Source: any bivocational minister can tell you, time management is a top priority.  We work secular jobs, some of us more than one…as well as try to do all the work of the ministry that needs to be done.  Sermon preparation, home and hospital visitation, crisis management, administration…but where does our family fit in?

I want to make sure that this point is made…if you don’t get anything else out of this, please get this one point.  You have been called to the ministry, but if your family falls apart you will have lost most of the meaning of life.  Let’s not debate theological niceties here; a divorce or children who are neglected are NOT in God’s plan for your life no matter what else may be accomplished!  I have made that mistake, so I know firsthand.  At one point in my life I did what I thought was needed for my family and I was working THREE secular jobs.  I worked as the evening manager of a grocery store, I worked in a school as a Special Ed Aide and I was running a business as a computer consultant.  I worked six days a week (two half-days off, Thursday night and Saturday morning).  I also was planting a church.  My family life suffered, but I never realized the extent until years later.  My wife and I remained strong, but it harmed my children.  If I had it to do over again I would not have done things as I did.

Assuming you are not being quite as crazy as I was, you may still have to deal with some issues.  Here are a few pointers:

1) Use a dedicated cell phone for the church phone number.  Designate ‘office hours’  and outside of those hours let the calls go to voice mail.  You can check it when you want, but do NOT return calls that are not true emergency calls until your office hours are open again.  ‘Trac Phones’ or other prepaid cell phones are perfect for this purpose.  Many times it is advantageous to replace your land line with one of these and cheaper, too.

2) SCHEDULE family time into your calendar.  When talking with people who want to make appointments with you, you don’t have to make excuses about your family time.  All you have to say is, “I’m sorry, I am booked up on that day and time, but I can schedule you in at this day and time.”

3) Make time to get away with your spouse on a regular basis.  It may be only a dinner date at McDonald’s or going to a movie, but do it at least once a month.  Make this a priority!

4) Let your church board know you will be taking vacation time every so often and make sure you have budgeted for pulpit supply.  Also, let them know that while you are on vacation there is someone to call for typical ministry issues (board secretary, supervising pastor, etc.).  I have been known to tell my people that they are not to call me unless the church is burning down…but first call the Fire Department, Board Secretary and Insurance Company in that order!

5) When you are with your family, be WITH your family.  No talk about ministry.  Focus your attention on them.  ‘Nough said?

6) Bonus point:  Make sure you schedule time with your spouse to do devotions each and every day.  It might have to be on the phone or some other way, but make sure you watch over one another spiritually.  You are the most important accountability partner your spouse has.

Family is important.  Watch over them.  Protect them.  Be there for them.  You will not regret it.


boy_and_cat_fishingSummertime brings visions of the beach, the mountains and the theme park.  But a bivocational pastor faces one large challenge that few fully-funded pastors face in this scenario…not only does the bivo have to account for vacation time in the church, but also in a secular job.  A fully-funded pastor may opt for a vacation starting on a Monday afternoon and coming back on the next Saturday, but this option is not usually available for a bivo pastor.  Also, we will often find there are events during a weekend time slot for denominational events.  For instance, on our District we have a Pastors and Spouse Retreat that is scheduled from Sunday afternoon through Tuesday noon.

Here are some things to keep in mind to be prepared for such times:

