Bye, [Bye]Vocational

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: it’s not easy marrying marketplace and ministry.

After all, when you consider secular expectations, the challenge of availability matching flexibility, how most church leadership models are structured…it can be tough-sleddin’.

Now, I’m not a church consultant or ministry life coach; however, in my brief ministerial experience, I’ve come to realize while tent-making is often praised behind the pulpit in an evangelism context, it’s rarely incorporated to the fullest in a leadership context.

Case and point: I work full-time hours (7:00-3:30 pm) for TDOT Monday through Friday, where at the start of each day, I take the day’s game script, stack it against my church load, and do what I can accordingly for both. For instance, on slower days I create youth discipleship content, plan events, design social media promotions, and field church-related correspondence on my breaks, whereas on busier days, I keep a running ‘to-do’ list to better tackle my gameplan after hours.

The problem is: whether or not my day at work is busy/productive, I still miss out on the life that happens at church (i.e. staff meetings, luncheons, offsite special events, etc.) during my shift.

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Granted, I do have supervisors who meet with me on a quarterly basis to catch me up to speed with important information. Yet, while the communicational challenges can be frustrating, it’s the communal setbacks that offer the greatest potential for discouragement.

So while having flex or contractual hours would be ideal, I know in seasons like the one I’m in, I can only abide in what I can control, confront what I can’t, and trust God in both. Still…this doesn’t mean the divide is easy.

On one hand, I’m proud to represent the Gospel in a taxing work environment, to mature in my reliance upon God when I find my own strength to be nothing but weakness. On the other, I’m often downcast considering a) it’s hard to justify why I work where I do1  and b) to not experience deeper community due to a job I can’t stand on my own strength is a bitter pill to swallow.

So when it comes to the idea of a bye-vocational (i.e. leaving one job to fully pursue the other) life in place of a bivocational one, I’d be lyin’ if I said I wasn’t intrigued considering the struggle to put forth full-time effort in part-time hours is [super] real…not to mention I’m the first Fry male in three generations to not know what full-time ministry life tastes like.

*Sigh*

I guess what I’m trying to say is: it’s hard being bivocational when the call itself seems to rob you of relationship. ‘Cause while many think bivocational ministry is all about tackling two different jobs, truth is: it’s just as much about influencing community and inspiring culture change as it is achieving excellence. Thus, how we cope when we feel our ‘spread out’ lifestyle is diluting our impact is worth discussion.

Of course, you can count on me to drill down on this in future posts, but for now, let me just say: for those of you working multiple gigs striving to keep joy afloat, understand you carry difference-making potential inside you…and that potential is not only going to come to fruition in the territory God has given you to tend, but is also never contingent on what you can’t control. Again, that’s the beauty of trusting God. Whenever we reach an end of the line, God grants us the slack to press on. Whenever we reach an unscalable wall, God equips us to ascend it. And whenever we’re overcome by a particular lacking, God meets us in our midst, fills us, and goes before us to make a way (Isaiah 43:16-19).

Yeah, I get how hard it can be craving community and passion outlets in the arid seasons of life, but remember God specializes in showing His power in hopeless situations. So if you’re reading this today wishing you could swap out a bye-vocational life in place of a bivocational one, I encourage you: allow God to fill up your empty canteen with encouragement and fresh perspective. ‘Cause I submit: where you are now is not by mistake, but by design and by grace.

Think of it this way: If you’re thirsty, what sense does it make to cut your water bottle in half when you could simply remove the cap and fill it to the brim?

Pretty obvious, right?

Yet, how many of you reading this are essentially doing the same thing by denying yourself full-fillment as a result of wanting the ‘bye’, not the ‘bi’?

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If you can relate, I encourage you: stop overfocusing on what you wish could be different in your life and embrace the fact God has you just where He wants you. Don’t fantasize about what it’d be like to customize your life. Instead, take joy in trusting the Lord’s lead and take courage in pushing through to the good stuff that’s coming (see Isaiah 58:11).

While I’m tempted to go on, I’m goin’ to push ‘pause’ for now and instead bid adieu with some parting questions:

1) What do you need to be filled with today?
2) What is capping the ‘containers’ God has placed you in?
3) Will you remove those caps and allow God to fill you up?

I’ll just let the mic drop there…

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Footnotes

  1. in light of how I was created

Cover photo creds: ThomRainer.com 

3 Ways to Cultivate a Reproducible Ministry

When it comes to the bivocational life, no question, leaving a legacy (heck, just staying the course) is hard work. I know for me, finding time, energy, even resources…can quickly become challenging tasks when life seems to bottle up in any one area. With that said, I also know when we center our attention and effort on cultivating a reproducible ministry, we ultimately discover the mindset, heart, and tools necessary to be maximally faithful in our respective realms.

