Many bivocational ministers, especially pastors, often suffer from a low self-image of their ministry. Considering the historic role and current importance that bivocational ministry has in God’s Kingdom, it’s hard to imagine why any bivocational ministers, especially pastors, could have even occasional feelings of low self-image. There are those who feel that “fully-funded” ministers look down on them. Whether it is true or not, the perception is very real to those who feel they have been slighted by their colleagues in the ministry. Following are a few of the reasons for low self-image stated by bivocational pastors:
A. Most serve small churches
Remember that “small” is a relative term. What is large to one person may be small to another. A First Baptist Church in a rural county is often looked upon as a “big” church by the very small rural churches throughout the county. But that same “big” church will be considered small when compared to a truly large First Baptist Church in a large city. A majority of the Alabama Baptist churches run less than 50 people in attendance. Around 75% run under 100. God has blessed Alabama with a large number of small churches. Maybe it’s like Abraham Lincoln once said, “The Lord prefers common-looking people. That’s the reason He made so many of them.”
B. Accent on numerical growth
It may be human nature to believe bigger is always better. But we all know through experience that isn’t true. Have you ever heard of the older brother who trades his “big” nickel for the younger brother’s “little” dime?
All pastors of any size church like to see numerical growth. It’s in our DNA as Baptists to be evangelistic and mission-minded. But just like Bible study, churches need to be viewed in their context. So many of the small, rural churches are in places where the population has moved away leaving few families to reach. A study has shown that about 80% of these churches give double-digit financial percentages to world, national, and state mission needs through the Cooperative Program. They are also generous to local Association ministries. As the story of the “Widow’s Mite” (Mark 12:41-44) teaches, the percentage of giving is more important than the number of dollars.
While the accent may be on numerical growth, growing a “healthy church” may very well be more important.
C. Limited formal theological and church administration training
Although many bivocational pastors have seminary level training, it’s not an exaggeration to say most do not. There may be many reasons for not getting a full formal education: the call of God came late in life; there was not the financial means to go to seminary; family responsibilities; etc. The ministry of Amos shows that one does not have to have formal theological and church administration training to answer God’s call. Consider the answer Amos gave to a critic, “I was no prophet, neitherwas I a prophet’s son; but I was a herdman, and a gatherer of sycamore fruit. And the Lord took me as I followed the flock and the Lord said unto me, ‘Go, prophesy unto my people Israel.’” (Amos 7:14-15) With that said, one must also remember that if God can use an uneducated, untrained man, how much more can He use one who is formally prepared. Paul prepared for three years for his Christian ministry (Galatians 1:18) and Jesus prepared for 18 years for a three year public ministry (Luke 2:42; 3:23). If our Lord and Paul saw the need to prepare for their ministries, surely every one called of God should prepare also.
All bivocational pastors should feel the challenge to seek every opportunity to increase their Biblical and theological knowledge, as well as, church administration training. But the final word must be, “The God who called him will equip him for where He puts him.”
D. “Second Class” Ministers
Whether the bivocational pastor has actually heard others make the comment or he only assumes it has been made, he needs to remember that only he can allow himself to be “second class.” God doesn’t call “second class” people to carry out His work. He sees you as worthy to be His servant and so should you.
2. Time Management
Time management is a tremendous challenge for bivocational pastors. In fact it is a challenge for all pastors, fully-funded or bivocational. Perhaps it is more so for bivocational. With two full time jobs, he must learn to manage his time to do all that encompasses the work of the pastorate, as well as, his other job and all it encompasses. How can it be done? Here’s a few ideas.
A. The Pastor Must set His Priorities
Every busy person must set priorities if anything is going to be accomplished. This is certainly a true statement for bivocational pastors. If the bivocational pastor under God’s guidance does not set his own priorities, be assured someone else will. But the priorities set by others may not reflect what is most important to God and to the pastor.
