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Bi-vocational Ministry Insights
By: Dr. Fred Childs
Bi-vocational ministry is an essential weave in the fabric of the church today. It is a common and yet very misunderstood form of ministry, and often even by those involved in it.
The term “bi-vocational” infers that a person has two vocations. If a pastor or minister is bi-vocational it indicates he or she has another source of income beyond the church.
The term “bi-vocational” does not mean “part time”. One may be receiving a partial salary, but in reality he is still a full-time pastor or minister. Perhaps the best way to define a pastor who receives all of his income from a church is “fully funded”, not “full-time”.
In today’s challenging economy many individuals choose the role of bi-vocational ministry over a fully funded one. If you are one of those I assure you that you are not on an island alone. It is important that you accept your bi-vocational role, as a valid form of ministry, but also that you understand its potential limitations.
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Put It In Writing
The written word is persuasive. A spoken word is quickly forgotten, but put the same words in writing and the phrase is instantly given new credence and respect. For that reason, putting it in writing is a wise practice. When everything is written out, you're able to see clearly what needs to be accomplished, how it will be done, and what your responsibility is. By putting it in writing, you're making a commitment.
Putting it in writing will also motivate you and keep you on track. By writing down your goals you make a commitment to them. Written goals urge us to action and determine direction.
Decide for yourself what your goals are and when and how you wish to reach them. Then after you have written them down, keep them in a place that is in plain view throughout each day. As you accomplish each one, cross it off! As you do, allow yourself some personal gratification. There is therapy in seeing a long list of goals accomplished.
A things to do list will ease the mental stress of the day. Often our minds are more on thinking of what needs to be done rather than on what do do to get something done. It is easier to set a pace for the day when you have a written list. Plan your day by allowing yourself an allotted amount of time for each item. Write that time next to each item. Don't let other people or situations keep you from accomplishing each task.[ read more...]
Though God gets all the credit for growth in any ministry, there are practical steps pastors can follow to make their cities their congregations and enlarge their ministries for Christ:
1. Know your call and catch the vision. If a pastor has the vision, the mind-set, to break out of traditionalism, great things can happen. Don’t lock yourself in a box. Find a need and determine to fill it.
2. Be faithful in the little things and be consistent. “One thing about pastor is that he is very predictable,” says Jennifer Mallan, an outreach pastor at Church Without Walls. “He does the same things every day, so people know they can count on him. You know that on Wednesdays and Fridays our trucks will be out; on Saturday foods are prepared. It’s never hit-and-miss. Pastor has parented the city very well.”
3. Realize that it takes time to grow. You have to prove yourself. You want to show that what you are doing is not fly-by-night. Ask yourself, “Am I building my own kingdom or really helping my community?”
4. Put people around you who will catch your vision. Build a team that has diverse talents to accomplish the vision you are called to fulfill. Focus on a particular hurt and cure it; find an ill in society and figure out how to solve it. Realize that you and your team will need to put 100 percent into bringing a solution to the problem. Bridge the gap.
5. Work within all aspects of your community. Realize that the support of city council members, police chiefs and other leaders is necessary for the large-scale success of any growing ministry. Meet with city leaders when you first start and share your vision. Then get on a council agenda once or twice a year thereafter to give a progress report.
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Dr. Fred Childs is a leading church consultant, organizational development expert, and leadership authority. He and Monica reside in Pearland, Texas.
There is the most remarkable story of selfless sacrifice in I Samuel 23. I had never really paused to consider the irony of this story until recently. It came to me at a time when I needed it the most.
On a recent day, weary from the battle, I was having my own little pity party. I was questioning why had I given myself so fully to the work of God and to helping others, only to feel so unappreciated by some who perhaps didn’t understand me? I was feeling somewhat like Elijah must have felt when he thought he was the only prophet that God had left, only to hear God tell him that he had seven thousand others whom Elijah was not even cognizant of. Elijah was immediately transformed from a minority of one to a member of a great multitude of brethren who could relate to his dilemma. Elijah was not alone. Many had experienced the same feelings while adhering to the same values as he.
As I was wrestling with this internal struggle I had a phone conversation with a pastor friend in another state. As we talked he reminded me of the story of David at Keilah, and the words of my friend began to minister to my wounded heart. I knew by what he was saying that he not only understood my situation, but he had been there and back again.
