The keys to a sustainable bivocational ministry model are first, men with a call and passion for both ministry and their secular field, second, redefining the role of the pastor and third, having an “umbrella church” that provides shared services and experience. This third key is of the utmost importance because the umbrella church is the home base of the operation.
An umbrella church allows the full time pastors and staff to take the load from those who are bivocational. They handle the business side of church – insurance policies, bills, payroll, supplies, maintenance, technology, etc. This is the side of church that most people take for granted. It’s like running a really large household. By pooling people and resources in these areas, we can take advantage of economies of scale and be better stewards with God’s money while freeing up our bivocational staff to successfully run the neighborhood church. This model also frees up bivocational pastors to focus fully on people and ministry.
The neighborhood churches also benefit from the shared experiences of a larger organization. We, like most churches, have systems and processes for our ministry areas. For example, we have an assimilation process that includes our first connection class for new attendees, baptism, discipleship, etc. We also have systems for small groups and missional communities, for training and developing ministry leaders, for having successful student and kids camps, and much, much more. These systems and methods provide a solid base for ministry so our neighborhood church plants don’t have to “reinvent the wheel.” We hold our systems loosely and are always willing to tweak them to fit the specific needs of the church as it changes and grows. We learn together how to more effectively carry out our mission of helping families discover and pursue God’s design.
How does this look practically? Let’s look at Family Church. Our downtown campus is the home base, where our full time pastors (including me) and staff work full time. We currently have six churches that come under our umbrella. We have planted these 6 churches in the last 5 years and we are getting ready to launch a 7th in the fall. I believe this is only possible because we are learning how to share services and experience. We are still learning and growing, but the model is working. If you want to tell me about your experiences with bivocational church or learn more about what we’re doing, please contact me.