Give Me That Mountain!
Co-Vocational Pastoring for Missional Vibrancy and Financial Viability
How does a pastor or church planter fulfill his God-given calling when tithes and offerings are simply not sufficient to keep the church doors open? Consider co-vocational pastoring. Previously, the term bi-vocational was used to describe a pastor who worked a secular job outside the church.
The term implied this second job was not by preference but a temporary solution until the church could afford a full-time salary. As soon as possible, the pastor left the secular job to enter “full-time” ministry for the church.
CO-VO versus BI-VO
The term co-vocational challenges several assumptions:
Secular? Rather than regarding work outside the church as “secular,” remember your work has sacred value. Martin Luther raised the question, “How does God answer the prayer to ’Give us this day our daily bread’?” He observed God answers this prayer through the milkmaid who milked the cow and the farmer who grew the wheat and the baker who baked the bread and the merchant who sold it. In short, God distributes His good gifts to the earth through people doing daily jobs in the marketplace. Your work becomes a sacred calling as you provide value to others, no matter the role.
Second Best? Some consider a secular job less than ideal or even a necessary evil. In God’s overall design, what if your work is not second best but His way to engage you in the lives of the unchurched? Could these “marketplace” interactions be God’s way to help you fulfill the Great Commandment to love your neighbor as yourself and produce redemptive relationships where you carry out the Great Commission?
Short-term? Due to missional and financial benefits, co-vocational pastors view their roles as long-term, not simply short-term. Co-vocational pastors choose to continue working outside the church, even when the church can afford a full salary. In addition, co-vocational pastoring allows the church to be more generous to those around them.
If the church budget is consumed with personnel expenses, little is left to minster to the community. It is also no secret pastors often experience financial stress that contributes to burnout. A co-vocation can ease these tensions, particularly if the job provides benefits like health care, vacation, sick leave, etc. These financial benefits provide financial capability to continue your ministry long term.
I am a co-vocational missionary. I serve as both a professor and as a teaching pastor for a local church plant. In addition, I have several small businesses I run based upon my experience in engineering and hospitality. I have noticed clients view me differently when I start the conversation as an engineer or AirBNB host and not as a pastor or seminary professor.
As a professor and pastor, “marketplace” ministry takes me beyond the “church bubble” each week. I am convinced I am a better professor and pastor due to my engagement in the public arena.
Consider the following questions with your pastoral staff or church-planting team regarding co-vocational pastoring:
What are the missional and financial benefits that could result from co-vocational pastoring? What will it take for the church to move beyond regarding co-vocational pastoring as simply secular, second-best, and short term?
What gifts, talents, and abilities do the pastor/church planter have that can be leveraged into work outside the church? This includes starting a business or working for someone else. Of course, the business owner has more flexibility than those who work for others. Service-related roles are ideally suited to co-vocational pastoring.
Can the pastor/church planter do the job with excellence? Can he demonstrate a faith commitment through honesty, compassion, generosity, and encouragement? (These interpersonal traits stand out in many business settings, and people take notice.)
Can the co-vocational pastor work alongside a leadership team? A team can share the load of preaching, visiting, counseling, etc., so the co-vocational pastor does not get burned out by multiple vocations.
About the Guest Columnist: Jay Moon served 13 years as a missionary with SIM, largely in Ghana, West Africa, among the Builsa people focusing on church planting and water development, along with his wife and four children. He is professor of evangelism and church planting and director of the Office of Faith, Work, and Economics at Asbury Theological Seminary. He has authored seven books and is a frequent speaker on church planting, evangelism, and marketplace mission. Jay holds a professional engineer’s license and his MBA focused on social entrepreneurship. He is president of the Great Commission Research Network. His hobbies include tree houses, axe throwing, and small business incubation.
About the Columnist: Dr. Brad Ransom is director of church planting and chief training officer for North American Ministries. Contact Brad: firstname.lastname@example.org.