  • Think ahead and plan ahead.  Gather all the planning pieces you can for the year.  District/denominational calendar, local church calendar, work schedule, family schedules.  Put it all down on paper and plan each area to dovetail with the others.   Request time off from secular work, plan around holidays, family events and other important dates.  Putting it on paper makes it all concrete and easy to see at a glance.
  • Talk with your local leadership.  Make sure they know what is happening and when.  If funding is needed for some denominational activity, they should know ahead of time in order to budget for it.
  • Find Sunday pulpit supply well ahead of time.  Do you have any retired preachers locally, or ministers in training (we call them ‘Locally licensed’ and ‘District licensed’ ministers)?  Be up front with them about them filling in for your vacation time and that you will not be there.  If they are coming from a distance you may have to make some travel arrangements. Make sure they have directions, contact information, service times, know who is expected to lead worship as well as worship style.  And a key point…build up the expectations among your people for your pulpit supply!  You want people to come, so announce the special speaker, and build them up in your congregations mind.
  • What to do in the case that you cannot find pulpit supply?  First, do NOT cancel worship service and do NOT cancel your vacation!  You can make other arrangements, such as having your worship team do an ‘All Music’ worship time, or find a leader within your church who can bring a devotional.  Think creatively!
  • Prioritize your time.  This is probably the most controversial thing I am going to say, today.  (If my DS is reading this…I apologize ahead of time!)  Certain denominational events are best skipped in favor of family time.  Pray about each activity and seek God’s will about it.  At the end of your life I can guarantee you will not be saying, “I wish I spent more time at District Committee meetings”!  Some are not optional (District Assembly),  and some such as Pastor and Spouse Retreat can serve a dual purpose, but not many are like this.

Vacation time and time away needs to be made a priority.  Not only for your sake, but for your family and even for your church.  At the very least it would be nice to hear people say, “Boy, Pastor, am I glad you are back!”  Blessings, and have a  great vacation!

Stamp CollectingHobbies.  The word itself conjures up visions of someone collecting coins or stamps.  Sitting in a quiet room, surrounded with catalogs, albums and other supplies, tweezers  and magnifying glass in hand.  And as we tend to think…wasting time.  Why would you want to do something so pointless as this when you can be out doing the Work Of The Kingdom?  You could be talking to someone about the Gospel, planning your next sermon, doing a Bible study or something that really matters!  What we fail to take into account is that without a sufficient time of rest away from all of our other concerns can actually be counterproductive.

A story related on storiesforpreaching illustrates this point nicely.  ‘A young man approached the foreman of a logging crew and asked for a job. “That depends,” replied the foreman. “Let’s see you fell this tree.”  The young man stepped forward, and skillfully felled a great tree. Impressed, the foreman exclaimed, “You can start Monday.” Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday rolled by — and Thursday afternoon the foreman approached the young man and said, “You can pick up your pay check on the way out today.” Startled, the young man replied, “I thought you paid on Friday.” “Normally we do,” said the foreman. “But we’re letting you go today because you’ve fallen behind. Our daily felling charts show that you’ve dropped from first place on Monday to last place today.” “But I’m a hard worker,” the young man objected. “I arrive first, leave last, and even have worked through my coffee breaks!” The foreman, sensing the young man’s integrity, thought for a minute and then asked, “Have you been sharpening your axe?”  The young man replied, “No sir, I’ve been working too hard to take time for that!”Our lives are like that. We sometimes get so busy that we don’t take time to “sharpen the axe.” In today’s world, it seems that everyone is busier than ever, but less happy than ever. Why is that? Could it be that we have forgotten how to stay sharp?’

Have you forgotten how to stay sharp?  Staying sharp requires taking your mind off your primary tasks for a while, not to be lazy or inattentive to that primary task, but so  you can be refreshed.  Sometimes that very hobby you engage in will be a positive force in your ministry, as well.  A hobby…

  • It provides points of connection with people you might not otherwise meet.
  • It provides illustrations that can touch people.
  • It provides a three-dimensional aspect to your life that makes you seem more real and authentic to others.

In one case I am acquainted with, a pastor turned his enthusiasm for hiking into a blog, books and even more.  Donald Minter is a pastor at New Hope Community Church in Chandler, Arizona and also runs ‘Trek On Ministries‘, a ministry built entirely upon taking people on hikes through the Grand Canyon.  The experience of hiking as a hobby shapes much of what Don does.

The fact is, we as humans are not meant to perform one task repetitively over and over for years on end.  We are built in such a way as to need times of refreshing every now and then.  That is one of the side benefits of keeping the Sabbath…a time of refreshing in Him.   If we go without that time of rest, we will break as surely as an engine running non-stop for a long period eventually will break.

