Developing Yourself While in Bivocational Ministry
Leadership development must move in two directions for all leaders: internally and externally. It is no different for bivocational pastors. You need an intentional plan for personal leadership development and developing others as leaders. In fact, my hope as a leader is that I will be able to fulfill a 1 Corinthians 11:1 vision for myself and a 2 Timothy 2:2 vision for others. But to do so as a bivocational minister takes on a different track.
Even though we are not the ones working in full-time vocational ministry, all of the qualifications for serving in this role still apply. Paul’s admonitions in his three Pastoral Epistles to Timothy and Titus include the spiritual and ethical requirements for a person to serve as an elder or pastor in a church
For the purposes of this post, allow me to give both spiritual and practical advice about developing your own leadership skills.
Spiritual disciplines of the Word and prayer. Depending on how you count, there are probably a couple dozen “spiritual disciplines” used throughout church history. However, I would encourage you to focus on the two core disciplines of biblical engagement and prayer. In your own personal devotionals (which you need to have), ensure that you are reading biblical texts beyond what you teach for the church.
Additionally, through prayer, you will need to consistently deepen your level of discernment for the Holy Spirit’s movement. In your life as a bivocational minister, time is a commodity that seems to slip away quickly. One of the great temptations you will face is to let go of time for intentional and intense prayer. You’ll hear yourself say, “I can pray while I drive to work” and “I am praying all the time. The church is always on my heart.” Both of those statements may be true but they do not substitute for the work of prayer that you should love as much as any other pursuit.
Learn to hate sin as much as God does. In my book Compelled: Living the Mission of God, I wrote: “Sin is not a pet to tame but a beast to slay.” You must not toy around with temptation and sin. Whether it is lust, envy, deceit, anger, or whatever else, deal with it forcefully. If you do not, it will deal forcefully with you. Look at the results of sin as God does. Once you gain His perspective, it will not be so enticing
Holy Jealousy. Jealousy is normally associated with sin. Paul reminds us that we need to be jealous for the church like a husband is for his wife. He said, “I wish you would put up with a little foolishness from me. Yes, do put up with me. For I am jealous over you with a godly jealousy, because I have promised you in marriage to one husband—to present a pure virgin to Christ” (2 Corinthians 11:1-2). Show your church what it looks like to have a leader who deeply cares for their holiness. It is a powerful role that they will want to repeat for others.
Leaders are readers. Now, I’m not saying you should not have hobbies and go outdoors, but what I do want to say is that your mind is critical to leadership. Find the right books, magazines, journals, and blogs that will challenge you. I would suggest that you read in three areas.
First, read about leadership itself. You need to sharpen your understanding of leadership. So read about it from all directions; church, family, business, marketing, tech, etc.
Second, read great fiction and biographies. Stories that are told well will develop your own creativity. Plus, I find that my brain needs a break oftentimes from the seriousness of my world.
Third, find a subject that has nothing at all to do with your life and read about it. We all have some curiosity about a random subject matter. Periodically, read about it. It will help you develop a process for critical thinking.
Develop a network. You need people around you who will speak the truth to you. Friends that you can trust are invaluable in bivocational ministry. They are the ones that you can seek advice from and dump your emotional truck in front of without fear. Find a group of peers, novices, and mentors that are in the thick of ministry in your area and stick together.
I’m sure that there are dozens of more ideas that could be added to this list. Leadership development is a never-ending process. So, no matter what, find a track for personal development and get on it. Use these ideas. Find new ones. Lean on old, trusted ones. But whatever you do… develop as a leader.