“The unique challenges of pastoral ministry are well known. These unique challenges are only compounded when the pastor is bi-vocational. Time constraints, financial concerns, and difficulty accomplishing basic pastoral priorities often define this ministry. These constraints cause a unique temptation for the bi-vocational pastor to neglect caring for his own soul.”
The alarm rings at 5:00 a.m. on Wednesday morning. He fumbles down the stairs. Shower, coffee, Bible, prayer, and out the door to work. Today will be a long day. He starts his delivery route at 6:30 a.m., does the first leg of his route and comes back to the warehouse. He changes into a suit, and drives to a funeral home. Phil had cancer, and passed away a few days before. He officiates the funeral, seeking to serve the family and proclaim the gospel.
After the graveside service, he returns to the warehouse for the second leg of his delivery route. He finishes around 4:30 p.m., just in time for a quick dinner with his wife and kids, before leaving the house again to lead prayer meeting at the church, and have a meeting with one of the deacons about the Thanksgiving potluck that weekend. He gets home at 9:00 p.m., debriefs with his wife, and collapses in bed. Tomorrow will be full, too. He is behind on Sunday’s sermon.
The unique challenges of pastoral ministry are well known. These unique challenges are only compounded when the pastor is bi-vocational. Time constraints, financial concerns, and difficulty accomplishing basic pastoral priorities often define this ministry. These constraints cause a unique temptation for the bi-vocational pastor to neglect caring for his own soul.
If I have learned anything in my first two years of bi-vocational ministry, it’s this: I must give strategic forethought for caring for my own soul. How can a bi-vocational pastor maintain a vibrant, dynamic, and realistic relationship with Christ?
Before we get strategic, we need to feel the weight of the war. Consider two unique weights bi-vocational pastors carry:
Bi-vocational pastors experience unique spiritual opposition. All Christians wage war against his own flesh (Gal 5:17), the world (1 John 2:15), and the devil (Eph 6:12). But bi-vocational pastors often experience this war in unique isolation. Bi-vocational pastors often serve small churches with limited or elderly congregants at the end of their life, and are not able to give the spiritual support and friendship a pastor needs. The bi-vocational pastor can be viewed as a chaplain who preaches sermons, visits hospitals, and conducts funerals, but not a growing Christian in need of normal spiritual relationships just as much as his congregants.
The heaviness of the opposition is compounded by the second weight: bi-vocational pastors experience unique limits. All faithful pastors regularly feel pressed to their limits. Bi-vocational pastors feel this pressure especially in the area of time and energy. By definition bi-vocational pastors are balancing pastoral ministry, family, and another part-time or full-time job.