Reclaiming Bivocationalism

Sean Benesh

Some could say that my foray into bivocational ministry was directly tied to my lack of ability to raise funds for church planting. Actually ... that is 100% accurate. The first time I ventured into church planting I didn't have enough funds to sustain my livelihood and take care of my family. So I did what anyone else did ... I got a job. That experience completely changed my life and I was hooked. Even when a few years later when I landed a full-time salaried role with my denomination I asked if I could still keep my side hustle which I did one to two mornings a week.

Since I was a hiking and mountain biking guide that allowed me to be on the trail by 6 AM (showing up at the shop at 5:15 AM), off the trail by 10 AM, and back home to do my church planting gig by noon. I did this one to two days a week ... one weekday and another on a weekend. I loved it. It was refreshing and a great outlet. Since then I've been in and out of the bivocational ministry world. Some seasons find me fully submerged in a ministry full-time gig and then other seasons like now I'm juggling bivocational life and ministry. I've long since stopped thinking or assuming it needs to be one way or the other. I enjoy both and if I'm honest, I've grown to love being bivocational. It's not always easy and at times the juggling can be maddening, but it provides me with various creative outlets.

Often times, if I'm honest (I keep saying that ... but so does Charles Barkley), I actually find that more ministry happens with my "non-ministry" jobs than it does in my ministry gigs. Paradoxical? Probably. You see, most of the time in ministry roles your life ends up being surrounded by people who know and love the Lord. It doesn't mean there are not issues of immaturity, drama, and the need for discipleship, but for the most part days are filled meeting with ministry leaders and those who identify with Christ. Conversely, in my other jobs my life is truly immersed in ministry. I'm surrounded by people who don't identify as followers of Jesus. Some do, many don't. It is into this world I step in and am involved in a depth of ministry not found in my ministry role.

I'm not pitting one against the other. I'm not even saying one is better than the other. Both are invaluable and both are 100% ministry for me, but to two completely different groups of people. The point is, more and more people, groups, denominations, and organizations are talking about bivocational ministry than I can ever recall before. For a long time it was viewed as inferior or lesser to be bivocational. Now? For many, it's actually their preferred path. Again, it doesn't mean it is easy. It isn't, by any stretch.

Bivocational ministry continues to need to be reclaimed. Not only that, but upheld not simply as a pathway for those who don't have the funds to do ministry full-time. Instead, held up as an option or a preferred choice. Again, if you're like me you can reflect on full-time ministry experiences where you were so deep in church or ministry stuff that one day you woke up to realize that you're in a bubble and no one in your life (except by happenstance) is not a Christian. Bivocationalism is a viable way forward to bridge that gap.

So let's reclaim bi-vocational ministry. More than that, let's uphold it and those who live in it.