John Maxwell, author and leadership expert, gives a very good approach to use in determining your priorities. He advises that you can separate your priorities/activities into four categories:
- High Importance / High Urgency
- High Importance / Low Urgency
- Low Importance / High Urgency
- Low Importance / Low Urgency
It sounds too simple but it works for long term and short term priorities/activities. Try it and see if it will work for you.
B. The Pastor must learn to manage himself
Time Management must begin first with the pastor. All people have 24 hours in each day. How much will be accomplished is really up to the pastor. Hyrum W. Smith, co-founder of Franklin Quest (now known as Franklin Covey), which sells the Franklin Covey Planner, encourages buyers to “view a daily plan as your ticket to success.”
Self-management of your time really is self-discipline. “Self-control” is listed by Paul as a “fruit of the Spirit” (Galatians 5:22). Just as the fruit identifies the tree, so should the fruit of the Spirit identify our spiritually in Christ. A tree will give to its fruit all it needs to blossom and grow and so will the Holy Spirit give Christians all they need for their fruit of the Spirit to blossom and grow. Exhibiting its fruit is not exceptional but natural for tree, just as exhibiting the fruit of the Spirit should be natural, not exceptional, in the life of every Christian minister
The self-discipline of following a God-guided plan each day can be the means of successfully having effective management of your time.
C. The Pastor must allow time to “sharpen the axe.”
“Sharpen the axe” means staying physically healthy and fit. There is an occupational hazard for pastors called “fat.” Eating too much, too often is the only acceptable “sin” that churches allow their pastors to do. They not only allow it, but encourage it. And it’s not as if most pastors look “poorly.” Baptist churches seem to feel that food must be provided for every event and activity. Some now provide all members and visitors with donuts, snacks, pastries, juices, soft drinks and coffee before and/or after Sunday School, between multiple morning worship services, and post-worship services each Sunday (often on Wednesday nights, as well) in the name of fellowship or convenience. Some large churches even have secular coffee shop businesses on the grounds or in its facilities. Of course, “eating frenzies” have long existed in individual Sunday School classes. Is this a bad thing? Not necessarily. But it can help explain the pastors’ occupational hazard of over eating. Saying “no” to the constant temptation is difficult but possible. But it is especially difficult when a sweet lady brings the pastor an irresistible dish, because she knows “it’s his favorite.” And, of course, she expects him to eat it (often there in front of her so she can see and hear his delightful expressions).
Whatever the reasons, the pastor must plan and work to stay physically healthy and fit. A regular physical exercise routine will give greater energy, cause more alertness and allow him to accomplish more.
Keeping the axe edge sharp requires self-disciple but will be shown in the pastor’s life and work.
D. The Pastor must learn to avoid Time Wasters.
Ways to waste time are so numerous that is would be impossible to name them all. But there is one area that pastors face regularly: Church Committee Meetings. Committee meetings are a necessary part of Baptist church administration, so they should not be totally eliminated. The following are suggestions for committee meetings that may be helpful to avoid wasting time:
- Don’t have a meeting to just have a meeting.
- Invite only those who need to be there.
- Prepare an agenda and stick to it.
- Set a time limit for the meeting.
- Begin on time.
- Quit when the meeting is over.
E. The Pastor must employ Time Savers
Just as there are “Time Wasters,” there are also “Time Savers.” The use of current technology, as well as, common sense can be used as great ways to save time. Following are a few to consider.
- Cell Phones
- Combine Travel – “Kill two birds with one Stone.”
- Limit TV time
- Make a “To Do” List
This short list certainly is not novel, but employing these few ways may make a world of difference time-wise.
F. The Pastor must keep a “Sabbath Day.”
The Lord introduced the “Sabbath” when he gave the manna, “bread from heaven,” to the Israelites in the wilderness. “This is what the Lord has said: ‘Tomorrow is a complete day of rest, a holy Sabbath to the Lord.’” (Exodus 16:23a HCSB) Speaking of man’s relationship to the Sabbath, the Lord said, “The Sabbath was made for man and not man for the Sabbath.” (Mark 2:27 HCSB) In the Book of Leviticus 23:3, God gives to man the following instruction, “Work may be done for six days, but on the seventh day there must be a Sabbath of complete rest.” (HCSB) Therefore, we understand that when God made man he was designed him for a day of rest once a week.
