Since the beginning of my ministry as an employee of a state convention and then state Baptist paper, bivocational pastors have had my deepest respect. These men have been a mainstay of Southern Baptist life since its beginning.
Since the beginning of my ministry as an employee of
a state convention and then state Baptist paper, bivocational pastors
have had my deepest respect. These men have been a mainstay of Southern
Baptist life since its beginning.
More than 30 years ago, I had the opportunity to
help organize what was thought to be the first North American Mission
Board (then the Home Mission Board) convocation on the work and needs
of bivocational pastors. The bivocational pastors at the convocation,
who had not been properly acknowledged previously, poured out their
hearts, and their hearts were filled with love for their ministries,
and frustrations this particular ministry generates. I remember one
pastor who talked about how God had blessed his church with exceptional
growth–his church had grown to 300 in attendance during the 15 years of
his bivocational ministry with it, but the members had little money–and
the strain the ministry placed upon his family, and him. At a point,
tears filled his eyes and he left the conference in pain. I have no
idea of all the stresses and frustrations he was experiencing, but he
could not take another minute of acknowledging his particular pain.
Little did I know that 27 years later, I would
become a bivocational pastor. For the last three years, I have had the
privilege of ministering as a bivocational pastor with what began as a
mission, and has since become a church–New Life Baptist Church in
DeRidder. When my retirement becomes a reality, I hope to spend
considerably more time on the field that is a one and one-half hour
drive from my home. Presently, my wife Leah and I are generally able to
spend only Sundays and a few scattered days on the field.
Being a bivocational pastor provides great joy and
fulfillment, but it is a significant challenge. That a man can find
time for three messages a week while working at another job is
astounding. I have only Sunday morning messages to prepare and that
takes about 20 hours a week. We have small groups on Sunday evenings,
and that takes time to try to lead. Thankfully, another bivocational
pastor, Jim Miers, leads Wednesday evenings. So, before a bivocational
pastor arrives on the field, at least 60 hours of his week are already
In addition, getting ready to go to the field on
Sunday morning is like packing for a weekend trip every Saturday. And,
a bivocational pastor has three work sites–his secular place of
employment, his home office where he studies and plans, and his office
at his church. Everything the pastor and wife need for Sunday, they
must pack and take with them. And, inevitably, when they need
something, it is always at one of the other places!
Since ministering with New Life began, I have not been able to attend a
single associational meeting and would likely not have been able to
attend a Louisiana Baptist Convention or a Southern Baptist Convention
or a training conference if my “other job” did not allow or require it.
The bivocational minister’s wife also experiences a
significant burden, especially if their church is not extremely
understanding. By the time she supports her husband, and his doubly
busy schedule that seldom has time for rest and relaxation, her week is
spent. Her “church friends” are usually in another town from where she
lives, so friendships can be hard to enjoy regularly at home, or on the
A bivocational pastor cannot generate more time, and
more time is what he desperately needs. Last Sunday, for instance, I
sat in the midst of our congregation, thinking about what needed to be
done, prospects that needed to be visited, members in need of a
pastoral visit, and I came to the firm conclusion, “I cannot do all
that needs to be done.” Thankfully, our fellowship has been incredibly
understanding and members do a great job of carrying on much of the
work of the church and providing pastoral ministry and leadership.
Sometimes I think the reason the church has done well is because of my
absence most of the time!
After three years of a bivocational ministry, I know
that bivocational pastors do not need sympathy; they love their
ministry. But he and his family do need understanding, and help.
So, if your church is blessed with a bivocational pastor, thank God for
him, and understand his particular situation. When pastoral ministry is
needed, do not ask, “Why does not the pastor do that?” do it yourself.
Be an enabler of the pastor, and that means doing things that would
take his time so he has time. Your prayers, support, understanding and
saving him time are the greatest gifts you can give him. Ask him, “What
can we do to save you time, and join you in your ministry with our
church?” Sometimes, asking the question is not necessary, you just need
to do it.
To those approximately 40 to 50 percent of the
Louisiana Baptist churches that are served by bivocational pastors,
thank God for them, realize their challenges, encourage them and their
family – and do the work of the saints so your minister does not have
to do it all.