Blessings and benefits of bivocational & covocational ministry

May 6, 2020

What if having a job outside of your church turned out to be one of the greatest blessings that you have ever experienced in your pastoral life?

Though full-time vocational ministry may be commonplace in America, this phenomenon is only about 100 years old. Before pastors worked full-time in churches, they had jobs in their communities which allowed the gospel to flow to and through their work. With the financial implications of COVID-19, maybe it’s time to consider the positive aspects of bivocational and covocational ministry.

Rethinking bivocational ministry
The word vocation comes from the Latin word “vocatio,” meaning “a call or summons.” The thought references an occupational calling. A proper biblical understanding is that all believers have a calling to leverage their vocation — their job — for the glory of God.

The common use of the phrase “bivocational pastor” refers to someone who serves a church that is unable to compensate a pastor with a full-time salary. Therefore, the pastor must work a job outside of the church to supplement his income.

While there are plenty of bivocational pastors who work secondary jobs as a necessity, there are others who actually choose to fund their ministry through outside employment. Through the years the language of “tentmaker,” — referring to the Apostle Paul’s vocation mentioned in Acts 18 — has been used to define this type of pastor. Enter the term “covocational pastor.” In his e-book, “Covocational Church Planting,” missiologist Brad Brisco differentiates bivocational and covocational as follows:

“A ‘bivo’ planter is one who has a marketplace job (the tentmaker mentioned earlier) that is viewed as somewhat temporary. The planter’s hope is that the church plant will eventually be positioned to provide the financial support for the planter to leave a bivo job to focus full time on the church. A ‘covo’ planter, on the other hand, is one who has a clear and definite calling in the marketplace that they never intend to leave. They know God has called them to be a teacher, mechanic or doctor and they desire to weave that calling into the plan to start a new church.”

Covocational pastors see a benefit in not overloading their church with a salary package that would be difficult to maintain. This lightening of the budget allows the church to focus on additional ministry. It is a shared vision of the church that sees the shepherd as a leader, a co-laborer in ministry, and not as an employee. Covocational ministry is seen as a blessing, not as a burden.

As pastors, we must ask ourselves: How much contact does our church job give us to people outside of our churches?

‘Tentmaking’ as an evangelistic strategy
While making tents was Paul’s vocation and the way he supported his ongoing ministry, it was also meant to be an example to the church. In Acts 20:34-35, Paul points to his profession to demonstrate the application of Jesus’ teaching in action by quoting “it is more blessed to give than to receive.” Paul’s job gave him access to the world he was trying to reach. As Paul worked, he shared Jesus with those in the marketplace.

The days when a pastor was honored as having a calling above any secular employment may be disappearing. However, when a pastor works outside of the church, his vocation can bring him credibility with the community that would be hard to attain if he wasn’t in the marketplace. These workplace relationships can bring opportunities to share the gospel with people who would otherwise not be part of the pastor’s world. As pastors, we must ask ourselves: How much contact does our church job give us to people outside of our churches?

Pastors, covocational ministry isn’t just about having a job outside of your church. It’s about a different, missional way of supporting God’s calling upon our lives. In this time of unexpected financial challenges for the vocational pastor, perhaps bivocational or covocational ministry is not a burden but a blessing in our desire to expand God’s kingdom.


by Mike Pittman  
Church Planting  /  Baptist State Convention of North Carolina

So you’re a follower of Jesus: ‘Now What?’

I vividly remember the season when I decided to give up running and join a gym. Up until then I had been an avid runner and enjoyed it. It was a great stress reliever for me, but I didn’t have much physical strength — I was weak and I wanted to change that.    I remember going to...

Finding God’s ‘shells of grace’ in our western culture

The 2016 Disney Pixar film “Finding Dory” details the life of a blue tang fish named Dory who deals with short-term memory loss. The animated movie explores complex issues such as mental health, the power of community, and the interplay between humans and wildlife.    One theme...

Considering a strategic vision for digital engagement

There is a difference between using something and leveraging something. You can use money to buy things you may or may not need. But that does not equate to leveraging it. Leveraging money as an investment could double or triple the initial investment. Using takes something at...

The beauty of adoption

Mom and dad never called me their adopted son. I was just their son. I was born into an unfortunate situation, but I was adopted into a blessed family. In 1966, adoption was not as highlighted in the American church as it is today. In the spring of 1998, I was a seminary student...

5 areas where pastors can grow in the new year

In the optometry profession, 20/20 means clarity or sharpness of vision.    For most people, the year 2020 was anything but clear. In fact, 2020 was as unclear as a year could be because of the repercussions of COVID-19, especially if you are leading in ministry as a pastor.   ...

NC mountain man returns home to plant new church

People say if you live in the North Carolina mountains, they’ll always call you back.   For Michael Childers, that’s pretty much what happened. Except it was God who called him back, not the hills, he says.   Drive to Brevard over in western North Carolina, and then head out of...

Resolve to pray for and encourage your pastor in the new year

Resolve to pray for and encourage your pastor in the new year Happy New Year! I know that those are welcome words for many of us, myself included. Given the events of the past year, we are all ready to return to some semblance of normal, although normal will undoubtedly look...

Speaker added, registration open for 2021 Disciple-making Conference

Church leadership coach, and author Will Mancini has been added to the lineup of speakers for the 2021 N.C. Baptist Disciple-making Conference, which is scheduled for Tuesday and Wednesday, Feb. 23-24, in a hybrid format. Registration for the conference is now open.   Mancini,...

0 Comments

Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Stay connected by signing up for the N.C. Baptist monthly newsletter.

Select Language ^

Share This

Share this with your friends!