Despite my belief to the contrary, the last five years of bi-vocational ministry have helped me grow immensely. Though it has not been an easy path toward maturity (is it ever?), my secular job experience has helped to develop me as a leader, pastor, and – more importantly – as a Christian.
In this post, I would like to share with you four ways that bi-vocational ministry has been for me a crucible that God has used to refine me personally.
1. The demands of bi-vocational ministry required that I grow in my leadership capacity.
Delegation, time management and clear communication are absolute necessities. It has become clear to me that when it comes to ministry obligations and leading my family I simply cannot do it all. I have to develop dependable people who can take unnecessary tasks off my plate. I also have to communicate efficiently and clearly with each of them if we are to accomplish anything in a timely fashion.
2. I have also had to learn to trust other leaders to help handle the workload, which has been a hard-fought lesson for me personally.
I’ve had to trust the Lord to provide the leaders and resources for us to accomplish everything that we need to, and I’ve had to learn to not micromanage those leaders. Essentially I’ve had to learn the hard lesson that God is the one in charge, not me.
3. Bi-vocational ministry has been used of God to humble me in my know-it-all-ness.
The technical skills and tools that I learned during my time in seminary largely go by the wayside when I’m pressed for time. I simply don’t have the luxury of researching everything on the topic or do my own translations when I have a family to lead and a job that occupies my most productive hours of the week.
4. I have also had to learn a new brand of patience in bi-vocational ministry – another hard-fought battle.
Rather than the dynamic, quick-turnaround decision-making that I prefer, I now know that that it’s okay to let a broken process or minor problem continue to be imperfect because I don’t have the time or mental energy at the end of the day to fix it. It’s also not worth stealing time from my family to accomplish ministry objectives.
These are all useful and practical lessons for me as a leader, but by far the most valuable personal lesson that I’ve learned from my experience in bi-vocational ministry is that my wife and family are not a hindrance to my ministry; rather, they are my ministry. I have learned that it’s okay if some ministry task doesn’t get done, but it’s not okay if my family hates ministry. In other words, I have learned to celebrate the true joys that God gives rather than false sense of joy that comes from bowing down before the idol of ministry accomplishment.
I hope that those of you who are also wrestling with those difficult lessons that bi-vocational ministry teaches can see the loving hand of God producing deeper joy in you, and refining you into a better Christian and pastor.