A dictionary definition for Sabbath is “a day of rest and worship.” For the pastor the Lord’s Day may be a day of worship but it is certainly not a day of rest. In fact Sunday is usually the busiest day of the week for pastors. Preaching the sermons each Sunday is a physical burden of stress on the human body. Many years ago the late Dr. Herschel H. Hobbs, former pastor of the First Baptist Church, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, former President of the Southern Baptist Convention and prolific Christian author, stated in a widely published article, entitled “In Praise of the Twenty-minute Sermon,” that an authority said that “the effect that the pressure on a preacher’s heart during a thirty-minute sermon is equal to that of a fifteen-mile walk”, thus his praise for preaching 20 minute sermons. Along with preaching, Sundays can be full of committee meetings, counseling sessions, and hospital and/or home visits.
Warning: Don’t let yourself get caught in the trap that so many pastors fall into – The Busy Pastor Syndrome. This syndrome can lead to feelings of spiritual superiority, mediocre ministry results, and just plain weariness and fatigue. Some think that never taking a day off, never taking vacation days, and spending all available time at the church make them better pastors, especially better than pastors who are weak and slothful for taking time off for rest. These busy folks are spread so thin that there is little depth in their ministry. Besides, they are so tired that in the long run their ministry may not be as effective as it could be with proper rest. Remember the God that made us knows us better than we know ourselves-the human body must have adequate rest to function efficiently. If circumstances do not allow for going away on vacation or a day off, just doing something different can be rest.
Bottom line: The pastor who does not keep a Sabbath Day of rest may very well get an “unplanned” sabbatical. This extended time of rest may come from a heart attack, stroke, mental/emotional breakdown and/or severe physical exhaustion that may prohibit him from ever having as productive a ministry as he previously experienced.
3. Family Priorities
The Bivocational Pastor’s family should NEVER be allowed to be marginalized, that is, treated as inconsequential or of little concern or attention. Even if the church views the pastor’s family as a marginal concern, only the pastor can make or allow his family to be marginalized in his life and ministry. He must always remember that his family is of utmost importance. The family unit was established by God at creation. It must not be taken lightly. Preacher’s kids (PKs) have often voiced that they felt that their “Preacher Dad” had more time for other kids in the church and community than he had for his own. The pastor’s wife can be made to feel that church committee meetings are more important than she is. While service to the God’s church may be our calling and job, it must not come at the expense of the family God gives the pastor. While many view love relationships as a ladder of love priorities (God first, church second, family third . . . and so forth), the idea of a wheel of love relationships can make more sense. Rather than his relationships being viewed as rungs on a ladder of priorities, maybe the picture of love relationships being like the spokes on a bicycle wheel attached to a center hub and flaring out from the hub to the tire may be more sensible. With God as the center hub and the spokes as our love relationships, then instead of a “first . . . second . . . third . . .” love priorities, the wheel’s spokes allow him to have a spoke for his love of God, another for his love of the church, another spoke for his love of family, still another for his love of his job and so on representing all the different objects of our love capacity. All these different objects are loved differently, as evidenced by the different words for love in the Greek New Testament. Instead of having to decide whether he loves his children less than his wife, he can love his wife 100% and his children 100% because they are different types of love. He can love all his relationships 100% and know they are all attached to God who is the author and center of a Christian’s capacity to love. “Pastor, love your family 100% through God.”
Promote Making Room for the Pastor’s/ “Your” Family
- Be intentional – Family time shouldn’t just happen by accident
- Don’t apologize for it – Never be sorry for time spent with the family
- Schedule time for it – Be sure to keep the appointment
- Force the issue if necessary – there’s only one shot with his children. Their childhood will only come around once. Miss it and its gone!
