Bi-vocational pastors make up the largest percentage of our pastors serving in Indiana. 83% of all Southern Baptist churches report a Sunday School attendance of fewer than 125, and most of these congregations have bi-vocational pastors (representing approximately 37,000 churches!). Other evangelical denominations report similar percentages, and current trends indicate that we will see even more churches with bi-vocational pastors in the future. These pastors and their churches are absolutely essential to helping Southern Baptists fulfill the Great Commission!
In addition to pastoring a church while working at another job to help support their families–and trying to find time to spend with their families, these faithful servants of God face challenges, such as unrealistic expectations of church members; balancing time between church and other responsibilities; the great need for members to assist them with ministry when the other job often makes the pastors unavailable to the church on some days during the week; and sensing (at times) a lack of respect or feeling ignored by others in ministry who believe fully-funded pastors are more significant (there really is no such thing as a part-time pastor–instead, there are those who are fully-funded or partially-funded by their churches); etc. This can cause bi-vocational pastors to experience discouragement, isolation, burnout, etc.
In spite of these difficulties that bi-vocational pastors and their families face, there can be many advantages to this kind of ministry—such as the bi-vocational pastor works out in the marketplace and this can give him more opportunities to witness to people who may never attend a church until they meet an authentic believer who shares Christ with them; the bi-vocational pastor understands how his members struggle balancing time between church and other responsibilities, so this can give him more credibility with them; being bi-vocational can provide more financial support for the pastor in a small church, while giving the congregation additional funds to spend on ministries for reaching people with the Gospel; the bi-vocational pastor has to share ministry with his members during the week and this gives him opportunities to develop additional leaders; etc. As the Lord surely said “well done” to the Apostle Paul (a tent-making pastor) when he finished his work on earth, surely He will say the same to many of these bi-vocational pastors who have served in unsung places for the glory of God!
SCBI appreciates and cares about our bi-vocational pastors and their families. This year we will host our first Bi-vocational Pastors and Wives Retreat on March 25-26 at Highland Lakes Camp. The theme of the event will be “Encouraging Ministry Couples in Challenging Times,” and will feature Joe and Pennie Wright as our guest speakers. Joe is the Executive Director of the Bivocational and Small Church Leadership Network in Tennessee (see their website at www.bscln.net for more info and free resources), and Pennie brings valuable experience as the wife of a bi-vocational pastor; together they led 17 conferences for bi-vocational pastors and wives across the SBC last year. On Friday evening Joe will lead a large-group session for pastors and wives; on Saturday morning Joe will lead break-out sessions for the pastors, and Pennie will lead break-out sessions for the wives. The cost for the event will be $90 per couple until March 1, and $110 per couple on March 2-18. We hope you’ll participate in this opportunity for some refreshment, for making friends with others in ministry, and for receiving free books worth $199, etc. Registration will open on the SCBI website (www.scbi.org ) on January 15.
In addition, SCBI offers a bi-monthly Zoom Cohort Meeting for Bi-vocational Pastors to share their best practices, and to encourage each other. The next one-hour Zoom Cohort Meeting will be on Monday, January 10, at 7:00 pm CT/8:00 pm ET. Contact John Horn at firstname.lastname@example.org to get a Zoom meeting invitation, or to share it with others. If you’re unavailable at that time, contact him anyway to find out when the next Cohort Meeting will be, or to talk about how we can assist you with your ministry.