip the saints to do the work of ministry.

Dorsett’s book is one of the best I have found to help the pastor identify and train the various teams that a particular church might need. 

He provides guidance on identifying the ministry roles of the pastor and the congregation as well as training resources and evaluation procedures.

This is an excellent resource that should be in the library of every bivocational minister, but it shouldn’t be put on the shelf. 

It should be used continuously in training people on how they can use the gifts God has given them to serve both him and others around them.

John Maxwell has a saying that “Teamwork makes the dream work.” I think that’s especially true for bivocational ministers and the churches in which they serve.

Most people are engaged in bivocational ministry because they sensed God was calling them to do so, and they begin with wonderful dreams of making a difference for God.

However, for too many, those dreams turned into nightmares when they allowed themselves to become over-extended.

If bivocational ministers want to see those original dreams accomplished, they need to invest in developing and training teams that will lead to more effective ministry than if they try to do everything alone.

Dennis Bickers served as the bivocational pastor of Hebron Baptist Church near Madison, Ind., 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.