Church Planters flourish when they are mentored, challenged and supported in the kingdom work that they’re doing. Bi-vocational planters especially want to know that someone is cheering them on and noticing their ministry. How can we as pastors and leaders better support bi-vocational pastors? I got to talk to Dave Jacobs, a coach and consultant of bivocational pastors from www.smallchurchpastor.com, and he shared these ideas:
Go out of your way to make bi-vo planters feel validated and important
There’s a good chance that the bi-vo pastors and planters you know feel alone. We can celebrate them by bringing them on stage at conferences or by asking a bi-vo pastor to speak at such an event. All of a sudden every bi-vo pastor in the auditorium will know that someone is taking notice of their ministry.
Another way to validate their efforts is to plan events with them in mind. You could schedule events on Thursday evenings through Saturday mornings so most bi-vos only miss one or two days of work. You could even schedule the topics that would be most pertinent to them on Saturday so if they can’t miss work they can still come and enjoy at that.
Provide the bi-vo pastor with realistic and ongoing training
I believe part of our training must include these components: a deep assessment of the potential bi-vo planter and their spouse and testing their stomach for the “hard” now. A sending church can help the planter use Conversation 4, the Campion assessment, to help predict if the planter and their spouse have the emotional, mental, spiritual and financial foundation to sustain long-term ministry.
We can also ‘test’ our potential planters to see if they can endure the difficulties of being bi-vo by getting them plugged into Residency+, Vineyard Institute or an internship and seeing how they handle the time pressures of a program like that. The advent of online video content also provides a way to give ongoing training to bi-vos. You can see Multiply Vineyard’s online courses here. Taking advantage of this tool can provide great training specific to bi-vo pastors.
Resist the urge to put pressure on them to grow their church
We must balance the call to reach people versus the pressure to grow a church to the current definition of church success. I regularly hear it across the denominational spectrum that pastors feel the pressure to get past 100 people in order to be considered a ‘real’ church.” Or too often we tell planters that they’ll go out and start collecting a paycheck at 50 people or that once you get to 150, you’ll be able to be fully funded. That isn’t always the situation they’ll be in. We should encourage growth, but not at the expense of missing what God is actually doing and recognizing the ways the church is growing.
Help them prepare themselves for the long haul
The tendency is to get off the ground with long hours and intense work, but many never learn how to throttle back. This can be dangerous and unsustainable. A church planter may never have been in a church pastored by a bi-vo pastor. A sending pastor would be wise to find their potential planter a seasoned bi-vo pastor to talk to in order to better understand the task they’re about to undertake. This person can help them learn how to best balance their roles and point them to soul care that will enable them to do this work for a long time.
Bi-vocational pastors are my heroes. They play a vital role in the Kingdom of God and they play a vital role in rural America. They provide spiritual services, but they often also provide services that are often missing in small town USA, like a food pantry, recovery groups and mental/emotional health services. May we all do a better job of affirming, praying for and supporting our bi-vocational planters and pastors to bless and encourage these ministries.
This article originally appeared here.