Last week I attended a conference on bi-vocational ministry held here at Denver Seminary. It was a great education on income options as well as thought provoking information on the future of occupational ministry jobs.
I also just read this article from the Atlantic. It discusses the realities of dwindling church attendance leading to fewer occupational ministry positions and the possibilities of a bi-vocational future.
It also includes this quote:
…Barringer loves his part-time job at the Methodist church, and he’s thankful that his nonprofit job allows him to minister to the homeless, even if he’s given up on the idea of paying back his six-figure debt.
“Though I will likely not be able to pay off my loans, I am blessed that I found another job that connects so well with my work at the church and my passions, so I didn’t have to take up work in an entirely different field,” he says.
A couple quick personal thoughts:
- There are a number of false narratives – cultural, institutional, and personal. “You don’t have a ‘good’ job, so you can’t….”, “There are fewer of these jobs, so you won’t be able to….”, “I don’t have the job I want, so I won’t be able to….”
- Nobody should ever graduate from anything with ‘six-figure debt’. Not even doctors.
- Stanford psychologist Carol Dweck has written a wonderful book on the idea of a Fixed vs. Growth Mindset. I always bristle when I hear people connect negative pasts/presents (“I didn’t/I can’t”) with negative futures (“I won’t”). This assumes a Fixed Mindset in which our “character, intelligence, and creative ability are static givens which we can’t change in any meaningful way”.
We are not fixed beings. It’s ok to work in a different field for a time. It’s ok to work bi-vocationally in two unrelated fields. It’s ok to use a Seminary degree for non-paying ministry work. It’s ok to learn another trade. It’s ok to work 70 hours a week for a season to pay off debt. It’s ok to move to a different city/state/country where your degree and skills are more valued. It’s ok if God opens doors we didn’t see coming. It’s ok to live very frugally for a season. It’s ok to be in ministry and financially stable. It’s ok to work outside your passion. It’s ok to work sacrificially just to meet the needs of your family. It’s ok to change.