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Wednesday, October 19, 2011

On Being Bi-Vocational, a peek behind the curtain

My husband and I have been in ministry for over 19 years. For many of those years we were paid a full time salary by the church. Recently within the past year this has not been the case.

My husband is now BI-VOCATIONAL. For those of you who don't know what bi-vocational means it is Greek for "Works twice as hard and gets paid twice as less." I joke. 4 kids, insurance we now pay for, and a myriad of other changes has found me rocking in the corner at times. What's more my husband started his own business. That is where we are trying to get the majority of our income. Yes it allows him to minister, but it is hard work and long hours. So, we get some of our pay from the church and make the majority up through his job and my small jobs as we raise 4 children.

Being bi-vocational has brought with it a slue of emotions. I remember when I was at OBU and a lady came to talk about how she and her husband were bi-vocational. She said they were glad they did not rely on the church for financial support. It freed them in a sense to minister in a different way. Their pay check did not hold them to where or how they ministered. 20 year old Debbie poo-pooed that notion. After all... I was called by GOD and all godly people called by GOD in the 80's were full time... not like those bi-vocational losers.

Flash forward to my life today and I am prostrate on the ground thanking God that Randy has not only an M-Div from seminary, but a computer programming degree from Texas A&M. I have a few things in the works as we grow in this new field of being bi-vocational.

There are a few things I think you should know if you are in the ministry. Whether you plan to be bi-vocational or not these are powerful points that you would do well to adhere to in your life.

POINT #1: Dave Ramsey is right. Save and get rid of debt. These past months our account has been like a magic trick... watch it disappear! Yet, I am so grateful we had a cushion. The rainy day came and while our umbrella wasn't super big we all squished together and are ridding out the storm there. Get your finances in order. Not being prepared financially is like never planning out your sermon and just showing up to speak. For the most part God likes it when we are prepared. Be financially prepared. 

POINT #2: Aquire various skills. If I could I would jump in my time machine and go back to 1989 and shake young Debbie's shoulders and say, "Get multiple job skills... oh yes and don't date. Your husband is totally worth the wait!" A few years ago I got a sobering post card in the mail. It was from Buckner's Home. That is a place in Dallas Texas. It is a children's home, and it also has a retirement home on site. The post card read, "Adopt a Retired Senior Pastor and Wife." The  post card went onto say that many of that generation lived in parsonages and when they retired they had no home and no savings. These godly people were in effect refugees.  They had to leave the land of the provided home and now find their own way. I do not want to be a refugee when I retire. Having other skills gives you options. You could fix up homes, or use your degree for a part time income. You could create a new income using new skills. God is not a one trick wonder. Yes, he made you special and for a purpose... kind of like Paul. Paul not only preached but he made a separate living. He advocated for others to be paid for full time ministry. For him, it just wasn't that way. Using other skills grows your portfolio and brings peace of mind. We may one day go back to full time ministry. I would like that. However, this experience is teaching us faith and doing life in a whole new way.

POINT #3: Being bi-vocational makes you one of  "the peeps." Who has always tithed? That would be my husband and me. We would talk about it and share how we firmly agree with scripture that tithing is a spiritual act of worship. At times I had the feeling that people felt we had to say that. After all where did our income come from? GOD IS THE ANSWER, but others would say the tithe. Like it wasn't financially hard back then... it was! Money has always been tight (although I sure miss the insurance plan). We have four kids! Now we tithe just like we always have, but to me we talk about tithing with more authority in the eyes of our church. There are many days Randy works from the morning till late at night. He sneaks in his dad time, his wife time amidst his Quiet time, church time, and civic/fun time. I appreciate the sacrifices working folk make to be a part of this church and they appreciate the sacrifices we (always working but now in a new way) make as we lead and work.It doesn't make me think twice about being in a Life Group (Bible Study). It just makes me appreciate the pizza someone bought (because they had no time) to set next to the dessert I bought (same reason)!

FINAL POINT: Being bi-vocational is not glamorous. It is the hardest, scariest thing we have ever done. We only do it because we know God has us here for a reason. PRAYER and FAITH are the main ingredients to being bi-vocational. We could have left and gone somewhere else for full pay. God has us here. God is making a new way. I would say it is harder than planting a church... and I have done both.The only reason one should be bi-vocational is because God is leading in that area. However, everyone (in my opinion) should have bi-vocational tendencies. Having other sources of income, and saving, free ministers from ever feeling stuck. If God called you somewhere would you / could you go? God always provides, but what if he provided by giving you a skill to help provide. That is what he did with Paul (and Aquila and Priscilla).

Most of the time God requires more from us than we are able to do alone. Work hard, but rest hard too. If you are bi-vocational or in full time vocational ministry, God will make a way. Just make sure faith is number one on your check list for anything you do.

“Commit to the Lord whatever you do, and your plans will succeed.”  Pr 16:3

Acts 18:1-4  "1 After this, Paul left Athens and went to Corinth. 2 There he met a Jew named Aquila, a native of Pontus, who had recently come from Italy with his wife Priscilla, because Claudius had ordered all Jews to leave Rome. Paul went to see them, 3 and because he was a tentmaker as they were, he stayed and worked with them. 4 Every Sabbath he reasoned in the synagogue, trying to persuade Jews and Greeks."

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