The Big Trade-off

Everyone likes to think their own approach is best, but most really successful people have a realistic view that there is normally a trade-off somewhere along the line.  ‘Compromise’ carries some negative connotations for us as Christians.  But when we take the lifestyle of a bivocational pastor there are indeed some trade-offs that we must recognize.  If our approach is healthy it is possible that those trade-offs can be utilized to enhance our effectiveness rather than prove a detriment.

The biggest trade-off we need to recognize is that of ‘time’.  A fully-funded pastor, or at least one whose entire day is spent on ministry has much more time to devote to tasks.  It is possible for instance for a fully-funded pastor to spend an entire weekday doing hospital visitation, spend time on community activities or attend denominational meetings.  For the bivocational pastor this is rare indeed.  Time is a precious commodity in any case, but even more so for the pastor [cryout-pullquote align=”left|center|right” textalign=”left|center|right” width=”33%”]The good side of the tradeoff is that  both we and the church itself become more efficient. [/cryout-pullquote]whose time is defined by the boundaries of a job outside of ministry.  To be effective the bivo pastor must learn to manage time very well and to prioritize, delegate or eliminate activities traditionally deemed indispensable.

The good side of the trade-off is that  both we and the church itself become more efficient.  More time goes into the really necessary items, leadership in the church is delegated to laity who may previously have sat back and watched the paid minister do it all.  The philosophy of ‘Every Christian is a minister’ can become reality!

Another, and much more poignant, advantage is that the bivo pastor becomes financially more solid.  I say poignant for a particular reason.  A few days ago I spoke with the pastors wife in the church where my step-mother attends (  It came to be told the pastors wife was helping my stepmother by buying her food…with the pastors own food stamps.  This full-time, fully-funded pastor was in the position of having to take food stamps in order to survive.  I have never been in that situation and it breaks my heart to see a pastor doing so.  A number of years ago it was told of a pastor in our area that he and his young wife lived in a parsonage for nearly two months in the Northeast winter with no heating oil in the fuel tank.  When his board found out and asked him ‘Why?’,  he said he did not want to impose on the church, knowing that finances were tight.

So, the trade-off…time?  Or money?  For some people it sounds more spiritual to say they are giving up more secure finances in order to devote more time to ministry.  Is it really more spiritual to live life as an ascetic?  Or would you rather see that our family is taken care of and the church becomes more efficient and live out its mission?  Only you can decide, and it depends on your own situation.  As bivos we will always face the trade-off with time, but it does help to know that it may well be worth it in the end.

(Disclaimer: This particular post is geared mainly towards small churches that may have borderline finances.  Obviously larger churches may not fall into the realm where this is a concern at all.)

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