Butcher, Baker, Candlestick-Maker
The lives we lead outside the pulpit
Across the world, bivocational pastors employ a vast array of skills in order to sustain a multi-orbed life of ministry. Meet a few of our U.S. bivo pastors here and enjoy snippets of their stories (and shoot them an email if you’d like to know more—just click on their names). Then, explore how your own church might better support a bivocational pastor closer to home.
Handyman: Larry Coutlee
Senior pastor, New Beginning Church, Ashland, Pennsylvania
“I work on everything from painting and woodworking to furnace repairs and home restoration. I am starting a work project with our church landlord to restore a derelict house. I will be able to use at least three people from our church who need work. On these types of projects I also teach people new skill sets. The job setting gives them the opportunity to ask questions without others being around, almost like a discipleship class setting. In addition, I am in contact with people who may not even have thought of coming to church—to discuss their needs and have in-depth conversations that might lead to more.”
Insurance agent: Jason Cleary
Pastor, CORE Community Church, Jacksonville, Florida
“Being bivocational is a guard rail that helps me focus on kingdom building, rather than on building a church, which I believe is the byproduct of making disciples.
“I am not a bivocational-or-bust guy; I am simply doing this because God called me to plant our church this way. During tough ministry seasons, I have contemplated if I am effectively making a difference, with the time constraints of being bivocational. (I typically work 40-45 hours per week in insurance.) But in those times the Lord, usually through others, reminds me that ministry is about being faithful with the time He has given me, and that more time does not necessarily equal more fruitfulness.”
“This bivocational journey is about God shaping your character and faith.”
Disneyland Cast Member: Justin Weaver
Director/Pastor, Cast Member Church Anaheim* (California)
“Being bivocational has only strengthened the church, since I am smack dab in the middle of my mission field. Because I understand the ups, downs, pressures, stresses and joys of being a Cast Member, it builds a lot of trust and credibility.
“I love the Walt Disney Company. The fact that God is letting me minister here is amazing. I have been telling people that I have never felt more seen, understood and loved by God than I do right now with this position.”
*not affiliated with or endorsed by the Walt Disney Company
College professor: Jeff Easley
Pastor, Legacy Community Church, Stockbridge, Georgia
“I’ve been bivocational for about six years. And I believe I am working within my areas of giftedness—as pastor, adjunct college professor and GATEWAY coordinator. My wife, Gerri, and I are able to make this work because she is very supportive of God’s call upon our lives.
“For the bivocational pastor who feels as though he cannot find the right job to support his ministry, I would say: Be completely sure of the call into ministry.
“Then, realize that this journey is about God shaping your character and faith. I once took a social worker position where I served as a behavioral aid—basically, glorified babysitting. Honestly, it was humiliating. But over time, I realized that God was using this as an opportunity to develop me. He also showed me that this job was a ministry. When you feel as though you can’t find the ‘right’ job, trust there is something bigger than the job that the Lord is doing.
“Maybe each district could pray for a person with the gifts, skills and calling to help bivocational pastors start their own businesses?”
“Even at work, I am a minister. It is about having a missional mindset all of the time.”
Nuclear generating plant leader: Scott McCall
Executive pastor, New Life EFC, Hastings, Minnesota
“I work by day as a manager of nuclear site projects, with responsibility for a $150 million budget. On weeknights and weekends I am a minister of the gospel. Most of my work day is filled with supporting people and making them successful. But at times I need to hold them accountable, especially if they don’t deliver. Still, even at work, I am a minister. I have a different goal in mind, but the way I carry out accomplishing that goal is what makes me different and a visible disciple in the work place. It is about having a missional mindset all of the time.”
Hospice chaplain: Bob Spilger
Pastor, Fern Cliff EFC, Wayland, Iowa
“I have been a bivocational pastor within the EFCA on and off for 30 years—working as a sawmill maintenance mechanic, a storekeeper and a chaplain. Being bivocational has allowed me to serve smaller congregations who could not afford to pay a full-time salary. And as chaplain, I have had the privilege of leading a number of folks to faith in Christ prior to death and providing spiritual counsel for co-workers.”
“Being a school bus driver keeps my finger on the pulse of the community and schools.”
School bus driver: Mike Brubaker
Founding pastor, Christian Life Chapel, Colchester, Connecticut
“I’ve been a bivocational church-planting pastor in New England for more than 25 years. To have a good reputation as a school bus driver for 18 years has been an asset to ministry that one cannot purchase. It also keeps my finger on the pulse of the community and schools on an almost daily basis. I have name and face recognition everywhere in a small town.
“For example, our small church now provides weekly DivorceCare and GriefShare programs year-round. Recently, a family man in his mid-50s committed suicide. I’d known the family for 15-plus years from driving their three children to/from school. The wife responded almost immediately to my offer inviting her to GriefShare, and she stayed. She is discovering the gospel for the first time. God is now her healer.”
Musician: David Spencer
Senior pastor, The Church of Chicago (Illinois)
“I have been bivocational pastoring for 16 years. It allows me to stay ‘real.’ As a musician, I am in constant contact with people who are broken and not redeemed.
“When you are bivocational, it’s important that you are good in your respective field. My skills must constantly be nurtured through regular practice. So when most pastors are asleep at 10 pm on a Saturday night, I may be intensely involved in a performance (and still preach on Sunday mornings). The up side to being a musician is that I may have a little more time during the week to dedicate to ministry as opposed to those who work a 9-5 job.
“I met my wife while performing. Still, after more than 29 years of marriage, I am a bit shocked that music has not driven Dolores mad. The Lord blessed me with a wife who understands music and me.”
“My work at Starbucks is spiritual, whether I recognize it or not.”
Probation officer: Jeff Harrington
Pastor, Dove Creek Bible Church, Bakersfield, California
“Not every job gives easy opportunities to build redemptive relationships. Sending people to prison or jail is not something that inclines them to be favorably disposed toward me. So the nature of my two vocations sometimes causes a bit of an identity crisis. At work I come across as a no-nonsense, cool, objective person. My responses are governed by statutes and legal principles; there is no grace under the law. As a pastor, I am grace-based and my responses are (hopefully) based in the principles of love and mercy. Each vocation requires its own deportment and comportment—a way of carrying yourself—and it is not always easy to switch from one to the other and then back again.”
Starbucks barista/trainer: John Stromberg
Pastor of church multiplication, Centennial Church (EFCA), Forest Lakes, Minnesota
“The temptation for all believers, but especially for bivocational pastors, is to feel superior to their secular work; to feel like they need to move on from their secular job to do ‘real ministry.’ But the clear teaching of the Bible for all Christ-followers is that their vocation—whether in a fully funded ministry position or in a secular job—has intrinsic value and dignity because God designed work that way (Genesis 1:26-28; Genesis 2: 15-17; Ephesians 4:28; Colossians 3:17).
“This means that my work at Starbucks is spiritual, whether I recognize it or not. Every decision I make—how I interact with and talk about my co-workers, the way I submit to my manager, how I treat our customers, etc.—is an act of worship toward God or toward false idols of reputation, power, control or approval.”