Can I Really Be Bi-Vocational?
Work-work balance. Doing Ministry Bi-Vocationally.
By Jeff Snyder
If we haven’t met, my name is Jeff Snyder and I have been the part-time Youth Minister and Worship Leader at Monfort Heights UMC for the last four years. Throughout my time at MHUMC I have also worked full-time at Lifeline Pharmacy where I do DEA compliance (basically making sure we have all of our ducks in a row legally speaking). Amid those jobs I studied at Cincinnati Christian University (RIP) and have a degree in General Ministry.
Okay, that’s enough about me, now onto the real reason I am writing this..
The whole bi-vocational thing can be really challenging but I have learned a lot of lessons these last few years that I believe can be helpful to those that may find themselves in a similar situation to mine. I also think these lessons apply to anyone doing ministry wether it’s part-time or full-time so don’t bail on me if you’re one of those “full-timers”.
I want to share five insights that I have gained mostly by failing miserably on many occasions..
1. Be Honest
It is vital that the relationship you have with your Pastor and the relationship you have with the job as a whole is one of honesty. If you are into the Enneagram, know that I am as nine as a nine can possibly get. This means that I am a people pleaser and would like to avoid conflict at all costs. For that reason I really have to step out of my comfort zone on occasion to keep my to-do list at a manageable level. Make sure you and your Pastor (or superior) are on the same page about what part-time means and what it requires. Doing a full-time amount of work part-time means that something or someone is getting short-changed. Honesty fixes that.
2. Be Organized
Juggling multiple jobs and a home life can be really, really tricky. We also know that ministry isn’t quite like any other job because you never really clock out. The complexity of being bi-vocational requires some serious organization. I have found that keeping a detailed calendar that includes both vocational and personal stuff is essential. Make it a daily routine to dive into that calendar and make sure to get out ahead by adding the annual events that you know are coming down the road. I have also noticed that the cleaner and more organized I am at home, the more efficient and productive I am at work. As they say, a cluttered home (and office) is a cluttered mind.
3. Be Gracious
Playing the comparison game isn’t limited to teenagers on instagram. I have found that I am constantly comparing what I am doing with my students at MHUMC to what others are doing with their ministries. This can quickly become discouraging and I can start to feel like the ministry I lead doesn’t measure up to the others that I follow. I have learned to give myself grace when I start to feel that discouragement because I know I am doing the best that I can in the position that I have. That grace frees me to truly be there for the students in my ministry whereas jealousy and guilt can be debilitating and induce apathy. We love to talk and teach about the amazing grace that Jesus offers, it’s time give yourself some.
4. Be Present
I just got married this past August and one thing I have quickly learned in marriage is that there is a major difference between spending time with my wife and actually being present with her. Ministry (like marriage) requires relational investment, not just physical existence. When I am with my students at MHUMC I have learned what the difference is between being present with them and just being there to run the show. It can be easy to get in a pattern of just making sure your teens get a good message, play some games, and leave the church in one piece each week. We didn’t get into ministry to run programs, we got into ministry to invest in lives. Make sure the means is always for the end and the means doesn’t become the end (does that makes sense?). Remember those that have made an impact in your life and how they did that, then supply that for your students. It all begins with presence.
5. Be Rested
Take the sabbath seriously. Ministry requires some serious energy (especially if you are truly being present) and that supply of energy is not an ever flowing river, it’s more like a gas tank that needs refueled on a consistent basis. Taking a day of the week to truly sabbath and refuel has been essential for me as I work full-time in one job and part-time in ministry. That sabbath may look different from week to week but it has a few constants for me. I always try to cut out social media completely during my weekly sabbath (usually on Saturday). I don’t have to explain to you the benefits of that but it’s huge for me. I also find ways to generate energy in me and refuel my tank. Recently that has been kayaking with my wife on Saturday mornings. There is something spiritually invigorating about connecting with God’s creation that few other things tap into. So think about fasting from social media on your sabbath and find something that refuels your tank!
I do not do all of these things perfectly but I do believe they are essential to successful ministry and will help prevent the infamous ministry burn-out from taking place. Please let me know if you have any questions or would just like to grab coffee (post-pandemic) and chat about ministry life. We need each other to do these things well.
Grace and Peace (lame, I know)
Jeff is a graduate of Cincinnati Christian University with a degree in General Ministry. He has been working part-time in Youth Minister and as a Worship Leader at Monfort Heights UMC for the past few years.