How Churches Can Bless Their Bivocational Pastor
In the last issue of The Evangelist, I sought to share some encouragement to bivocational pastors. In this issue, I would like to address those in the church congregation and how they can be a blessing to their bivocational pastor.
DURING THE month of October, which includes Clergy Appreciation Day, church members shower their pastors with love and gifts. But once January hits, all that thoughtfulness seems to disappear. While not intentional, this can make any pastor feel unappreciated. This feeling of non-appreciation is magnified for bivocational pastors because of the extra efforts they put into serving the church while working a secular job.
The word vocation comes from the Latin word vocatio, and it means “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. 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.
So how can a church with limited resources bless their bivocational pastor?
1. Take him out to lunch. This seems like an overly simplified answer, but it really isn’t. Breaking bread with fellow believers is a practice we see frequently in the New Testament. In Acts 2:46 Luke records, “And they, continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, did eat their meat with gladness and singleness of heart.” Your pastor would enjoy a time to hang out during the workday and fellowship. Because of the schedules kept by bivocational pastors, a workday lunch may not be feasible, but you can take him and his family out after church on a Sunday. Preparing for and executing a Sunday morning service takes a lot out of a pastor, and not having to worry about lunch is a real blessing. It also provides a great time to decompress from the morning service. Please be advised, though, do not grill him over things about the church over lunch. Those kinds of meetings can wait until later. If you have the means, take your pastor to lunch and encourage him to order anything he wants.
2. Write him a note. One of the best ways to show your gratitude is with a handwritten thank-you note. Typing an email or making a call to say thank you are good ways to express your gratitude, but a handwritten note can really make the person receiving it feel special. Not too long ago, I received a nice handwritten note from a viewer of SonLife Broadcasting Network. This person wanted to thank me for my contributions on the network and my ministry at the church and the college. To think that someone would take the time to pull out stationery and write a nice, thoughtful letter is special and a real blessing. This kind of communication will put plenty of “fuel” in your pastor’s tank. The grind of ministry is very hard for any pastor, especially one who is bivocational. Letting him know that his work is not in vain and is making an impact is huge.
3. Give him a gift card or bake him a treat. Gift cards may not seem to be the most thoughtful things because they seem generic, but they can go a long way. If he’s like me and loves his coffee, then having a gift card to his favorite coffee shop in town is a good way to show how much you appreciate him. A gift card to a department or grocery store can help ease his budget while he is trying to serve the local church and make ends meet for his family. Or you can even give him a gift card to somewhere that is an experience—playing golf, live music, or a special show. I personally love to blow off steam doing something fun. Or perhaps your pastor has a sweet tooth. Never underestimate the ministry of baking. At my first church where I served as lead pastor, the women’s ministry director sold pies at the local farmer’s market every Saturday. She always brought one by to me the following Sunday. I was blessed at that rural church with many baked goods and homemade jams and jellies. A thoughtful treat can go a long way.
4. Show up to church with an expectant heart to receive and to serve. Too often church people in the United States develop a consumer mentality: What can this church do for me? I don’t like the music. How come we aren’t growing? I don’t like the new stage, etc. What would happen if we showed up with an expectancy to receive from the Lord no matter who was preaching or leading worship? The word expectant, an adjective, is defined as “having or showing an excited feeling that something is about to happen, especially something pleasant and interesting.” Ephesians 3:16-19 gives us a blueprint of an expectant heart: “That he would grant you, according to the riches of his glory, to be strengthened with might by his Spirit in the inner man; That Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith; that ye, being rooted and grounded in love, May be able to comprehend with all saints what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height; And to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge, that ye might be filled with all the fulness of God.”
Odds are that your pastor is trying the best he can. Encourage him when he preaches a message; emphasize the things you really liked about it. Too many people in this world are critics and do not offer any affirmation. If your worship team is not the most talented in the world, then understand that they are not performing for you, but leading you into worshipping God. You may not be able to preach or sing, but you can encourage your pastor and the worship team with your participation and attitude.
These are just a few practical ways to honor your bivocational pastor. Ask the Holy Spirit to give you ideas on ways to bless him. It will be a blessing to you and your church.