Part 3 – Finding Balance in Bi-Vocational Ministry
When Steph and I moved to The Woodlands / Magnolia, TX area to plant Christ Community Church, we knew that a lot of hard work, late nights, and persistent prayer would be required of us. We also were aware that it would be quite some time before the church would be able to compensate us in a manner that would cover all of our financial needs. We were okay with this at the time, and most days are still happy that we chose to do this.
Having been a part of a parachute plant (this means you move to an area that you don’t really know anyone and begin the work to plant a church) in Brenham, TX we knew that our plant would likely take some time to build in a healthy way. Now that we are 5 years later, I can say that it did take a lot of time and it was worth it.
Since I had been speaking full-time since 2004, I still had a pretty full calendar of events at churches, festivals, and college bible studies. I was also actively involved in the publishing company I own, Lucid Books, so this helped us out with income as well. While we were busy planting the church and juggling these other jobs, it was manageable while the church was small.
One of the luxuries I had managing my own schedule, with my speaking ministry and my publishing company, was that I could still make the church plant a priority. I also had a young guy raise his own support to come along with us for the first year to be my assistant, which proved to be very helpful as well. The challenge I faced was determining what I needed to do, and what I could delegate to others to do.
The two books really helped me think through workflow and delegation were Getting Things Done by David Allen and The 80/20 Principle by Richard Koch. Essentially, you need to determine the most important things that only you can do, and then delegate the rest of the tasks. This is increasingly important as your business and church grow simultaneously.
Since September of 2013 our church has grown from an average attendance of 100 to over 200 on Sunday mornings. While we are by no means a megachurch, this type of growth causes things to shift very quickly. We had sent out our first church plant in August, so I was alone pastoring with a part-time assistant and a great group of volunteer leaders.
The church is now able to offer me a salary and I still supplement my income by speaking and publishing. With the amount of new people coming into the church it became clear to the leadership and I that I either needed to focus completely on the church, or hire an additional pastor. After prayer and consideration we chose to hire an Executive Pastor and my salary would remain the same. This was a great solution for us, because we were able to hire a man who is extremely gifted in ways that are different from my gifts. Since I still have speaking invitations and publishing I was able to agree with my leadership that it would be best for the church to increase our staff size instead of just increasing my salary. This not only serves the church better by offering more pastors to serve the people, but it also helps to decentralize the focus a bit from me being ‘the man’ and having a
Since I still have speaking opportunities and my publishing company I was able to agree with my leadership that it would be best for the church to increase our staff size instead of just increasing my salary. This not only serves the church better by offering more pastors to serve the people, but it also helps to decentralize the focus a bit from me being ‘the man’ and having a plurality of leadership.
Here are a few important lessons I’ve learned being a church planter and tentmaker that I think would be helpful for you as your church grows (some may be a bit redundant from Part 1):
- Be upfront with your intentions. A good friend of mine often reminds me that, “Perception is reality.” It is impossible to assure everyone in your sphere of influence that you are doing these other jobs to plant your church, but it is essential that you let your core team and leadership know what you are doing. As the church grows, I have found that it is also wise to check in with your leaders to ensure they are still comfortable with your outside activities. This will assure those who are buying into God’s vision through you that you are committed first to your primary calling. If you intend on continuing with your business or freelancing after the church grows to a certain point, then you need to make sure the leadership of your church is okay with that. If not, then you need to have further conversations regarding expectations and compensation. By doing so, you will also help your people realize that they need to help out with the church, which leads me to point #2.
- Learn to delegate early on. I have met with multiple church planters either to coach them or to assess them, and one thing is a common challenge for them: They do not like to delegate ANYTHING. If you are getting paid anything to pastor a church plant, then you may struggle with the obligation to do it all since you are the one being paid, but you must remember, your calling is to equip the saints for the work of ministry, not DO ALL of the work of the ministry (see Ephesians 4:12). There are a few things that only you can do, but the majority of things (setting up chairs, running sound, making slides, buying supplies, etc.) can and should be delegated to volunteers or part-time staff.
- Be intentional about setting up systems. I mentioned this in Part 1, but I cannot emphasize this enough. I’m currently reading, Work the System by Sam Carpenter and have found it helpful thus far. Once you create systems and a ‘users guide’ of sorts, you can then hire other staff to run the company, so that the majority of your time can be focused on your growing church. You can also create systems for your church so that your volunteers and staff know how to do things the way that you expect. I could go on and on about systems, but… That’s another blog post.
- Position your business or service to bless your church plant. First of all, earning extra income allows you to give to the church, which sets a great model for those who are coming along with you. Second, what if your business could provide jobs for church planters/ministers who are in training or eventually in your residency? You could help other church planters by giving them something to do to provide for their families while planting their church. Or, perhaps you are a graphic designer, then you can save your church a lot of cash by offering your services to the body for free. These are a few ideas, but I think you can get my point. An example of this in my context would be book publishing. I can foresee us one day having a publishing line from myself and other team members from Christ Community Church. Since I know how to setup and run a publishing company, I can do this with ease and minimal costs to the church.
- Know when to hold ’em, Know when to fold ’em (Thanks, Kenny!). There may come a time that you will need to move on from your business or freelance services and focus entirely on your church. This may be for a season, or for good. The key here is to make sure that you have done the proper leg work to either hand it off to another planter (sell it or give it), or make sure that your current clients can be taken care of. You may opt to keep the company, but hire other people to run it for you. The key is, your tentmaking should enable you to proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ and not distract you from it. There very well may come a time that God calls you to focus entirely on your church. For some, you may be able to build a team and have systems that enable you to have some involvement, but be able to primarily focus on your church. I have been able to do this with Lucid Books by bringing on additional staff to help carry the load.
Hopefully you will be blessed by having growth in all areas of your life and ministry, and you will need to be honest with yourself and those around you as to what you, your family and your church are able to handle. Since the church is a family, these should be natural conversations along the way.
If you have any questions, please feel free to leave a comment below.
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