I am a bi-vocational ministry leader, and I’m not alone. There are many people in my generation that want to do life changing sustainable things for the world around them. They want their work to be meaningful, but often times that doesn’t come with a large paycheck that’ll cover the rent and utilities and put food on the table. So we have to ask ourselves: do you sacrifice that call and desire to find meaningful work that feeds your passions to see change in the world? Or do you sacrifice a sustainable income that’ll provide for your needs and the needs of your family?
The third way I see emerging in more and more situations as a response to this tension is being bi-vocational. This is not new. People have been bi-vocational for decades, but this term has given new language and validity to what has become a more popular trend in recent years. Being bi-vocational allows you to be invested in those areas you want to while still putting food on the table. Finding “one of those boring desk jobs,” as a friend so lovingly called it, which will ultimately give you the resources and opportunities to do what you really love and feel called to. More and more people in my generation have found bi-vocational the answer to meeting their calling, the deep needs of the world and their own physical needs.
I am thankful that my “desk job” is actually something I really love. And it serves a lot of people, engages in ministry and in people’s lives as well as provides education and resources to ministry leaders around the world. But, it is not my number one heart passion. I love it, and I am thankful for it – but mostly thankful that it provides me an enjoyable and sustainable way to pour into the call God has placed on my life.
My other job is working for an organization called After Hours – a street outreach to men and women who are prostituted. I am thankful to have a paid job that is so flexible that I can get away when I need to go be present with a prostituted woman that is hurting and suffering and needs help and accountability and a listening ear.
When I tell people I work at After Hours they typically ask me “do you get paid?” (Which is a somewhat odd question in the first place) and when I answer no, their response is typically something like, “oh, so really you just volunteer.” For some reason the lack of a paycheck makes people think it is a less valid call to ministry.
I see some real advantages to being bi-vocational:
You have more resources that can be poured back into the ministry and the people you are serving.
More laypersons (by necessity) become involved in the ministry, making it stronger because your talents, resources and passions are expanded.
You find more balance in your life – being able to step away from the darkness of sex trafficking into the world of academia is a nice shift.
You are in contact with many more people allowing for diverse conversations, networking and ministry opportunities.
It frees you up to see ministry as more of a lifestyle than a vocation. We are all called to be ambassadors of Christ wherever we find ourselves.
It has been a struggle for me this past year to not let these comments invalidate my identity and calling. I have at times questioned if the work I do is really valid or if I am “playing the advocate” trying to make myself sound more impressive or hardworking than I actually am. I know this stems from my own insecurities, but God has also been working on humbling me. It does not matter what others think about the validity of my work – it only matters that I am faithful to my call and to the God that called me. It only matters that the women of Los Angeles (and around the world) are being ministered to, resourced and loved.
Don’t let money or having-to-have-it-to-be-a-real-ministry stand in your way. You can get one of those “dumb desk jobs” to pay the bills. That can be a means to an end. Find out what you REALLY want to do – and then find a way to do it. But follow the call God has placed on your life – and don’t let anyone tell you you’re not really doing it just because you are not getting paid.