Five Reasons Ministry Is Moving Bi-Vocational & Para-church/Secular Employment

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The future of congregational ministry is where the minister is either bi-vocational or working a full time job outside the church (either parachurch ministry or secular employment). Todd Wilson is the first person I heard say this and I was skeptical. Now, in post-COVID church, I think he is absolutely right. Here are five reasons why:

1 – Smaller churches/budgets. Churches and budgets are smaller and cannot as easily support someone to come in and do the traditional ministry role. The work of ministry will have to go back to the people.

2 – Burn out. Ministers are burned out. They already were before the pandemic. Now, they are even more burned out. It would take another post to cover the reasons for this but it isn’t hard to see this is true. Just ask a minister!

3 – Fulfillment of life purpose. Ministers are finding more fulfillment and opportunity to minister/transform lives outside the church than inside the church (that should raise some questions). They are seeing that the programs didn’t produce the promised results (part of the burn out – all that effort without the results). But they are seeing fruit in their neighborhood, the store, etc.

4 – Financial stability. Ministers are finding financial freedom through side gigs. More and more ministers have a side gig for several reasons including: they need more income than the church can provide (see #1), this connects them with non-Christians, and having a side gig is easier now than ever thanks to technology and how COVID accelerated opportunity, creativity and motivation for diversity in income streams (not all eggs in the church basket). Having a financial buffer allows a minister to be more honest in their sermons due to less fear of the severity of the financial impact if they get let go. There are few things more exhausting than having convictions that cannot be expressed due to the potential financial disaster that would follow being open and honest.

5 – Opportunity. There are more jobs that ministers are prepared to do now than in the past due to the Gig Economy. What is more, these side gigs are often more easily converted to full time work than starting from scratch.

Bonus – this approach is becoming more and more normal so it becomes easier to conceptualize for those who feel stuck because they have peers who have made this work.

Obviously, this will mean that churches will have to rely more and more on lay leaders and volunteers to do the work that they always should have been doing. That also means we need to reassess the work we are asking people to do and ask ourselves, “Is it working?” If our aim is to produce spiritually mature disciples, then are our ministries and what we are asking people to do resulting in that outcome?

In a generation, this shift will be an incredibly helpful, healthy and even biblical move for the church.

6 Responses

  1. Amazing, is it not? We now get a lot closer to how early Christianity could spread so quickly.
    Persecution led to “they went everywhere, proclaiming the word…”

  2. Matt, I was a bi-vocational minister in the One Cup segment of our faith heritage for 35 years. Most One Cup congregations have 5-6 teacher/preachers within them and do not take a salary from the church. If called to hold a revival/gospel meeting our expenses would be covered by the congregation that asked us to visit. Others and I did not want a salary that way we were not at the mercy of the congregation. We taught on subjects that were needed and didn’t have to worry about being fired. I’m no longer with the One Cup group I now attend a cups and classes congregation and teach Bible classes and speak when needed. Bi-vocational ministers is growing in the CofC’s and the Independent Christian Church. As for myself I’m happy that a return to this approach is happening in the church. Members seem to grow spiritually (at a faster rate) and have some skin in the game, like the tent maker Saul of Tarsus. God Bless!

  3. My granddad was bi-vocational, although I think he might have disagreed with the term. He was a highly educated “preacher”, church leader, carpenter, house remodeler, painter, etc.from about 1915 til early 1960s.

  4. I’m new here and full disclosure, I’m not from the Restoration background. I was raised LCMS, a conservative Lutheran denomination. I now self identify as post-denominational. I participate and sometimes co-facilitate a mens Wednesday night Bible study at a local CoC congregation, lead an adult SS class at a local GMC (conservative Methodist) congregation, facilitate a Bible study at a local nursing home, and facilitate a 2 o’clock gathering of Christians of various affiliations. All that to say that I believe that not only are there big changes coming for vocational ministers, but for the institutional church as well. I recently led Bible study based on Ephesians 4:1-16, where it’s made clear that all believers have a function to fulfill within the body of Christ.

  5. I am in this mode as we speak. Less stress, more effective ministry, and an opportunity to feel spiritually productive in the lives of others..

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