When we first rolled into town, I was unemployed (or as we liked to call it, “FUNemployed”). As we and our friends moved into our houses, got the lay of the land, and visited churches each weekend, the guys and I drove around town applying for different jobs: Sam’s Club, Home Depot, Lowe’s, Staples… Eventually I got desperate and took a midnight shift on a local janitorial crew, cleaning a mall on the nearby Army Post. It was about as glamorous as it sounds. I have so many stories from that job, including waking up at 2am in the women’s dressing room, disoriented and wondering where I was. I quit that job when the school system hired me to drive a bus. For a few months, I would drive a bus in the morning, study for church at the library until lunch, work an afternoon shift at a local coffee shop shipping warehouse, go home for dinner, and work on freelance graphic design till midnight.
I need to take a nap after just reading that paragraph.
By God’s grace, I’m still alive, married, my kids love me, and the church is growing.
Paychecks are a necessary evil. We have to have them, and sometimes we have to work a job (or two or three) we don’t love so we can do the work we love and are called to.
Ideally, there would be enough money in the church budget for you, the pastor, to receive full time pay from the church from the beginning. I’ve seen it happen but that’s not my personal story. I wasn’t hired full time at the church until about two years in.
Here are a few thoughts about bi-vocational pastoring…
You’re not the first tentmaker.
Moses was a shepherd/speaker.
Jesus was a carpenter/healer/revolutionary.
Paul was a tentmaker/church planter.
You’re in good company. If the church can’t support you full time upfront, don’t be discouraged. Get what you can from the church (talk to your Board of Directors) and focus as much as you can on the church. God will honor your diligence as you to take care of your family.
Don’t kill yourself.
I’ve seen church planters drop off the map, leave their families, and lose their minds. If you don’t show your calendar who is boss, it will, and it won’t be pretty. Guard time for your family (something I’m still working hard at nine years in), and most importantly, guard time with the Lord. Your relationship with Him is more than just building a church. What does it profit you if you gain a megachurch with nine locations and lose your soul?
Change your perspective.
Soak in your time working in the non-church world, surrounded by people who need Jesus. Most likely, you’ll eventually be full time at a church surrounded by Christians and you’ll have to work at making friends who don’t know Jesus. During Paul’s time in prison, chained to Roman guards, he realized he had a captive audience. Literally. Many in the palace guard starting coming to Christ through his “prison ministry.” That perspective changed my viewpoint on cleaning bathrooms and driving a school bus. I tried to view my days with my co-workers and an overseeing bus driver as opportunities for the gospel. It was amazing how God used me when that was my mindset!
K E V I N • M I L L E R
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