Hey my name is Tim Catchim. My story toward the bi-vocational life begins about four years ago. I was serving full-time in campus ministry at Austin Peay State University, and I felt called toward church planting. When my church was unable to support this call, out of necessity I became bi-vocational—-I needed an income! First I worked for FedEx, and this was an excellent place to work because I could work part-time hours with full-time benefits (I would recommend this for others considering planting bi-vocationally). Over time this job morphed into full-time hours, so I had to be intentional about cutting back my hours, because I found the job both physically and mentally demanding, and it was taking a toll on the energy I had left for church planting. In fact, as a word of encouragement to others considering the bi-vocational life I would say to find a job that is either physically or mentally demanding, but not both. If choosing, physically demanding would be better, because church planting will require a good deal of your mental attention (for dreaming up ideas, teaching, providing vision, etc.).
Anyway, I found this transition from full-time ministry into bi-vocational ministry to be tough. I went from doing campus ministry all the time, pouring myself into highly significant activities all day every day (teaching the Word, counseling and praying with folks, pouring myself into relationships, etc.), to doing work that often seemed mundane or even pointless. I was unprepared to know how to handle that, and it was difficult. I think a crucial part of the equation for those considering this model of ministry is to develop a biblical theology of work. I have found that many of us as Christians have a bankrupt theology of work. What is the theological significance of work? What is its meaning? Many times the preaching and teaching in churches is done by individuals who are somewhat disconnected from the average work world. They are not involved in the daily grind of the work force that most people are involved in. In addition, their own ministerial tasks are more obviously loaded with meaning and significance from a spiritual perspective. In order to engage in the apparently mundane, “meaningless” tasks of every day work and still maintain a sense of purpose and significance, we need a more comprehensive view of God, work, the future, and systems theory in general. Often we do not have any clear concept of the significance of the daily grind, of how to do mundane work in a way that transforms our environment for the good. We need to develop a biblical theology of work, which will inevitably lead us into a robust theology of new creation and eschatology. Even the most mundane tasks can be done for the glory of God, but this requires an interpretive lens that is not readily available unless you have entered into the mundane. Even work that seems pointless or insignificant can be done in such a way that it contributes to the coming of the Kingdom.
Recently I went down the entrepreneurial path and started a recycling business. This has been a great blessing, as the business has taken off and I have even been able to hire a staff person to do the daily requirements of the business. I typically only work about 10 hours a week on the business, yet it supports my family full-time! Through this blessing, I am able to serve at our church plant (Ikon) with the majority of my time, yet without needing to draw an income from it. I highly recommend this path to those with entrepreneurial skills.
Looking back, if I’m honest full-time ministry was in many ways a luxurious life. I had freedom in my schedule, could invest all my time and energy in the things I was passionate about and felt God calling me to do, and felt like I was accomplishing significant tasks on a daily basis. Being bi-vocational is harder, but it has its benefits. One primary benefit is that in full-time ministry it is easy to lose touch with the daily grind and with what people need to hear about, but as I function bi-vocationally I cannot escape wrestling with these questions. I am on the same page with those in my community, because I am not separate from the working world. There are definitely benefits to working full-time in ministry, don’t get me wrong. But there are drawbacks as well, and there are certainly benefits to being bi-vocational. Blessings!
Check out Tim’s blog here.