I hope that this day finds you doing well and being blessed. My back is doing fine. It has been 23 weeks since my back surgery and I am feeling very well. I was speaking to someone in the office last week about issues of faith and they learned that not only do I put in a full week at the office but that I also pastor a local church. The church is doing well by the way and counting the nursery, we have exceeded 100 + people in the last couple of weeks, an excellent number for us in the summer months. The Lord has truly been blessing His ministry through His church where we serve. The individual I was speaking with had some questions about my schedule and how I was able to accomplish the ministry work while holding a full-time secular job. As I have had a similar conversation with two other people in the last couple of weeks, I thought it would be good to share my thoughts on this issue. Any time I have had multiple conversations on the same subject in a short period of time I have found that God is nudging me to share the message with someone else as well.
Before I start let me just simply say that anything God wants you to do, He will help you to do! Okay, here we go!
1. Set Boundaries. (Dinner Time is our time).
First let me say, that my wife is awesome! She is very understanding and supportive. A bivocational pastor does not minister alone. It is a calling to an entire family. I was a husband long before I was a pastor and my marriage relationship impacts my schedule and my priorities as a bivocational pastor. Yes, I answer to the Lord, but I recognize that He blessed me with my beautiful wife and desires that I be a good steward of my relationship with her. This means I must set and observe good boundaries in regard to family time, dinner time, date nights, and times for just sitting on the couch holding hands. My wife understands that there will be times when I do need to jump up and go see someone who has a dire situation that must be attended to. She gets that. But I have also come to understand that I don’t always need to jump up and dash from the dinner table just to answer the phone. People can leave a message and if it’s an emergency, you can make arrangements to take care of the situation in an appropriate manner. When I first started as a bivocational pastor, I did not always do a good job setting boundaries. The church I was in was a smaller church and I was so afraid that its survival depended on me that at times I tried to do too much. This was not good for my own health – as I was too tired; it was not good for the health of my marriage – as my wife was ignored and left sitting on the couch with no one to hold her hand, and it was no good for the health of the congregation – as they did not get to engage in kingdom work and use their own spiritual gifts. Set boundaries as a bivocational pastor. Your wife will be grateful and so will you!
2. Engage and Invite your congregation to participate!
I have to say that I have some awesome people in the congregation where I serve! We have some deacons who are very compassionate and loving and who are excellent at visiting members who are ill and in the hospital or who are home bound. A strong body of deacons is very important for a bivocational pastor. Deacons are the servant leaders in a church and their ministry is vital to a healthy church. When I was called to pastor our church, we had not added any deacons for several years – like almost 20! We were down to 2 deacons which was not enough for our growing congregation. We knew we needed to call some more so we began a process of sharing the scriptural qualifications for deacons with our congregation, praying together and ultimately calling some additional men to serve. The entire process took over 6 months. But it was a process that God had His Hands upon and the Lord provided us with some excellent men to serve the needs of the congregation and minister to His people. Not only do we have some wonderful deacons but we have some wonderful people sharing their gifts of teaching, singing, helping and administrating. It is definitely a blessing to have people who answer God’s call and help with Vacation Bible school, bookkeeping, newsletters, hospitality committees, mowing yards, pulling weeds, and a host of other ways.
Inviting and engaging others in kingdom work is important for every church even if the pastor is not bivocational. Having only a handful of people involved in administering the activities will lead to burnout. When Moses’ father-in-law Jethro saw Moses trying to do it all in chapter 18 of Exodus, he told Moses, “What you are doing is not good.” Moses then began to delegate responsibility and involve others. As he did, his life became better, others were blessed with learning responsibility, with using God-given gifts and abilities and leaders in the body were born. Involve and engage others in your congregation and you will be blessed – so will they! Do not rob them of the joy and personal growth that God desires for their life!
3. Be disciplined!
I believe that apart from a calling from God to be a bivocational pastor (and apart from the support of your spouse) this is the greatest characteristic you will need. You will need to be very disciplined so that you observe the schedule and the boundaries you set for yourself. Now, I will confess that there are some areas in my life I struggle with. One in particular is that I have to fight the urge to pick up the pastries. Pray for me! When an email goes out in my office about “Birthday Cake on Bob’s Desk” I have been known to knock people down in order to get to Bob’s desk in time to still get a corner piece. I do struggle with certain issues but in general I am very disciplined. Apart from my recovery during my recent back surgery, I have observed the same workout schedule for the better part of 30 years. Wow! Did I say I was disciplined? Okay, maybe I am a little more “obsessed”. In either case, as a bivocational pastor you have to be disciplined enough to stick to your schedule. You have to be disciplined to observe the boundaries that you have set with your wife and family. You have to be disciplined enough to follow the times set aside for preparation for the sermons you plan to do 2 – 3 weeks from now and disciplined enough to get busy on the one you are trying to write for this week! And in the midst of that schedule, you have to be disciplined enough to set aside time for your own prayer and devotion. Which brings me to the next point.
