How (Not) To Be a Bivocational Pastor

Sometimes Bivocational Ministry Feels Like This

The Christian internet was full of dustups this week, largely concerning the continued tension between faith and doubt, theism and atheism. If you’d like to check out those conversations, you can start here and here.

But there were also a great and generative conversation started about the practices of bivocational ministry and the future of church leadership. Both culture and church are changing rapidly as is the role of pastor/Christian leader, with bivocational ministry becoming a reality for more pastors and leaders.

Three helpful voices each spoke to different aspects of the challenges and nuances of bivocational leadership.

Zach Hoag writes about the staying power of the Institution:

How can a rooted, missional, redemptive kingdom presence emerge in this cultural space that is also connected, ordered, accountable, and sustainable? How can a shalom-filled ministry take root in a parish that is also experiencing unity within a larger body in a healthy way? Truly missional ministry will certainly mean a departure from corrupt, self-obsessed, and bloated economies. And it may mean bivocational ministry in part-time and volunteer capacities.

Scott Emery asks how bivocational minsistry plays out in non-majority contexts:

Sushi maker at a grocery store. Educator within the prison system. Public school counselor. These are just a few of the jobs I can list off the top of my head that belong to non-majority pastors I’m acquainted with. For them and many others, having a second job isn’t something they sought out because of its current appeal. No, for them it is life. There is not another way of being rooted in their contexts in true incarnational ways outside of working outside of the church.

And Chris Morton debunks three straw-man arguments he’s seen used to defend bivocational ministry from his own experience as a bivocational leader:

I’m not for or against bi-vocational ministry, but I am opposed to any elitism that may accompany it. It is important that we humbly seek God’s calling in our situation. Many criticisms used by fans of this approach are actually criticisms of theology, strategy and ecclesiology, not arguments against paid ministry positions. 

What do you think?

How has your leadership adapted to new forms of being church?

Have you seen bivocational ministry leadership increasing in your context?

If you are a bivocational pastor, what’s one lesson or healthy practice you’d want to share with others?

Dave Kludt (30 Posts)

Dave Kludt is a bivocational pastor working with Kairos Los Angeles in East Hollywood and Fuller DMin in Pasadena. He likes reading, riding bikes, and really good food.


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4 Responses to How (Not) To Be a Bivocational Pastor

  1. John Panayil says:

    was Jesus bivocational?

    • Dave Kludt says:

      Hi John. I’m not sure I know the answer to that. I think some people would say “yes, probably,” and others would say “we have no way of knowing.”

      It does seem that many other early church leaders, both local or itinerant, were bivocational to some degree.

      What do you think?

  2. Billy Mclaughlan says:

    @BillyMac1066: ‘Bi vocational’ the academic linguistic socio construction term of a divided spirituality. Being is 24/7 http://t.co/KasWySc558 being in and for Christ is 24/7 and is not defined by vocations.i.e. I pastor a church and deliver mail. Seems liberation theologians have got it right keeping their feet on the ground and their head out of the clouds. Perhaps pastors serve better who stay in touch with the real world and so seems an excellent idea if pastors, vicars, ministers, evangelists gave up the false dichotomyand took a job once in a while in a supermarket, garage or better still a restaurant

  3. Dave Kludt says:

    Billy, I don’t disagree. I think there’s a strong tendency for pastors to distance themselves from “the real world” to focus on “the things of God,” not realizing that the things of God are found in the real world with real people.

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