This is a guest post by John Sampson.
John is a Residence Director who supports discipleship and missional work for Oasis Church in Pasadena, CA. He blogs on church mission, leadership, and life at Jon Sampson. Jon also Twitters at @jonsampson.
Rhett’s recent post on bivocational ministry caught my attention. I guess it makes sense. The bivocational thing is the life I’m living as a Resident Director on a college campus and a Life Group’s pastor at a local church.
For me (and I’m sure, a lot of others), bivocational ministry is not a short-term thing for someone who can’t get a full-time ministry job. It’s a choice of ministry style based on what it produces. I believe bivocational ministry can be healthier for both the pastor and the church. Not only that, but it instills some powerful values in the organizations where actions speak louder than words.
But before we dive in to some of the why, let me share a little of the context. The models we have today aren’t disappearing. I don’t think the bivocational thing is the only way. But if we want Christianity to thrive as a culture changes and resist marginalization, we have to be willing to try all sorts of models to connect with all sorts of people.
I believe the bivocational thing is one way this is going to happen. It allows ministries to grow slowly and keeps Christians outside of the church where they can connect with others. I’m still learning how to do this thing, but I believe that despite the challenges, it’s important.
I recently shared six reasons why I believe bivocational ministry makes a difference on my blog. Here they are with quick summaries and an additional thought.
- Why Bivocational? Shared Responsibility: All Christians have a job to do. We can’t leave the ‘ministry” side of life to the paid “sage on the stage.”
- Why Bivocational? Money Goes To Ministry: Less overhead forces/enables people to look at what God is doing around them and see how to serve and bless others. (This is especially true in a house/simple church model).
- Why Bivocational? A Good Kind of Messy: Removing the strong “staff–everyone else” divide flattens the power structure, which may usher in more conflict. But it’s conflict that would be there in any model–It’s just hidden in others. Here, people are forced to deal with problems instead of ignoring them.
- Why Bivocational? It’s Sustainable: If you’re planting a church, it’s tempting to grow quickly to become self-supporting. But often that leads to shortcuts that transfer Christians rather than reach out to engage people outside of the church. Bivocational ministry allows for slower growth pattern.
- Why Bivocational? You’re Not Special: When you no longer get paid to have a quiet time and think spiritual thoughts, others who have 9-5 jobs find it easier to connect with your message.
- Why Bivocational? You Can’t Do It Alone?: Time is limited. You simply can’t do as much as a full-time minister. But that’s a good thing. It forces reliance upon teams. More people are involved in ministry. More gifts are used. Everyone wins.
And Finally–Vocation Is A Powerful Connecting Point
My job as a Residence Director has done more to inform how I mobilize and lead groups at church than any seminary class or church experience I ever did. And as an added benefit to my employer, my work at church preaching, connecting relationally, problem solving and casting vision has made me a better communicator, problem solver, and connector at work.
On a simply “practical” side, bivocational ministry allows for a constant cross-pollination within two areas of passion. When we are in one place for too long, it’s easy to get tunnel vision and only see how things have been done in the past. But the “job-church” lifestyle forces us out of those patterns.
But beyond simply learning new ideas for leadership, these connections within a “non-clergy” job allow us to form real, lasting relationships within the community. It’s amazing the kinds of relationships and connections that are formed simply from working alongside people over time. Those connections go beyond one job and move along relational lines through the whole community. Through these day-to-day interactions, friendships are formed in ways that enhance the ministry of the church and are–honestly–just healthy for the minister.
So those are my raw thoughts. I’m still fleshing this out. It’s new. But I see value in it. It’s challenging, but I really feel it’s worth the challenges.
What benefits would you add? Or possibly debate?