bi-vocational ministry

4 benefits of bi-vocational and co-vocational ministry

The majority of all ministries in the world are led by bi-vocational or co-vocational pastors and leaders.  

Think about that for a minute.  

It is a modern-day phenomenon in America over the last 100 years or so to think of most ministries or at least the ideal ministry having a “full-time” pastor or leader. Pastoring has definitely been seen in America and some other affluent places that have a Christian culture, as a profession.  But remember, the vast majority of the world, and now even the majority of Baptist pastors in America serve as bi-vocational or co-vocational.  

Often we think of the benefits of “full-time” ministry, and there certainly are some obvious ones.  However, we need to view bi-vo and co-vo ministry as beneficial.  I believe it is the future!  Here are 5 Benefits of this kind of ministry:

#1 Ministry Happens Faster.  

This is true for those that are looking to plant a church, replant or revitalize a ministry.  Often a missionary or church planter can spend a lot of time raising support to just get to the point where they can start the ministry. This is especially true for ministries that are not a part of a denomination that handles their support.  Without the need to raise support for a full-time salary you can begin ministry more quickly.  Of course, there are some ministry opportunities overseas where there is not a viable option to serve bi-vocationally.  Pastors should also view the support raising stage as a ministry opportunity to strengthen relationships and support, regardless of vocational status.

#2 Credibility. 

Credibility can go one of two ways for those that are serving in a bi-vo or co-vo ministry.  If you are bi-vo, it is temporary, but still respected. The church knows that you are helping them get through a tough point financially until they can support you in a greater way.  They learn that you are not afraid of work and are willing to sacrifice.  If you are serving in a co-vo capacity, this is not a short-term or temporary deal.  

Those that serve co-vocationally, do so intentionally. It is a part of their calling.  

God has called them to that other vocation outside of ministry, just as much as He has called them to the pastor.  

This also gives you respect in the marketplace and in the church. People can identify with a person more easily that works in a field they understand.  The accusation “they are in it for the money” doesn’t really stick as much and hinders your ministry when you serve bi-vo or co-vo.

#3 Financial Stability.  

One of the leading reasons pastors want to leave the ministry is over financial instability.  Most pastors are overworked, underpaid, and then over criticized.  It’s not a good combination.  

Pastors are very aware of the accusation, that they may be in it for the money.  In return, they are very reluctant to communicate their financial struggles to the church. Often their income is much less than those in the church and in the community.  

There are ministries that desire to pay their pastor a fair and livable wage, but sometimes they put the church itself in a place of financial instability when they do so.  Essentially the church goes broke attempting to bless the pastor financially.  

The bi-vo or co-vo pastor not only eliminates this financial burden for the church but also brings financial security to their own family.  

They no longer have to fully depend on the ups and downs of the offering for their livelihood.  I believe this also improves the length of tenure for the pastor at a ministry when there is some financial security for the pastor.  

#4 Connect with the Community.  

A pastor who works in the community connects with the community.  

He does so at a different level than a pastor who may not work in the community, even though he attempts to be engaged in the community.  Those that work in the community get a greater feel for the people, their lives, their struggles, and their culture. They know what their co-workers are doing this weekend, and they know what community events and organizations they are involved in.  The pastor at the local church is not mysterious, un-relatable, or unknown, he works with them.  

There you have it, 4 benefits of bi-vocational and co-vocational ministry!  Do you know of some other benefits?  Please send them my way.

6 Things Relationally Healthy Pastors Know that Lead for Transformation

Relationships in life can be one of the most challenging things we navigate in the ministry.  Now, consider a pastor leading people through change and transformation…..off the map, in new territory.  There are some real landmines to navigate.  This is where many pastors find themselves right now.  

Consider these 6 things that relationally healthy pastors know who are leading people off the map through transformation.

 

1. They must stay connected relationally with those they are in conflict with.

 

For a pastor, the focus can easily be drawn to the individualist responsibilities of study, prayer, teaching, preaching, vision, and planning. Personally, I loved my sermon prep and studying part of my schedule, too much probably.  I would spend time in the text, pray, and read through dozens of commentaries and articles. This was often at the expense of connecting with others.  

