Paths for Balance
Stress can be dealt with many ways. Some of the key strategies mentioned by Head are learn to say no, do not overcommit, learn to schedule what you need to accomplish each day and do it, and develop a hobby. Working ahead of time for projects and papers for work and ministry will greatly reduce stress. The keys to dealing with stress include common sense, integrity, planning, and adequate preparation.
To prevent drywells, bivocational ministers can proactively plan ahead, schedule regular times off and with family, and spend time in solitude. Spending time to reflect and review is essential to essential to a balanced life. Taking time with family and friends to develop relationships is needed to maintain humanness in ministry. Ministers, especially bivocational ministers must seek to have as balanced a life as possible and must build some margin into their lives. High stress conditions 24/7 lead to health problems from hypertension and ulcers to heart attack and stroke. Seasons of hardship and desert will come. In those times hold on to the Lord’s promises. Pray them, preach them, cling to them. And consider taking time to devote fully to solitude with the Lord. A sabbatical may in order.
As a minister you cannot nor all you to do everything. In fact, Scripture even commands this. As a pastor, one is to equip the local church for the work of the ministry; not do it all for them. Remember what the Apostles did in Acts, they appointed 7 deacons to take care of the practical matters of service needed in the church so that they could fully devote themselves to prayer and the ministry of the Word as they were called. Seek to do that in your ministry. Also recall, that the Lord chastened Martha for her busyness and honored Mary that she had found the one thing that was necessary (sitting at His feet). In delegation, one must have wisdom. Delegating preaching every week would not be wise, but delegating administrative tasks and pastoral care is commanded by the Lord. Begin delegation of tasks before it is a necessity.
Casual study occurs when reading a Christian book on the go or “light reading materials.” There is value in this study for becoming knowledgeable about some things, but to become thoroughly understanding of a subject matter, sermon study must be done. Sermon study is serious, focused study on Scripture passages often including commentary consultation and Greek and Hebrew root examination. Sermon study requires a focused concentration. Casual study can be done on the go or while waiting in line throughout the day. Both are needed but both cannot be done just anywhere.
Bivocational ministers must support their wife and children. They must express their love, affirmation, care, and authority. One must spend quality time with his family. He must be Dad and not “pastor” to his children. He must be a loving husband who is sacrificially laying down his life for his wife as Christ did for the church in his marriage. The pastor does not have an exception in his calling as a Christian. He is called to first be a Christian and then on top of that to be a pastor. Care for your children. Show them love, invest in them, do things with them. Affirm your family. Attend the recitals, games, etc. that you will only have once short season to spend with your children. Pour your all into your family first for that is the testing place of your ministry. If a man cannot care and manage his household, how can he manage the church?
Many bivocational pastors felt an identity crisis. Full-salaried ministry has enough demands upon ones family life but add a full time job into the mix and things become incredibly stressful. One must say no too many good things and focus on the essential things. Also, many bivocationals have felt weak in counseling or church administration and long for more theological training. The question is how? While there are extra stresses and demands on one’s time, bivocationals have experienced many joys by seeing spiritual growth, baptisms, and equipping of the Believers in their local body as they partner together in the Great Commission.
Bob Mills describes three distinct types of tentmakers. The first group are those who have of their own volition chosen the bivocational path and feel equally called to ministry and to a secular vocation. The second group is composed of those who are qualified for “full-time ministry” and even desire it. They do not feel called to the marketplace and have earned seminary degrees but because of the circumstances/condition of the finances of their local church must be bivocational and thus become tenmakers. The third group is made up of those who are called not called to the marketplace but are working in it while laboring in ministry with the end goal of one day ministering full-time. No matter what the reason for bivocationalism, tentmaking is a Scriptural pattern for ministers and is not second-rate or second-class ministry.
I believe that a bivocational minister can be just as effective as the pastor in a full-salaried church. In terms of equipping his people to do the work of the ministry and evangelism, the bivocational may well be even more effective than the full-salaried minister. Full-salaried ministers may be more effective in equipping other ministers and counseling as their schedule is more open and their position often more geared toward this end. However, bivocational ministers appropriately give themselves to prayer and the ministry of the Word as the Bible teaches and are less involved in some of the “American pastor” conceptions of visiting every member, always being available to anyone who has their number, and “not having a real job.” Certainly a pastor will visit some members at their homes and in the hospital for he loves his people, but to task one man with that responsibility easily becomes unrealistic. A family member of a member or a good friend of theirs is in crisis and they want you to go and minister to them. Easily, one’s list can grow to 200 or more and no one man can handle that. The deacons, the Sunday school teachers and the attendees themselves should go and care for other members without having to be asked by the pastor for all are called to care for one another as Christ loved us, as one Body, one Family.