In the aforementioned Bible story David received word that Keilah, a city in Judah, was under attack from the Philistines. The Philistines were robbing their threshingfloors. When David enquired of the Lord he was directed to go and deliver the city from the Philistines. His men were wary because King Saul was after David, and Keilah was a natural trap. David enquired again of the Lord and was told to go fight and the Philistines would be delivered into his hands.
David obeyed the Lord and delivered the city. While he was and actually doing the will of God, King Saul heard about his presence at Keilah. Saul said, “God has delivered him into my hand,” because Keilah was a city that was enclosed by gates and bars. King Saul thought David was trapped, and that it was God’s will for him to overtake David.[ read more...]
42 And they continued stedfastly in the apostles' doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers.43 And fear came upon every soul: and many wonders and signs were done by the apostles.44 And all that believed were together, and had all things common;45 And sold their possessions and goods, and parted them to all men, as every man had need.46 And they, continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, did eat their meat with gladness and singleness of heart,47 Praising God, and having favour with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved.
1. A Praying Church.
The first century church continued in prayer. The fact that it continued means that it had previously started. These people had been praying long before the outpouring of the Holy Ghost in the book of Acts.
Acts 1:14 KJV14 These all continued with one accord in prayer and supplication, with the women, and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with his brethren.
Before the church ever experienced growth there was prayer. Corporate and unified prayer. This was the foundation of what happened in Acts chapter two. Prayer is the most basic and necessary requirement of any church. Prayer is the foundation upon which everything else is built. A praying church is a church that is ready and waiting to do whatever God desires to do amongst them.[ read more...]
Problems. If you're going to work with or minister to people, you are going to have problems. Sometimes big problems. Moses was one person in the scripture who had people problems. Millions of them. Everywhere he looked - people problems. How to feed them. How to water their livestock. How to settle their petty problems. How to settle their big problems. Where do the tents go? How about the toilets. Everywhere problems.
Surely with all these problems, the solution must be complex. Big problems should mean big, intricate, thoroughly researched and analyzed solutions - right? Not necessarily. In fact, very often, the solution to one's problem is asymmetric to the problem itself. Big problem, small solution.
When our problem is large or complex, we too often feel that the solution has to be the same. Because of this we usually miss the obvious, simple answer. In Moses' case, it took his shepherd father-in-law's simple mind to figure it out. A shepherd understands that a flock can get too big. When it does, it can begin to overgraze the fields and ruin the good pastures. This simple sheepherder was not educated by the most learned teachers of Egypt as Moses was, but he did understand something about having too many sheep in one place. He knew that when you have more sheep in a field than what that field can contain, you have to hire an under-shepherd to take part of the flock to another field. With that elementary laymen's thinking Moses was able to correct very simply, the extremely complex dilemma the nation of Israel had found herself in. Jethro told Moses to break the number of people down into smaller segments and then place leaders over these small segments. How simple.
The biggest problems that your ministry is facing today probably could very well be corrected with a simple solution. Too often however, we go shopping for the big answer: The complex answer. The expensive answer. The time consuming answer. Here's why: We focus on the negative instead of the positive. Seriously, nearly everyone does. Did you know that in the English language, 62 percent of the "emotion" words are negative, vs 38 percent that are positive. A group of psychologists once reviewed over two hundred articles and concluded that for a wide range of human behavior and perception, a general principle holds true: "Bad is stronger than good." Ask yourself, do you remember more of the bad that you hear about others or do you remember more of the good. A vastly larger audience of people remembers the bad instead of the good.[ read more...]
All too often the people who lead the service mislead it. These good people whom the Pastor has asked to help out in the service many times serve to cause frustration and confusion in a church service.
Leading a service properly can bring about a move of God that can break every yoke in the service. Leading it improperly can cause people to go home more bound than they were when they came.
Every element of the service should prepare the way for the next. The end result of the service is the move of God in the alter. When you get in the way of the progression, you kill the potential of what could happen.
Here are a few things to consider when asked to “Lead the service”.