So…go get a hobby!


Sometimes it is so easy to forget what we h(Source: right close to hand. Maybe being close makes you takes things for granted, maybe you get used to something and don’t even think about it. Like a New Yorker who has never bothered to visit the Statue of Liberty or a Bostonian who has never gone to see the USS Constitution. Sometimes maybe we are even intimidated by what other people think of what THEY have. I have a cousin who visited from Texas when he was about 12 years old. When we asked him what he thought about New England, he said (in that annoying way Texans can have), “I’m absolutely amazed…we drove across three states in one day. In Texas we couldn’t get from one end of the county to the other in one day!”

So when you start talking about things like National or State Parks, and how big they are or how many attractions are there, you might think of a place like Yellowstone, or the Great Smoky Mountains. HUGE places with large expanses of wilderness. Places that loom large in our minds.

This last week I spent some time in a place fairly close to us in Vermont, in upstate New York in the Adirondack Park. Small pickings compared to the western parks, right? You want the truth? The Adirondack Park is the largest park and the largest state-level protected area in the contiguous United States, and the largest National Historic Landmark. It is larger in land area than the state of Vermont (9,400 sq-miles versus 9,250 sq-miles), covering 6.1 million acres. It is larger than Yellowstone, Yosemite, Grand Canyon, Glacier, and Great Smoky Mountains National Parks combined! There are more than 3,000 lakes and 30,000 miles (48,000 km) of streams and rivers. Many areas within the park are devoid of settlements and distant from usable roads. The park includes over 2,000 miles (3,200 km) of hiking trails; these trails comprise the largest trail system in the nation. (source:

Yes, sometimes it is easy to forget what you have when you are so close to it. Don’t we do that in our spiritual life, too? We forget who and what we are in Jesus Christ. We forget the Kingdom of Heaven is not just for when we die, but it lives within every believer! We have a vast power contained within us, with the Holy Spirit giving light and life. But we forget, and our light is hidden under a basket, so to speak. I am convinced that our quality of life is thereby infinitely diminished.

I went back to our family’s home-away-from-home this last week, Inlet, New York in the Adirondack Park, and re-discovered what I had lost. I found myself longing for the woods, the waterways and the life that is there. I even longed for the smell of the forest. And I find myself longing for the life of the Kingdom of Heaven, here on earth. It is not far, it is close. But I have hidden it away.

It is time to find it again. Would you join me?

“As you go, preach this message: ‘The kingdom of heaven is near.’ ”
Matthew 10:6-8 (NIV)

(This post was originally published by Ray Mann at ‘The View From Vermont’ on 7/22/2011

Disneyworld_fireworks_-_0228My family and I just took a vacation and I found that there were some real difficulties involved.  They ranged from scheduling time away from my secular job, coordinating the church schedule and securing pulpit supply, financing the trip and packing (tip:  take twice as much money and half as many clothes!).  But the most difficult aspect of the vacation was in the area of self-discipline.  I took my iPad along for various non-work activities, but I also watched my work email counter rise daily.  It took an effort of will to keep that app closed and not check my email.  By the time I returned to work there were 99 emails in my Inbox, with about an equal number filtered out to other sub-folders.

As you, too, decide to take a vacation (you ARE planning to do so, right?), if you have a job where you have the possibility of remaining tethered by email, voice mail or other means…it will take an effort on your part to cut the cord temporarily.

Your family deserves to have your full attention during this time. A little planning can go a long way.  I left my very capable Board Secretary and Treasurer in charge at the church.  They had the keys and all necessary phone numbers.  We had pulpit supply coming in.  My assistant at my secular job had been briefed on things she might need to know.  My contacts were aware I was on vacation, my ‘away message’ was set up in my email.

One of the toughest things for bi-vocational pastors to realize is that NO ONE is indispensable!  You can even regard this as a lesson to be learned by your church staff and your secular colleagues.  Think of it as a learning opportunity, as well as time to recharge and refocus.  Enjoy your vacation!