Jesus was a carpenter. His disciples were fishermen. Even Moses made a living as a shepherd.
Just like in biblical times, many church leaders today are holding down “second” jobs.
“It’s becoming a cultural norm,” said Gabe Dodd, lead pastor of The Branch Church in Dahlonega. “When I started in ministry in 2008, I didn’t know of anybody (who) was doing bivocational stuff. But today it’s kind of normal.”
Dodd works part time, about three days a week, at a Starbucks in Cumming. He works at least two days at the church and keeps Saturdays open for his family.
“Trying to keep a balance, with all three different aspects happy, can be a little bit difficult,” Dodd said. “There are a lot of times when I go to bed feeling like I should have done more for family time or church time. Or people are asking me to pick up shifts at Starbucks.”
Dodd said while he’s heard a lot of pastors predict bivocational ministry will become the way churches are run in the future, he’s not exactly sold on the idea for himself.
“It’s just funny that books are being written about it now and there’s conferences where they talk about it and some pastors are pushing this is the way to go,” Dodd said. “But I’m one of those guys where I’ll do it for a season, but this is not the way I want to do it for the rest of my life.”
Scott Waters, pastor of Victory Baptist Church in Gainesville, had to return to bivocational life after a period of working full time in the church. He now works full time selling nuts and bolts for House of Threads in Gainesville as well as serving the Gainesville church. He focuses on studying Scripture and spending time with his family after his work day is completed.
“I believe that being a bivocational pastor keeps me in touch with things that your church members go through on a day-to-day basis,” Waters said. “Keeps me in touch with what it’s like to work and serve God, too. It has its advantages, but it’s a little tiresome sometimes.”
While Waters doesn’t hesitate to admit there are daily challenges of balancing his multiple roles, he sees the opportunities for ministry.
“I’ve had a lot of comments made where people say ‘Oh, I didn’t realize you were a pastor,’” Waters said. “But God puts his people in different roles and situations to be a mouthpiece for him. I think that sometimes it’s surprising to folks to find there’s a guy out there doing what you’re doing and he’s also pastoring a church.”
For many bivocational pastors, holding down an additional job is a simple matter of economics.
Ed Worth, pastor of Good Samaritan Baptist Church in Gainesville, has been repairing commercial restaurant equipment for nearly 40 years.
“They call it ‘bivocational’ but what I do as a pastor is entirely voluntary,” Worth said. “I can’t say that I’m not getting paid because the Lord blesses my business and I recognize that. So I’m indirectly getting paid. I believe when people step forward in church to volunteer, they need to realize the Lord will bless them but it may not be in money but in an indirect blessing. A lot of people don’t see it that way, but I do.”
Worth said his business and church duties keep him very busy; he’s on call 24/7 for both roles.
Though he’s busy, he sees how repairing broken walk-in freezers creates an opportunity for prayer and in some cases ministry.
“Because of the trials and tribulations within that job, I have to call on Jesus,” Worth said, laughing. “There’s a lot of trials and tribulations and tests in that business. You get beat up pretty bad.
“I got to where I’m singing praises instead of cussing. I had to. My feet were held to the fire for a few years and I didn’t know if it could get any worse. Then I started singing ‘Jesus Loves Me’ and ‘Amazing Grace.’ I’d sing it in my truck. And by the time I got to my next service call, it seemed like the Lord was already there, opening doors and fixing things before I got there. It started working.”