So while the topic of “reproducible ministry” may seem like a daunting topic to some, by embracing these three basic points, you’ll find achieving the dream by and through God is completely possible.

1) Spread the “wealth” – No, I’m not talking about financial delegation; rather, I’m talking about sharing leadership opportunities with the rest of the body.

I know, I know…that’s blasphemy, right? *Sarcasm*

Well, as sad as it may seem, there are still quite a few ministers who abide by the archaic notion that preaching and teaching is a one-man, uni-directional gig; however, when we look at what effective Kingdom-centered, missionally-minded ministry looks like, we find the common denominator lies not in sustainability, but in reproducibility. As Pastor Jim Harris, Discipleship Pastor at Grace Chapel, once said about cultivating a thriving, disciple-making culture, “What we do needs to be reproducible. If it’s too complicated, then it’s not mission-minded.”

In other words, a healthy ministry isn’t obtained through showmanship; it’s accomplished through partnership…and the fostering of an environment where God can ‘water’ the saints in their 1 Corinthians 12 anointing. See the difference?

So if you’re hitting a wall in the area, ask yourself, ‘Am I trying to sustain results by an over-concentration of my spiritual giftings or am I looking to help others retain and reproduce truth?

‘Cause truth is: God gave everyone different gifts for a reason. I know for church leaders we tend to assume the church is a customized stage, but once we realize it’s actually a distribution center designed for all people to discover their identity and calling in Christ, our place of influence will sync up to a place of power as well.

My advice: ask the Lord to purify your motives…and to grow your fearlessness in connecting with people. Trust me: I know it can be easy to hide behind the podium; however, if you truly want to reach people, then you must commit to meeting them where they’re at so they can better see the kind of life they’re meant to live. That’s what reproducibility is all about.

2) Simplify the process – While this may seem painfully rudimentary, for a ministry to be reproducible, it’s fair to say it must be…remember-able (or re-memorable), right?

Unfortunately, I find many who think sound teaching is directly proportional to how “deep” and sacerdotal the content is. Yet, when we look at Jesus’ approach in his ministry, we find him using familiar language and relatable illustrations to drive home his points. In other words, Jesus didn’t aim his words over people’s heads; instead, he targeted their hearts for the sake of life change. So when I say “simplify the process”, what I’m really talking about is doing whatever we can to enable our word and effort to take root …whether we’re teaching people how to pick up their cross, follow Jesus, and fish for men…or using specialized planning apps like Evernote/Evernote web clipper/Penultimate/Logos Bible in tandem to better content construction.

My advice: integrate point #1 into point #2 (i.e. speak less, share more, and “partner” everything). You’ll find the more you do so, the more you’ll develop into the koinonia leader1 you were called to be.

3) Stir the rising generation – While I could write many a post talking about following Christ and what real change looks like, it’s all moot if we neglect the fact that mission assumes “3” 2 (i.e. to the third generation) and daily testifies the Gospel. Again, if we’re more concerned about our own flavor and style (as if you could put a patent on it), then we’re not going to come close to inspiring the emerging generation; if anything, the rising youth of our nation are sharp enough to smell inauthenticity a mile away. Yet, if we want to leave a reproducible legacy, then it’s imperative we view and live discipleship as God sees it and how Jesus executed it.

My advice: integrate point #2 into point #3 by allowing God do His part in wooing people to His heart and by being 100% responsible for the role He’s given you (i.e. surrendering, obeying, yielding…prepping in advance…preaching through books/genres of the Bible often, etc.3) You’ll find as long as you consecrate your focus  on empowering young people to speak the truth in love in the way God has you, He’ll make fruitful your effort.

Footnotes

  1. Thanks to Marty Duren for this point’s inspiration
  2. Shout-out once again to Jim Harris
  3. Case and point: our youth group is going studying the parables through the storytelling method)

Cover photo designed through Canva

Bivocational Profile: Papa Pastor

Meet Pastor Aaron. Pastor Aaron is the college ministry pastor at Your Community Church and assists the body by nurturing relationships and spiritual growth within the college and young adult communities. Having cultivated a committed track record over the years, Aaron is finally reaping the fruit of his faithful service.

However, this year, Aaron is having a much harder time delegating ministerial care, overseeing interns, and finding time to provide ministerial awareness and vision to the entire church in light of rookie paternal responsibilities and a more demanding work environment at the digital marketing company in which he serves. With more hours devoted to new work assignments and baby care, Aaron is suddenly struggling to make ends meet as efficiently as he once did.

