Bi-Vocational Life: Connecting the Secular and Sacred in Pastoral Ministry (An Introduction)
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Another Article about Bi-Vocational Ministry?!
Articles about bi-vocational ministry are not uncommon. With a quick search on Google, readers could find articles that give both positive or negative feelings on bi-vocational ministry.
When praying through my call to bi-vocational ministry, I spent many hours reading these articles. However, to me, bi-vocational ministry had more of a negative connotation than a positive one.
Here’s why. Most clergy would agree that bi-vocational ministry’s implied idea of “part-time” ministry or “shared-time” ministry is an inadequate view of the calling. Ministry is an all-consuming calling where time is not measured by a 40-hour work week, but measured in being available to those you minister in all stages of life. Not only is ministry about being present with people, but there is also the administration of the church, the need for spiritual development, weekly sermons, and all other duties that are needed to be completed. When you begin to add in church-planting, the demands seem to multiply daily.
We haven’t even covered the two most important things that clergy must be tending to: their spiritual development and their family. This is why the idea of bi-vocational ministry seems to be seen as more burdensome than it is rewarding. How does someone take the already high demands of personal and clerical life and add in the need to work for income?
This is also where most articles on bi-vocational ministry fall short. There is plenty of why or why not, but not enough how.
My Goal in This Series: Connecting the Secular and the Sacred
My goal through a series of articles is to begin helping bi-vocational clergy connect the “secular” world to the “sacred” world, where we no longer see each as individual things, but begin to see how all aspects of bi-vocational life can work together for the good of the Gospel.
My Bi-Vocational Journey
I grew up Southern Baptist and devoted my life to the calling of vocational full-time ministry at a very early age. Everything I did from that point forward was geared towards a career that allowed me to earn my income from being on staff in churches.
I spent 4 years working on a degree in youth ministry and then accepted a full-time position in a local parish towards the end of my undergraduate studies.
After serving in that position for 7 years, my wife and I began to sense the call to church planting. One thing was clear, however: it was not going to be a “traditional” journey.
I accepted the call to bi-vocational ministry in the summer of 2007 during my church planter assessment with the Kardia Church Planting Initiative in the Diocese for the Carolinas.
In August of 2007, I began working in real estate while working through the planning stages of a young Anglican Church plant. Real estate was fun, but very taxing on my schedule and time.
I then started working for a local bank, now known as Pinnacle Financial, and just celebrated three years with them in May.
Two Simultaneous Careers
I no longer see my life as bi-vocational clergy as pastoring a church while trying to make ends meet. Rather, I see it as living two simultaneous careers. I had to quickly learn that the two have to work in step with each other, in order for me to fully answer God’s call to lead my family and the church he has entrusted to me.
Seeing two careers as one has afforded me great opportunities to be able to share who I am and what I do. My identity is very much made up in being an ordained minister who is also a banker.
I spend Monday through Friday working with people on their financial journeys, but have quickly learned that I am sharing in the journey of their lives as well. There have been times where the conversation and other opportunities have provided a place for me to talk about who I am, where I get my identity, and why I do what I do. I have shared my faith, my calling, and my journey with the people I encounter, whether I am wearing my clerical collar or my bow tie.
The Need for Bi-Vocational Ministry Today
A time has come in the church when we must capture a solid DNA of being bi-vocational. We must begin seeing both “secular” and “sacred” areas as an opportunity to further the Kingdom. We need more business leaders who are working to connect Monday through Friday to our Sundays. We also need more clergy who are working to connect Sundays to our Monday through Friday.
Being bi-vocational, we have earned a unique place in society to do both. Yes, this endeavor is exhausting at times, but for me it has included some of the most rewarding times of ministry.
I remember vividly two separate instances where the secular and sacred aspects of my life collided. The first instance occurred during the first baptism service for Trinity, where I had the honor of baptizing a co-worker. The second instance was where I was able to bring comfort to a widow in the passing of her husband, when I attended the viewing. This sweet family always saw me as their banker and that evening they saw me as a clergyman, in my collar, there to offer hope of the resurrection.
My hope is in this series of articles on bi-vocational ministry is to help connect the secular to the sacred and give some real concrete things to help balance the often chaotic life of a bi-vocational minister. There is no doubt that we as clergy already have a big calling in itself, but we must not discount those clergy who are accepting the calling to place their feet in both the sacred and the secular realms, as it were, trying their best to spread the Kingdom for God’s glory.
The Rev. Phillip Wilson is the lead pastor and planter of Trinity Church Summerville in the Diocese of the Carolinas and also a Financial Specialist at Pinnacle Financial Partners. Phillip has a B.A. in Youth Ministry from Charleston Southern University and is a current student at Trinity School for Ministry. He is Married to Karey and they have two children, Sanders and Allie. Follow him on Twitter: @philliprwilson.
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