4. Pray – a lot!
When I first wrote this down, I wrote “Pry – a lot”. As in “pry” into somebody else’s business. And in some ways that would be accurate for that is what you are doing. You are prying into God’s business. It is His Church. They are His people….. not yours! Keep that perspective. Fall on your knees and try to pry into His business. Seek His Face, seek His counsel, and seek His guidance all the time! What is His vision for the upcoming week, month, quarter and year? What are the important points He needs you to present to His people this week as you present His message this week? After all, you are only a steward of the church, of these people, of the very messages that He is allowing you to deliver from His pulpit – not yours! Pry into His business! Ask for wisdom and guidance and help for the encouragement and instruction you need Him to pour out through you!
Prayer is the key! Pray! Then pray some more.
5. Redeem the time.
I live about 35 miles from the insurance claims office where I work. I drive through Austin, Texas to get to my office. Austin traffic is not known for how quickly it moves. I spend a lot of my time in the car in prayer. I lift up the people I worship with and I lift up the people I work with. Sometimes I ride to church with Chris Tomlin, Matt Redmond and Big Daddy Weave and we praise and worship the Living God together – “How Great is our God!” My car is like a miniature church on wheels. I sing, I pray, and I even preach in my car sometimes. I have a voice memo app on my I-phone where I can record my thoughts on the passage that I am going to be preaching on that week. When I get back home at night, I can listen to those notes and not have to depend on my memory to put on paper the words the Lord put on my heart so many hours earlier. I make the most out of my time in my car.
Redeem the time! Before I was a pastor, I bought the cassettes and the books for Spanish 2 and 3 so that I could become a better witness for the Lord. Me complace para ser un testigo para El. It pleases me to be a witness for Him!
As a bivocational pastor you have to be prepared to redeem the time! Whenever I go to a doctor’s office, I listen to the Lord and am friendly and open to speaking to others around me, but I always take my notepad so that I can write down thoughts for my sermon or any lesson that I am in the midst of preparing. Redeem the time.
6. Exercise and stay fit.
Currently I am recovering from back surgery, but I have to say that exercise does wonders for you. Yes, it is good for the cardio vascular and circulatory systems but it is also good for you mentally. Exercise helps reduce stress. It provides endorphins for your brain and in general gives you a chance to unwind. I get up Monday through Friday and go to the YMCA at 5:00 am. On Saturday I get there at 8:00 am. I miss some days, but most days that is where I am. (it is that discipline/obsession thing again.) I try to lift 3 times per week and run 4 times per week. I have to squeeze those 7 workouts into 5 or 6 days. (Currently due to my back surgery I cannot lift or run). Sometimes I read my sermon notes while I run on the treadmill, sometimes I listen to music, sometimes I listen to audio commentaries on the bible. Part of staying fit has to do with eating right. I am still working on that. I am still trying to eat more fruit. From some of my previous posts, you may get the idea that I believe “fruit” includes banana pudding, blueberry muffins and apple turn overs. Yeah, I am still working on this area of my life. I have recently discovered though, that I really enjoy nectarines and Gala apples. It’s a start. Pray for me….pray a lot!
7. Make time for yourself. Take a vacation now and then.
You will need to get away now and then to recharge your batteries. During that vacation you will need to decide if you are going to do any long term sermon planning or is this going to be a vacation just for you. Please decide this before you go. If it is a mixture of the two and you are just getting away from town for a few days and the secular job and do a little bit of church work, then set some appropriate boundaries for yourself. “On my honor, while on vacation, I promise not to work more than 2 hours today, not to make any calls outside of that window of time and to live by the Girl Scout Law.” Come up with some boundary that works for you and your spouse. Get away and enjoy yourself.
Those are the basics as I see them. There are more I’m sure. Remember to observe your own bible study and quiet times apart from sermon preparation. Those times can be just as refreshing as a vacation. Remember, God likes to work through people who look refreshed. If you are a bivocational pastor or thinking of becoming one, fantastic! The Lord will bless you, it is an awesome ministry. Read the prior posting on Week 4 about why this ministry is so crucial! If you know some bivocational pastors, please pray for them! They love your support and the Lord answers your prayers!
If you would like to know more about a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, you can send me an email directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.