Going Bi-Vo

Published on: September 1, 2012

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Today, many ministers are considering “going bi-vo,” or bi-vocational. Whether due to circumstances in the economy or the size of the congregation, they must make a decision to either leave ministry for full-time employment or take on a full-time or part-time job in addition to their work in the church. Both the increased financial security and benefits a secular job has to offer can be very compelling.

We must start with the realization that there is no such thing as a “part-time” minister. The wages may be part-time wages, and office hours reduced, but the work is always being done in mind and heart. Services are bring prepared, classes planned, counseling by phone or in person is being conducted, and ongoing study and activity regarding church life and health fills every available hour of the day.

I have personal experience, as it was necessary for me to work a full-time job to support my granddaughter and me when I moved to Connecticut to start a church. It is my prayer that the experiences I have had will make yours easier, if you find yourself in a similar position.

You cannot serve two masters. Remember that the purpose of the secular job is support yourself, and enable you to continue in your ministry. If you go into a job with intentions of “moving up in the company,” it will shift your focus from ministry to the company you work for.

Know when it is time to quit. If at any time the job no longer serves its original purpose, it is time to quit—even if you need to find a more suitable secular job. Make sure that the job is something you can leave at the office at the end of the day.

The job should be something that you enjoy or are comfortable doing. If much training and study is required, it will take your focus from your ministry to your job.

Determine how long you plan to hold the job. Ask yourself whether this will be a “gap filler” to keep the bills paid until things change in the church, or a long-term supplement to your finances.

Bring reminders to your desk, if allowed, of why you have taken a job outside of your ministry, such as inspirational quotes. I created a space I called “Happy Thought Central.” Folks could stop by my desk to pick up an “angel card” or read the “quote of the month.” I was careful not to make it a “religious” thing, but it did prove to be an opportunity to minister right where I was.

Realize that you can’t do it all. Learn to delegate. Please know that there is no shame in not being in full-time ministry. We minister to each other wherever we are, in whatever we do, when we do it for God.

I retired from the secular job I held when I realized that it was no longer serving its purpose. The church is still small, and I have started a business, “Second Hands Virtual Ministry Support Services.” Its primary purpose is to support ministers by providing the work that they do not have time or energy for; maybe because of having a second job! My cup overflows and I pray yours does also.

Alicia Leslie
Rev Alicia Leslie has served churches in Indiana, Texas and Virginia. She pioneered a work in Connecticut. In 2012 she retired from traditional ministry, moving her ministry, "Spirit of Unity" online.

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