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Becoming a Bi-Vocational Pastor

The natural question one is asked as they graduate from Seminary is: What is next for you/Where is God calling you? With only 82 days between me and my Masters of Divinity this question is looming in the bushes (or shrubbery if you will). For my wife and I we will be bi-vocational pastors.

Choosing Bi-Vocational

This does not mean part-time pastors. This does not mean that don’t believe we could secure employment at a church full-time. We have chosen this because of the call we have on our life (to minister in France – more on this in the future). As we sat down 4 years ago looking into the fog of our future we were faced with one primary question – How will we go back to France?

There were several immediate paths we could have chosen from (going back with Agape, plant an independent church, or others) but we also had the opportunity for me to go to seminary with the support of my parents. The long-term the benefits of having my divinity degree in a country with more than 70% of pastors retiring in the next decade were quite obvious.

Accepting the reality that we would be here for at least another three to four years while I did my schooling our gaze turned to supporting our work in France. When I was short-term I was exclusively supported by a personal support network. I do like this approach, but to raise enough money to live in Paris proper, do ministry, and afford to rent space to meet in would take at minimum $14k a month for the two of us, more as our family grows. The reality that it would take at least a year to raise this support we looked to what we could do to offset this cost.

The Other Vocation

This is the hard part. My past business experience has involved event production, film production, writing for magazines, and web development (software engineering). As Jordan and I put our heads together an opportunity presented itself (it actually had the summer of 2007 prior to our graduation in december of that year) to develop software for the Church. We clumsily fell into this market, and slowly found our footing. By 2009 we had landed in a definite direction and were receiving confirmation from the market. We were onto something.

The company we founded is Fresh Vine and it helps churches better understand their communities. This fits the bill for becoming bi-vocational as the monthly subscriptions churches pay to use the service provide an even revenue for projections, and building our team.

I wish I could write the next section on ‘Being a Bi-Vocational Pastor’ but it will have to wait for now. Our plan is to cover 90-95% of our monthly expenses for ourselves and our church through our ongoing leadership role with Fresh Vine. Then supplement our income with monthly support of family and friends. As our community in Paris grows we will be able to take on French leaders into paid positions and develop them as pastors and leaders within the church much more rapidly than if we required it for our own sustenance. For now we are still at least 18 months away from moving.

Important Caviate: We do not believe what we are doing to be normative, or the biblical expectation for leaders in the church. It just happens that I have a highly desirable set of skills we have been blessed to use in a strategic way. This won’t work for everyone, and shouldn’t be expected of many. We are just excited this is the path before us.

Are you Bi-Vocational?

I would love to hear from you if you’re bi-vocational, and what your journey into that place has been like. Sound off below and I’ll be sure to read it and feedback.

  • Joe

    So excited to see your ministry in the coming years. I’m currently bi-vocational, and I do wonder how other pastors manage it. I could imagine working at a coffee shop or other part-time work, but how do folks balance a job whose demands surpass 20-30 hours per week with a ministry that is equally or more important than their more um, “financially fruitful” work?

    • I think working in a coffee shop or the like would be great, because it connects you to the community around your church. Doing web development I really feel disconnected from the world around me a lot of the time. So I could see it being a really great asset to keep from becoming to churchy

  • Great article, Paul! I like how clear it is that not only does Fresh Vine help our mission, but also is sowing into an incredible work in France! So pumped!

  • Great post man. I’ve actually been slowly heading in this direction myself. I’m full time at a church (or fully-funded as some would say), but lately I’ve been really drawn into the thought of having an income stream not dependent on the church I’m working for. Especially when I look ahead at what’s next for me and my family. It’s kind of like the biblical tentmaker meets Tim Ferris’ 4-hour workweek. Kind of. Well, that’s what I’m shooting for.

    Also, you said “back to France”. Are you originally from there?

    • I love the direction you’re heading in Zach (and thanks for reading). Any idea what you would actually make/provide?

      I’ll be heading back to France simply because I have had the opportunity to work there previously. Really looking forward to it!

  • I always forget to opt-in to comment reply notifications. 5 days later…

    France. So cool. You won’t be too far from my brother-in-law and his family (starting as missionaries to the Netherlands this year). Give him a shout on Twitter @allwillsee

    I’ve been focusing primarily on my blog (trying some different approaches i.e. email blogging), plus working on a couple physical products to market and a niche social network website (the most difficult undertaking by far, mostly because I have no idea where to start).

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