Keep it moving. Don’t allow for delays or “dead air” places in the services. In radio, “dead air” is when you hear silence. It is also when the producer did his job wrong and did not prepare for those seconds of the day. It is during this time that many people will change the channel or turn off their radio. You don’t want this happening in the church service. “No Dead Air!”
Do not continually comment. If you are introducing the various singers and elements of the service don’t comment each time on the last person who sang or spoke. Just introduce the next part of the service.
Be prepared. Have a written outline of how the service will run. This way you will not forget any part or aspect of the service. (Forgetting to have the children’s choir sing when they have practiced all week will get a lot of people upset at you.)
Don’t ramble. Recently I attended a service where the person who led the service in the Pastor’s leave, killed it with his constant rambling. He actually spoke more than the preacher did. He thought he was funny with his jokes and spiritual with his “little messages”. Needless to say, the congregation did not pay much attention to the preacher when he was finally introduced, since they already heard plenty of oratory from the person leading the service. I love preaching, but I have to admit, the guy leading this service wore me out.[ read more...]
There are a number of reasons why a church may decline and confront the prospect of ministry death. Some of the causes are outside the congregation’s control. Others are a direct result of what the people are doing (or not doing) within the church.
Listed are reasons why churches close. The wise leader will recognize where his congregation is and prevent the loss of a church.
- Loss of population base within the community. A significant factor confronting many churches located in isolated rural areas is the decline within the community at large. As the children become adults, there are not enough economic bases to support them. As the population of the community decreases so do the opportunities for the church outreach and growth. New people, having no ties to the community, may travel to a larger metropolitan area to attend a church that has multiple programs.
- Demographic change within a community. Demographic changes alter the cultural setting of the community. Churches that do not adapt to these changes can find it difficult to minister to the new cultural setting. Because small churches tend to be homogeneous, they are often the last to change when transitions occur in the demographic setting. Unwilling to change, they soon become isolated from the mainstream of the community.
- Changes in society. There are several changes within society that have significantly impacted the small church and contributed to the decline of some congregations. In the past, the church was a social center of not only the people who attended, but also the whole community. People came to church to see their neighbors and friends. No longer is the church this social center; instead people have multiple social centers, which draw them away from the church. Consequently the church no longer has the influence within the community it once had. The downside of this is that people no longer attend church for social interaction, making it more difficult to attract new people. Another factor has been the mobility of people. People will drive past many churches to attend the church of their choice. No longer is there the true “community church” where everyone in the community attends because it is the only church available. Now, because distance is no longer an issue, people have multiple choices of which church to attend. A third change in society is consumerism. Previously people attended a church because of their loyalty to the congregation and community. Even if the church was not “ministering to their needs” they remained because of their sense of duty. Now people hop from church to church depending on their particular needs and availability of programs within the church to minister to those needs.
It would be foolish, or at best naive, for any of us to believe or even infer that what works for others will work for you as well. The Vision process, or Visioneering, is included in that statement. There is no cookie-cutter formula that works and produces for everyone. However, there is a common development route, or process, that can be modified to suit your environment, and it will work for everyone if allowed to. There are questions to ponder and ask at the inception of the Visioneering process.
Why is this important? It is important because every leader, church, or organization is not ready to undertake a successful Visioneering process. Before you waste your time and that of others you need to validate that this is the right thing for you to do.
To do this you will have to determine some things. Every church or business has its own unique and distinguishing traits and characteristics, including but not limited to:
· The number people and talents it has available
· The unity it either has or doesn’t have
· The spiritual maturity and understanding level of the people
· The level of commitment to excellence and continuous improvement
· The work ethic
· The corporate attitude
· Financial and resource strengths and/or weaknesses
What are yours? Write them down clearly and concisely. Do the necessary research. Thoroughness and honesty are absolutely essential.
Next, of course there are many other ingredients that must be considered as well, including but not limited to:
· The connection between the leader and the people
· The level of trust and confidence in leadership
· The size and commitment to and understanding of teamwork
· The organizational structure
· Area demographics (white or blue collar/wealthy or welfare/educated or non-educated/innovative or non-innovative/adaptability to change or resistance to any change, multicultural blend and ethnicity traits/ and etc.)
· The culture of the area and of the church
Once again, write these down clearly and concisely as well. Do the necessary research. Thoroughness and honesty are absolutely essential.[ read more...]