Granted, Aaron still works with the same kind of integrity, leadership, and stewardship as in seasons past. The problem now is Aaron struggles to find time for the little things…remembering to make certain phone calls, responding to e-mails, making every staff meeting, and following up with team members with whom he’s had to rely more heavily on.

As a result, his students (and their parents) are feeling the early stages of disconnectedness. While Aaron preaches and shows up to personal events whenever he can, the downtick in occurrences, while understandable, is beginning to manifest in lower attendance rates due to the notable drop-off in ministerial effectiveness between Aaron and his subordinates who have stepped up in his place.

Thus, Aaron is starting to wrestle with hopelessness that he can tie loose ends in the face of tighter ultimatums at work and ‘at home’ priorities occupying once-vacant ministry opportunities.

Aaron has a devoted wife who works at a local bakery and thrives ministering alongside him. When he’s not working in church or out, Aaron enjoys hitting the tee at local golf courses as well and the lake on his wakeboard.

Challenges:

  • More time spent on work + family matters = limited availability/in-person interaction with staff/team members/church attendees
  • Has little time to directly develop and mentor
  • Over-reliance on delegating (and forgetfulness to follow-up) leading to cracks in the communicational infrastructure
  • Hopeless and inferiority

Opportunities:

  • Is able to inspire others by a relentless and disciplined work ethic
  • Has stable job to provide for family
  • Brings joy to his family and those within his inner circle watching him grow and mature in new roles
  • Relates better with those in his demographic
  • Is gifted in building meaningful connections with people wherever he’s at

The challenge is real, and so are the opportunities. Do you fit into this profile? What are some other challenges or opportunities you have encountered? Share in the comments below.

Photo credits: Odyssey Online

The Bent of the Tent-Maker

By: Jan Ferguson

Bi-vocational ministry. If you’re like me, some days I wonder what that really means. Okay, so down the definition rabbit hole we go… Bi-vocational ministry (I’m calling it bi-vo for short) is an interesting term. It literally means two vocations.

What does vocation mean? According to http://www.merriam-webster.com, the main meaning is: a strong desire to spend your life doing a certain kind of work. Other meanings suggest, anything you do for a job, entry into the priesthood, or a calling.

Now, most people don’t want two job let alone, two full time jobs. So, why do we do it? What drives the bi-vo minister? By day, mild mannered administrative assistant/house painter/substitute teacher/ etc. but nights and weekends, Super Pastor! Downloading countdown videos at the speed of, well high speed internet. Able to make three hospital calls in one evening – at different hospitals. Powerfully peppering social media with quotes, scriptures, prayers and invites. Finally crashing sometime after midnight only to get up early to do it all the next day, and the next. So, I ask again, why do we do it?

I believe we do it, because we love God and we are willing to lay down our lives for Him and the sake of the gospel. We are driven by the gifts and callings God has placed in our lives. Hopefully, we are driven by obedience to Jesus and the desire to see people saved and set free. But are all bi-vo ministers alike?

As I see it, there are two kinds of bi-vo ministers and those I know fall into one of two groups:

  • Tent makers who minister
  • Ministers who make tents

Note: If you’re wondering where on earth I came up with the tent maker occupation, it’s an homage to the apostle Paul, whose trade was tent making.

A tent maker (fill in the blank with the career/job of your choice) is driven by a career vocation. Based on the definition above, it can be the thing you wanted to spend your life doing. But tentmakers may also be a youth pastor, worship leader, pastor’s wife, etc. I know a pastor’s wife that considers nursing her vocation. She teaches Bible study and helps lead the church, but she is an example of a tent maker who serves as a minister. She doesn’t actually dream of dropping the nursing gig to do ministry full time. God has strategically placed her in the marketplace as her primary service. She is passionate about the word and the church and she uses her gifts and talents in the church. But nursing… that’s the thing that floats her boat.

A minister who makes tents (fill in the blank with the job you do) has a different bent. Often, this is the person whose heart and passion are solely for the work of the ministry. They would drop the day job in a heartbeat, but God has called him/her to a church or ministry that cannot support him/her at this time. This pastor/evangelist/worship leader/church secretary/etc. works a job outside the ministry to pay the bills. But – their thoughts are consumed with ministry – sermon/Bible study prep, the people they serve, updating the church website, and the like.

With this in mind, our motivation may be similar, but the challenges we face may be very different. Next time we’ll look at the challenges and roadblocks encountered by the minister who makes tents.

Photo creds: amazon.com