Five reasons why I’m happy to be a bi-vocational leader

On Monday I outlined three different ways a leader could be bi-vocational. Today I want to outline five reasons why I’m positive about this and in no great rush to change.

  1. Bi-vocational is the norm for leaders. Note I didn’t say pastors or church staff, but the majority of leaders in the majority of churches have paid work outside the church. For the majority of leadership is served by people volunteering their time, gifts and skills to the church in addition to their job. Seeing life and leadership this way is much more helpful.
  2. Bi-vocational puts me in the world. I know that the work of a church leader is real work (most of the time) but it is also very different work from that of the majority of people who are a part of a church. Working bi-vocationally helps me understand their world because it is also my world. It also means that I am in an environment to meet, talk to and be alongside those who don’t know Christ. It breaks the leader out of the Christian bubble-world.
  3. Bi-vocational frees up resources for mission. I know that every pastor thinks they add to the furthering of the mission of the church but not necessarily in proportion to the amount of resources they consume. Bi-vocational leaders if they are paid, mean that less finances are directed to staff and are redirected to (I would hope) the areas that most reflect the vision and values of the church. It should also allow for greater corporate generosity on behalf of the church.
  4. Bi-vocational leadership forces you to prioritize. Often there comes a crunch point for the bi-vocational leader where they are effectively working two full time jobs. This will be unsustainable in the long-run. The most common outcome is to seek full-time employment, often by the church, but this usually means a crunch in financial resources for the church as they suddenly face a steep rise in expenditure. It also means that the leader is now probably over-employed so they end up picking up general tasks off the other very busy bi-vocational leaders in the church. A better way, is to use this crunch to push you into greater delegation, releasing of leadership, and a sharpening of focus on your priorities. Instead of taking on more time and more tasks becoming a greater generalist, become a greater specialist but remain bi-vocational.
  5. Bi-vocational keeps me in a position of faith. Because I work in a low-paid job (and I know many leaders working for churches who also know they work in low-paid jobs) I’m spared many of the problems that come with having too much. It’s very liberating. God is my provider, every month a sign of the faithfulness of God (it’s not quite ‘give us this day our daily bread’) and everything extra a blessing gratefully received. I’m not only in a position to be trusting for finances but also for people. Because growth brings resource pressures, I need people to share the load, share the heart for people and stand alongside me. I have to trust God for the growth of the team. If God doesn’t supply I may have a nervous breakdown, or maybe my wife will. God hasn’t let us down yet and my wife at least is still sane.

Those are my five reasons, what have I missed or what do you disagree with?

Photo by Pete Reed

4 thoughts on “Five reasons why I’m happy to be a bi-vocational leader”

  1. Gareth Le Long-McKean says:

    Hi Phil. Thanks for these posts. Very helpful for me. Hope you guys are well

  2. Andrew Lowe says:

    Gareth, I agree! I would also add that working in any capacity does not have to mean working full time. I do a 30-hour week and it works out pretty good.

  3. Andrew Lowe says:

    And I just read the previous post…

  4. Rob Mason says:

    That all seems reasonable and rational to me. BIG churches may need a different structure, where there are full time staff to support the work administratively, but mostly *all* leaders should be doing what *all followers* are, so that they can prove it can be done if nothing else.

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