Here is a post on being a bi-vocational church planter by one of our church planters Phillip Wilson who is planting Trinity Church in Summerville, SC www.trinitysummerville.com.
The works of monks and priests, however holy and arduous they be, do not differ one whit in sight of God from the works of the rustic laborer in the field or the woman going about her household tasks, but that all the works are measured before God by faith alone…Indeed, the menial housework of a manservant or maidservant is often more acceptable to God than all the fastings and other works of a monk or priest, because the monk or priest lacks faith.” -Martin Luther
If there is one word that I think scares most ministry leaders, it would be bi-vocational. It tends to have this negative connotation. This idea of trying to take a 40-hour week and dividing it between two focuses, church ministry and work. seems daunting, if not impossible.In all transparency, that was myself. The thought of having to work in Corporate America made me shutter. In my mind, I had this idea of the impossibilities of being able to focus on my flock, give time to my family, and make sure I am being competent in my job. Recently, this all changed.I served in vocational ministry for almost ten years. This is to say, the main source of my income came from working in a church setting. I have gone from being the intern making just enough to put gas in my tank to the Student Pastor able to provide adequately for his family. In short, I was comfortable for the most part.When we answered to call to church planting, we were very blessed by our sending church to continue to support me until the end of 2013. Many who gave to the church plant in the early days and still continue to give, which enables us to function and operate, also blessed us. In our minds, God would provide more than enough for me to continue pulling resources from the new church. I will add, I had a very distorted view of church planting.
At the end of June my wife and I underwent our formal church planting assessment with the team at Kardia. This time was probably the most revealing and vulnerable moments of my ministry and marriage, but all in all it left us with a clear vision for the days and months ahead.
The recommendations from the team gave us three things to consider, the largest being going bi-vocational.
At face value, this freaked us out. We began to picture me working crazy hours, weekends, and holidays, pulling me directions we were not comfortable in going. With 2 children, and a wife already working hard in Corporate America, we were not sure what would fit us in bi-vocational life.
I have no shame in admitting my obsession with HGTV. I have always had this obsession with houses, real estate, and DIY projects. An interest I never understood, until recently. It was one day as I watched the most recent episode of “Love it or List it” (don’t hate), that I heard God say, sell houses. So I did what anyone else would do, I Google it. What would it take? What are the startup costs, education needed, etc.? Then I asked my wife, moved some things around, and a week or so later I jumped into Real Estate School. A couple weeks of being done with Real Estate School I had my license and began working with a powerful Real Estate team in Charleston, Jeff Cook Real Estate.
I will say things have been hectic the past several months and there are times I am utterly exhausted, but all in all I feel my family is getting a handle in all of this. There are times where we have to dig in and have faith, as I am now a commissioned based worker. However, being bi-vocational has put me in a place to be the best vocational minister I can be. The picture of the Gospel is bigger than the church office, the picture of the Gospel is bigger than coffee meetings with local pastors, the picture and message of the Gospel is sharing the hope and grace where we live, work, and play.
My sphere of influence is bigger that it has ever been in my ministry. I can relate to Christians in the marketplace more than I ever have before. I understand their struggles and needs. I understand how hard it is to live your faith out in Corporate America. I am in a place where I am trusting God more than I ever did before, for my family, for my job, and for the church I get to pastor. More importantly I am seeing God do more in my life than he has ever done before, because it is becoming about working for Him and not my paycheck.
The crazy thing in all of this, is we believe the Holy Spirit was working hard in that assessment time. Perhaps they could see something as a team that we could not. The support changed in 2014. We are very thankful for the support that was given to us in 2013 and cannot even express the gratitude we have. However, if it were not for us taking the step, listening and following the advice of the assessment team and going bi-vocational, we would have found ourselves scrambling and I honestly believe it would have led to me leaving church planting.
Now, I have a means to and end. I am able to support my family and continue on the path of church planting. When I lay down on Sundays, I do not have to worry if we brought in the needed weekly amount to cover all of our expenses, as now our expenses are very light. By not relying on the church for a salary, we can focus our budget in other places in our community.
I will be honest and say this has been some of the most trying times in my life as I learn a new trade and focus on being a pastor, but I do not see me doing anything else from this point forward. I believe the bi-vocational ministry is not going to be temporary for me, but permanent. In short, never underestimate what grace is doing in your life. God’s grace will open more doors and enable you to do things you could have never thought of. My hope is to encourage other church planters to consider bi-vocational ministry. Things change, support ends, and weeks come where the offering plate is lighter than the week before. Be encouraged that God’s faithfulness never changes. Cling to it, experience His grace, and see the Gospel not only change the lives of those you minister to, but yours as well.