One particular Saturday evening we hosted a funeral at our church.  I had preached at the funeral and retreated to my study at the church to prepare for Sunday.  One of our dear deacons respectfully sought me out and asked me what I was doing.  I thought he would be impressed when I told him I was preparing to proclaim the Word of God for the next Lord’s day.  He wasn’t impressed.  He said, “there is a family in there that needs a pastor.”  He was right.

I had substituted the pulpit ministry for a relational ministry.  

I always thought I would lead merely through preaching. I thought “I will preach my way there.”  After all, that is what I was trained to do. Ultimately, that only gets you so far in the local church context.  Relationships are required.

As I examined my ministry I realized that I was too busy for relationships, especially with people that I sensed conflict.  I still remember applying what I learned from John Maxwell.  He spoke of walking through the crowd slowly, looking people in the eye and listening.  I was the exact opposite. Each Sunday I was running around like a crazy man. People said, “wow, the pastor sure is busy, we better not interrupt him.”  

A focus and prioritization on relationships have to be intentional.  We lean away from relationships because they are messy, cannot be controlled and we like to be efficient with our time as busy leaders. We cannot be efficient with people, hopefully effective, but never efficient.  

Many guys in the ministry struggle with healthy relationships.  We struggle to have personal close friends inside and outside of the ministry.  When you add in the stress of interpersonal relationships for a pastor who is attempting to lead a church through change or transformation of some kind, the relational stress skyrockets.  

The temptation is to flee, flight or freeze.  We naturally avoid conflict and distance ourselves from those that we have disharmony. 

Avoidance sends the message “this is personal.” The reality is, the conflict when leading a church through change is not typically personal, even though they feel that way based on the emotional and relational stress it causes.  

Stay connected relationally.

 

2. They don’t mistake support from their base for transformational leadership

 

Support from others makes us feel good, especially when we are riding out conflict over a change in the church.  It is helpful to distinguish if this support is from your “base” or if the support includes others. While preaching to the choir still feels good, it is not the end game.  

If you are only gaining support from people who already think like you and look like you, you may be struggling with survivorship bias. Survivorship bias is where your previously held beliefs, practices, and thoughts are continually supported and never challenged because you have insulated yourself from differing thinking. Unconsciously you may have kept people with differing thoughts at arms distance, adding to the relational conflict you are experiencing. 

When I was teaching college courses at VBC.edu we learned that the accreditation process values a few key things among the faculty. First, they want to see higher degrees of learning through advanced education.   Second, they want to see diversity in educational degrees.  You don’t want everyone on your faculty and staff to have degrees from the same institution.  Pastors need to value learning and have diversity among the sources they learn from.

In World War II many bombers were being shot down.  The engineers decided to study the bullet patterns on those bombers that returned and reinforced them with steel. However, one engineer protested. He argued that they were paying attention to the wrong bombers. They needed to learn from the planes who never made it back to base. 

 

3. They must move at a pace most of the church can handle

 

If you want to go fast go alone, if you want to go far, go together.  

Many pastors are driven leaders and we want things done yesterday.   Add in youth and we compound the problem with a lack of patience….though some older people seem to be even more impatient!  Remember, that if you get so far ahead in your leadership that you are all by yourself, you are not actually leading anyone at that point.  You are just taking a walk by yourself. 

Leaders must regulate the heat.  If you turn the heat of transformation and change up too high and too fast people will get burned. If the heat is too low, then there is no meal to enjoy and everyone struggles with malnutrition or they eat it and get sick. The leader’s job is to regulate the heat as they move the church forward at a pace most can handle. 

 

4. That conflict is expected and par for the course.

 

For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places. 13 Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.  Ephesians 6:12

If you came into the ministry so everyone would like you, you chose the wrong vocation.

Know that conflict is par for the course.  Conflict is expected.  I wish someone told me this.  They probably did tell me, I just wasn’t paying attention. Somehow I got the vibes that walking with God, doing things right, great leadership, and so on will help you avoid conflict. I was under the impression that something was always wrong if a conflict occurred. I was wrong, dead wrong. If you believe something is wrong with you or your ministry because you experience conflict, you may have a false belief that needs to be changed.  

Fight the temptation to become a peace-monger.  

Becoming a peace-monger is when peace and unity become your goal rather than transformation.  Unity should be sought and prayed for. Unity should not be at the expense of true transformation.