Remember: As a pastor, he is not indispensable to his church. When he leaves his church, it will just get another pastor and continue on. But he is indispensable to his family. Someone else can lead the church committee meeting, but no one can replace him at his child’s key events. And regarding his wife, Scripture admonishes “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her.” (Ephesians 5:25) Enough said!
The Bivocational Pastor should guard against the “Lone Ranger” syndrome. Very often he will feel that he is all alone with no ministry peers to spend time with or to confer and share with regarding ministry matters. He may feel that other pastors cannot understand his pressures and church work, especially if they are not bivocational also. He can feel isolated for several reasons: (1) He probably is pastor of a rural congregation that may be quite far from other churches and pastors; (2) Because he has a secular job throughout the week, he is around non-church people most of the time; (3) There are few pastor meetings he can attend (such meetings are usually during the day when he is at work) and therefore he never meets other pastors; and (4) He feels “out of the loop” for denominational emphases. In the course of a week, he only has contact with his family, church family and secular co-workers. He feels lonesome in the ministry and needs relationships with other pastors.
Following are a few suggestions to avoid isolation:
- Develop an intentional friendship with a fellow bivocational pastor/minister.
His bivocational ministry colleagues probably feel isolated too. They would welcome the privilege to have a pastor friend that could allow them to encourage each other by having contact with someone else who understands the unique work of bivocational ministry.
- Get more involved with the local Baptist Association.
First, meet and personally get to know the Director of Missions (DOM)/Associational Missionary. He can be one of his best friends. He sees himself as a “pastor to pastors” and can truly help him meet other pastors in the area. Attend the Associational meetings provided for the churches and pastors. Seek the opportunity to become a leader in the Association by serving on committees and accepting responsibilities. This will be helpful to the DOM, to the Association, to his church and to HIM.
- Find a Prayer Partner
The bivocational pastor does not need to be convinced of the importance of prayer. It goes without saying that it is essential to an effective Christian life and ministry. Being alone with God daily in prayer allows one to get to know God more personally. But having a prayer partner is very beneficial as well. Having a trusted partner to pray with allows for accountability, confession, and fellowship. The partner can provide spiritual counsel to help know how to pray.
Who should his Prayer Partner be? Of course, his spouse should be a partner in prayer. Another male figure (avoid a female other than one’s wife) who may be a pastor, layman, mentor, a senior, or close friend can add partnership to one’s prayer life. Pray for God to lead and to provide the right person that can be trusted in confidence with his most spiritually intimate feelings, thoughts and prayers.
- Attend the Annual Bivocational Ministers’ and Spouses’ Retreat
Each year the Alabama Baptist State Board of Missions provides finances and leadership for a retreat for those in Bivocational Ministry. It is held at the Shocco Springs Baptist Assembly and Conference Center in Talladega, Alabama, during the month of February. It is a two day retreat for bivocational ministers to gather for fellowship and be spiritually refreshed and challenged, away from their churches and normal responsibilities. It is a great opportunity to meet other bivocational ministers and make new friendships with understanding colleagues from across the state. It is also helpful for Bivocational pastors’ wives.
- Take advantage of current technological communications
Today is a day of easy personal communication through various means of technological devices, such as email, Facebook, Twitter, etc. These can allow him to be in touch with bivocational friends easily and with consistency.
- Affiliate with Baptist Bivocational Ministers Associations
At the Bivocational Ministers and Spouses Retreat, ministers are introduced to the state bivocational ministers association, The Alabama Baptist Fellowship of Bivocational Ministers, which sponsors the retreat. The Southern Baptist bivocational association is the Bivocational Small Church Leadership Network.
It can be contacted at www.bivosmallchurch.net. There may be other bivocational ministers’ groups that may be of interest.
- Spend time with his “best friend” – His Wife