Three Roads to Joy in Bi-vocational Ministry
By Matt Heerema
I know many other bi-vocational ministers, those who aren’t able to be paid enough by their congregation to meet the needs of their family, and so need to take a second job to make ends meet. Many of them wish things were otherwise. I’d like to offer three avenues to joy in bi-vocational ministry.
1. EMBRACE ALL YOUR VOCATIONS AS FROM AND FOR GOD.
Vocation simply means “calling” and refers to all the things God calls us to do. Notice the plural “things.” This is crucial. In fact, most of us are at least bi-vocational. You probably have 4-5 callings. Husband, father, pastor, businessman, these are my main four.
Be comforted by one implication of God’s sovereignty: the roles you find yourself right now are your calling. Embrace that “second job” with the same reverent awe that you would the ministry work, because God has called you to it. Think Colossians 3:23.
2. REJECT THE OPPRESSION OF DUALISM
The reason we find it difficult to think of our “secular” tasks (writing code, checking groceries, digging ditches, changing diapers, cleaning the house) as important as ministry work is not because of the teaching of the scriptures, but rather because of Aristotelean dualism. Aristotle taught that some activities in life (namely: mental / intellectual pursuits) were “more human” than others (physical labor). Aristocracy and slavery were the result.
This idea was pulled into the church by Eusebius, and the clergy/laity split was born. Today this dualism oppresses the consciences of many who desire to live a sold-out life for Jesus.
This split should be rejected. Every task can be a holy, kingdom building, God pleasing task. Ministry work does not occupy a categorically more important role in the Kingdom of God.
Yes, Gospel ministry is critical, and every Christian has Gospel ministry as part of their vocation. But only a vast minority are called to make their living from full-time engagement in it.
3. LEARN MAKE THE BEST USE OF YOUR TIME
A bi-vocational work life can be exceedingly stressful. The oppression of dualism, combined with physical strain on our time and energy, are huge sources of strain for a bi-vocational minister as we try to get all the good things done. Thus, the Scriptures exhort us to make the best use of our time.
Most good business and productivity thinkers out there will clue you in to the 80-20 rule: 80% of our effect is produced by 20% of our effort. Everyone must be aware of this, but for the bi-vocational minister, it is absolutely crucial.
You have heard that the enemy of the best is not the bad, but the good. We must carefully examine our life and our work and determine where our greatest effect comes from, and, in faith, learn to say “no” to the good things that get in the way of the best. You have been given a limited amount of time, and two domains to steward. Because of this, you must learn to have a plan and a process for all of your tasks. Tim has some excellent posts along this line on this site.
Work relentlessly, restfully.
As I have pursued the above three disciplines, I have found an immense amount of vision and joy in running a business, designing, and writing code for many different kinds of businesses and organizations. It is possible to have peace and joy in the midst of the hustle of life as we understand and work in all of God’s callings on our life.