When people experience loss and change because of transformation in the church they will get angry, very angry. They will lash out against the pastor, the leaders, and others.  I have worked with dozens of pastors and the pattern is very repeatable.  

Change. Loss. Fear. Anger. Disconnection. 

 

5. They learn from those that are marginalized

 

Some people in the church will feel marginalized because they have a differing opinion from the pastor or church leaders.  Seek them out, stay connected, and learn.  

People that have different perspectives are not wrong, just unique. 

Read that again and believe it.  

Avoid the temptation to discard the relationship. Believe that they have something you need to know. Be inquisitive.  Why do they think differently? How many others think this way? Could we be missing something?  Be honest.  Are they marginalized because of a bias in your leadership? Are you seeking to learn from women, minorities, people who are different?  Are you willing to learn from liberals, conservatives, democrats, republicans, young, old, white, black, minorities, male, female, blue-collar, white-collar, introverts, extroverts, and Redskin fans?  (that last one is the most difficult)

 

6. They must develop emotionally

 

Perhaps the greatest thing holding us back relationally is our underdeveloped emotional IQ.  Emotional IQ has become somewhat of a buzzword and trendy topic over the last few years…..for good reason. Many experts have claimed it is the single greatest factor in determining professional success in the work environment that requires high interaction with others.  

Pastors need to grow their emotional stamina.  This is the ability to stay connected relationally while dealing with their emotions.  I’m not speaking of stuffing our emotions. In fact, the opposite. We need to explore them with curiosity.  Write them down, consider them and ask ourselves questions like, “why do I feel this way?” “Should I feel this way?” “Is how I feel congruent with Scripture?”

Once we have identified our emotions, we should ask God to reveal to us what is triggering these emotions.  We should work with replacing the mental and emotional ruts we dig ourselves into with Scripture. Then we must replace these intrusive and negative emotions with truth.  

No doubt, to remain relationally healthy in the ministry requires intentional effort, personal growth, and constant learning.  It is a journey well worth it. I pray that you are able to pursue healthy relationships in your ministry as you lead the people around you for life transformation.

If I can help you in any way, please contact me at DevelopMyMinistry.org

Your Brother in the Battle,

Ryan Flanders

3 Biblical images that remind us of the role of a Parachurch ministry


Early in my Christian walk as a teenager I was introduced to parachurch ministries, I just didn’t know they were parachurch ministries.  It was a very positive experience, as I enjoyed Christian camps and even went to a Christian school for a few years. I was being taught from Christian curriculums in church and school, and reading Christian books published by parachurch ministries.  After high school, I went to a Christian college, another parachurch ministry.  This was an amazing time in my life where I grew spiritually and met lifelong friends.  During college, I met my wife at a Christian camp that was a parachurch ministry and even worked in a para-church ministry between college and seminary traveling the country helping churches do outreach.  

 

When we look across the religious landscape today we see many parachurch ministries.  “Para” means `’to come alongside.”  These ministries are to come alongside the church to help the church fulfill her mission. Jerry White defines a parachurch ministry as

“any spiritual ministry whose organization is not under the control or authority of a local congregation.”  Parachurch ministries can be anything from a soup kitchen to a mission board, or even an educational institution.  

Some pastors today, especially in conservative or fundamental circles, look suspiciously and negatively on parachurch ministries.  Some do so with good reason.  A few decades ago the Christian world was rocked by scandal when parachurch broadcast ministries like PTL, with the Bakers or Jimmy Swaggert, came tumbling down in scandals.  This cast a dark cloud over other parachurch ministries, and even over the church as a whole.  The culture lost confidence in ministries and mocked them openly for their scandals.  

 

Parachurch ministries, like churches and pastors, often lack accountability.  A lack of accountability can easily lead to a lack of integrity.  However, parachurch ministries with accountability that stay on a mission can have a positive impact on the work of the church.

 

Almost every Christian has benefited from a parachurch ministry, even if they do not realize it. But there are many examples of parachurch ministries doing their own thing, existing to serve themselves, rather than the church.  With that in mind, here are 3 reminders for a parachurch ministry:

 

#1 A Parachurch Ministry is the Bridesmaid, not the Bride

 

This is good for the parachurch ministry to remember.  They are not the church. They do not compete with the church.  As a good pastor friend of mine, Adam Colson, often says about our parachurch ministry, “you are a bridesmaid, not the bride.”  The parachurch ministry is there to come alongside the church and help them accomplish their mission of the Great Commission.

