There is a discussion going on right now on facebook about bi-vocational ministry. In case you don’t know, “bi-vocational” refers to minsters (mainly pastors) who work another job in addition to leading a church. For the past 5 years I have been bi-vocational, and I love it and would not change it for anything. If I could figure out a way to pastor for free I would do it. I have several friends who do pastor for free. They are true heroes!
A bi-vocational minister’s experience will depend on what kind of job he or she performs. For me, I teach sociology at a couple of different colleges. For me, teaching sociology and pastoring a church go hand-in-hand.
Here are some highlights from my week thus far…and it has been a somewhat typical week.
Monday: Even though Monday was President’s Day, and my family had the day off from school, I did not. I had a full day of teaching. The topic of my lecture was “culture.” I was trying to make a point that only human beings develop culture. Animals do not devise culture on the same level as humans. In other words, a German Shepherd does not bark in German and a cow in Mexico does not say, “El-moo-ay.” Well, believe it or not, I offended one of my brighter students. So much so he/she sent me the following email: “Today in class you mentioned that animals do not have culture…I found myself extremely bothered by the fact that you would say such a thing. This bothered me…because…humans are not…better than other animals…humans are not so far removed from other species of animals that we should be able to say that only we are capable of culture.”
After school, I stopped by the hospital to visit a parishioner. This person’s blood pressure had gotten dangerously high. The reason? He/she had not taken his/her blood pressure medicine in a couple of months because he/she could not afford the prescriptions. I ended the afternoon by talking with a social worker assigned to him/her to get him/her the necessary help. This person has insurance, but his/her monthly prescription bill still exceeds $150.
Tuesday: My morning was full of meetings. First, I met at a pub (it was closed) with a group of guys I have been meeting weekly with for years. I then had coffee with a weary sojourner who has recently had a few mystical experiences with God. This person is a gifted thinker and a product of an ultra-conservative religious background…that is until he/she began wandering. Through these mystical experiences this person confessed to me that for the first time in his/her life he/she feels like he/she has a personal relationship with Jesus.
I spent Tuesday evening in the Emergency room with a twenty-something who was struggling with some difficult life issues.
While at the emergency room, this person’s family called and were extremely upset with me because I was the one who took him/her to the hospital. I told one family member that after assessing the seriousness of the danger I made a “judgement call” and brought him/her to the ER. This person then said to me, and I quote, “You made a judgement call? As a man of God I thought you were not supposed to judge people.”
I did not get home until after midnight.
Wednesday: My highlight today was a college student asking me if I could remember back to a time where there were no touch-screen cell phones. It was like me asking my grandmother what it was like to live before automobiles.
In between classes I was on the phone talking to social workers about a couple of issues with a couple of people in my church. I also started the process of smoothing things over with the family that was angry with me from the night before.
Wednesday afternoon I got a phone call from another family our church ministers to who lives below the poverty line. He/she wanted to know what I knew about Publishers’ Clearing House because they had contacted the family, telling them they had won $150,000! I explained that more than likely it was a scam, but the family member assured me the people on the phone said they were legit. This person then said all the family needed was $150 and they would receive their $150,000 check. After some time I was able to convince this family that it was all a scam.
It angers me that people who run these scams prey on the poor.
Wednesday evening I led my weekly Bible study in the Hard Bargain community of Franklin.
Thursday: The day began with a weekly 6 a.m. meeting with my closest friend in ministry. I had a bowl of grits and coffee. I then had another meeting with another social worker about another issue. After that meeting I went to Verizon to get my son a new phone for his 18th birthday. (After all, even bi-vocational pastors have families.)
My highlight today was lunch at Green Street Church of God with my friend Pastor Ray McGuire and a dozen more friends in ministry. I ate way to much mac-&-cheese and chess pie. I will pay for it in the pool tomorrow.
My day ended with a Community Housing Partnership board meeting.
Tomorrow I teach, and somehow between now and Sunday I have to develop a sermon, spend time with my wife, and celebrate a birthday with Zach.
It’s a wonderful life.