The President of our SBC Executive Committee, Dr. Frank Page is spending time with small church pastors in Missouri this week. Approximately 53% of these pastors are bi-vocational. Dr. Page has always been a champion of small churches as evidenced one way by his appearance at our Small Church Leadership Network Conference in 2008.
For the last two years, I have been a bi-vocational pastor of a new church plant in North Carolina. Being bi-vocational makes a tough job even tougher. However, the advantage I see in being bi-vocational is that the church has to take on more of the load of visitation, evangelism, and ministry. This model helps our members to grow in theiir faith and and is good way of making disciples. Also, I believe this model is closer to the early church than the way we do church in suburban and urban areas.
Right or wrong, many suburban churches expect their fulltime pastor to do most of the work and the congregation stands back and lets him do it. That's not to say that many small churches with bi-vo pastors don't have the same expection, but my personal experience as a bi-vo pastor is that more members are willing to minister during the pastor's absence.
Another advantage of being a bi-vo pastor is a steady income. I have experienced leaving a fulltime pastor job without another fulltime position in hand. It is extremely difficult because churches do not have to provide unemployment insurance and secular jobs are hard to find. Thus many pastors in this situation lose their houses, cars, etc., and destroy their credit. With a bi-vo pastor, his steady income in a secular job helps prevent those calamities from happening.
I have the greatest respect for bi-vo pastors. Sometimes they are not respected by fulltime pastors who wonder why bi-vo pastors can't get a fulltime position. For many, it is not that they cannot get a fulltime position but they choose the biblical model of of the New Testament in which being bi-vo was normal.
Finally, I commend to all bi-vo pastors a Southern Baptist organization, the Bivocational and Small Church Leadship Network. They have a plethora of resources to encourage not only bi-vo pastors but also pastors of small churches. I urge you to take advantage of this wonderful organization.