 

#2 A Parachurch Ministry is the Good Samaritan, not the man left half dead.

 

Too often parachurch ministries are the beggars.  They believe that the church and the people of the church are there to support their mission and endeavors. The opposite is true and needs to be remembered.  The parachurch, like the good samaritan, is the one that needs to come alongside the church, protect the church, support the church and do everything we can to restore the church to health.

 

#3  A Parachurch Ministry is the ministry of the Deacon, not the Elder or Widow.

 

In Acts 6, we are introduced to a problem in the early church.  The windows were being neglected.  Quickly, a plan was drawn up to select 7 men filled with the Holy Spirit to help meet this need.  Many believe these men were the forerunners to the office of the deacon in the church.  The reason that they selected these men to take this work was twofold.  First, to minister to the widows. Second, to allow those teaching, preaching, and praying to continue to focus on that.  The word deacon means servant.  The parachurch ministry is here to serve the church.  We are not dependent on the church, nor do we lead the church.

 

If our ministry can serve you in some way, do not hesitate to reach out to us!

 

Ryan Flanders and Chris McGill at Grace Baptist Community Church

“Jump Start Ministries” is excited to be a part of the “new” gathering that will resume on February 23rd. “Develop My Ministry” is hosting a pastor gathering for men on zoom at 7 pm. We will be discussing how to lead through the transition into uncharted territory. If we are going off the map, let’s learn to navigate together what God has before us into the next season of ministry. Find out more or get the zoom link @ https://jumpstartministries.churchcenter.com/registrations/events/722599

 

I use the term “new” and “resume” in the same sentence because these gatherings are similar to previous gatherings that we held as “TFC” or “Three Fold Chord.”  “TFC”, led by Tim Wilcox and Mark Dunn of Choice Baptist Church, hosted pastor gatherings and aimed to be a ministry that assisted churches in helping other churches. For years ”TFC” worked with dozens and dozens of local pastors.  Through “TFC” we helped churches complete major projects ranging from building projects to ministry overhauls. “TFC” has not met nor been active in over 5 years and Mark Dunn has since gone home to be with the Lord. I loved my involvement in that ministry and the opportunity to work with those leaders as well as many other pastors. I grew relationally, personally, and professionally serving in and being served by that ministry.

 

For the past year, during the pandemic, Tim Wilcox and I have discussed bringing “TFC” back but with a different look. I have prayerfully decided to transition my focus from “Jump Start Ministries,” where we have been helping ministries with community outreach, to helping men be personally developed in their life and ministry as pastors. This has been my passion all along, and I am excited to launch out in that direction.

 

I regularly work with men, to encourage them in both their personal lives and in their pastorate. Each week for the past few years it has been my weekly goal and routine to meet with or speak with three pastors.  My original intent was to speak with them about evangelism, but I found our conversations were really speaking about ministry and personal development. I look forward to doing this in a more intentional and focused way as “Jump Start Ministries” becomes a part of “Develop My Ministry” and “TFC” returns as “Develop My Ministry.” They will become one ministry.

 

The quarterly pastor gatherings are just one part of what we will be doing with “Develop My Ministry.”  Most of these meetings will be geared towards men in the pastorate. We hope to create an atmosphere for a band of brothers that are in the battle together. We hope to create a gathering that has personal encouragement and accountability which will then allow us to do and to be what God has called us to be, as men in the ministry. Each of these gatherings will focus on personal and ministry development in an encouraging and grace-filled atmosphere.

 

“Develop My Ministry” will also be actively serving pastors through consulting and coaching. We will be finalizing our consulting plans in the next few months and are excited about several pastors that we are already lined up to work with within 2021. I am a certified church revitalization consultant with Church Answers and am completing two other certifications in church consulting with Lifeway and Church Consulting University. I look forward to putting into practice my experience as well as my consulting certifications and leveraging the experience of others in this ministry to help men successfully lead their ministries and lives well.

 

I hope to see you at our first pastor gathering on February 23rd!

 

Your Brother in the Battle,

Ryan Flanders