John Chandler

My name is John Chandler and I am excited to share some thoughts with you.  I have been bi-occupational for a while now, and trying to make half of our income through “another job” has a unique set of stresses.  For me, this job is freelancing as a graphic designer, and one reason this is stressful is because that part of my income is inconsistent. But I love it. I love the freedom that it offers me, so that we can incubate this church community slowly, without the rush to have a model that can sustain a full pastor salary. I love that it gives me the opportunities to spend a lot of time with people who aren’t part of our church. I love the conversations I have when I tell people I work part-time as a pastor and part-time as a webdesigner. I love being able to see the tangible result of a designed webpage, while our church community is much less tangible.

I am self-conscious at times…feeling like splitting my time means I’m not a ‘real’ pastor. But the truth is, I feel like what I’m doing now matters more than anything I’ve ever done. And I find that I often have conversations with other pastors who dream of doing a different kind of church ministry if they had the freedom and gifting to do so.

Ultimately, I know this is where I’m called to be now. In fact, I feel like I could live in this rhythm for more than the short-term. I don’t know that the 50/50 breakdown of these ‘jobs’ is the ideal split, but I see myself trying to be active in both areas indefinitely.

Just to give you more of an idea, here’s my weekly rhythm to give you something to consider:

Weekdays
I help get my daughter ready and take her to school every day. I like being able to walk her to her class, both to show her how special she is, and to have a chance to get to know other kids and parents from her school.

After I drop her off, I spend most mornings in a locally owned coffee shop. There are two or three I frequent. Being a regular means that I have a lot of ongoing contact and have gotten to know other regulars — freelancers and others who can work from anywhere. That means most mornings I end up engaged in a few conversations that aren’t on my schedule or to-do list, but I value these times and don’t see them as an interruption.

I try to start my day by reading 3-4 chapters — I usually have a few different books going at once. I usually follow this up with some journaling or maybe a blog post that stirred out of my reading. Starting my day by interacting with a few ideas energizes me, and if I go a few days without this, I can tell a difference.

The rest of the morning, I usually focus on church related stuff. This is lesson prep, planning, catching up on email, meeting with people or sometimes a mid-morning coffee with someone from aMS or another ministry connection. This leads to lunch, which is often a meeting, or I’ll head home and grab something there.

At home in the afternoon, I focus more on design work; I do end up doing church work about one afternoon a week if I need to do administrative tasks with access to all my hard files.

This is a general breakdown, but it never flows this easily. My design work often feeds into my church work, and vice versa. I try not to draw hard and fast lines around each.

Evenings
Most evenings, I do my best to be home, at least until the kids are in bed. I like cooking, and end helping with or making dinner most evenings. It’s tough to disengage from work when your computer is connected to the universe right down the hall, but I try to spend some good time with my kids right up until we tuck them in. After, I’ll be out one or two evenings a week, connecting with people who aren’t available during the day (or being home with the kids while Sherri connects with someone). I also find that I have a different kind of creative energy if I get out of the house at night, so once in a while, I’ll go out to do some creative focused work.

Weekends
We do our best to take Saturday as a family Sabbath. For us, this is a day without responsibility (or as little responsibility as you can have with three kids). It might mean going out on an adventure, or relaxing around the house. Often, I’ll stop working mid-afternoon on Friday when my daughter comes home from school to begin our Sabbath as a family…or maybe even a date with my wife.

Sunday starts with a lot of work, but ends with some bonus Sabbath time. Having aMS meet in our home means we spend a chunk of time on Sunday getting our house ready. But Sunday evening brings more Sabbath, as we share food, prayer, and community with others from aMS.

Of course, my week rarely plays out exactly like this, and I would go nuts if it did. There is a difference between a rhythm and a routine. This general flow is my rhythm, but if it were to become a rigid routine, it would take more life from me than it would give.

Overall, splitting time between two different occupations takes some structure and discipline in my schedule, but I think I manage that part pretty well.  But in spite of maintaining a somewhat defined weekly rhythm, there is one challenge that extends beyond my ‘work time’. Neither of my jobs is a put in your hours and be done. I don’t go to an office; there isn’t a time clock. When it comes to pastoring, most are aware of this. But it is similar with my design work — as with any creative work, my brain keeps working out ideas long after I’ve let go of my mouse.  This is challenging from a mental standpoint for sure.

Though the bi-vocational life is challenging, it is worth it for me; it is rewarding through all the challenges.  If God calls you in that direction, I encourage you to go for it!

John is a bi-vocational church planter in Austin, Texas, at a church called Austin Mustard Seed.  See his blog here.