Are You a Bivocational Worship Leader?

I need some help blog world! I am transitioning from being a full-time church staff member to having a full-time secular job and volunteering my time to church.

I’m looking to simplify my ministry processes and focus my efforts on activities that will net the most fruit.

If you are a bivocational worship leader/pastor/director I want to know, “how do you do your job?” If you can email me your phone number and a good time to call I would love to have a half hour of your time to listen to your advice.

In all honesty I’m looking for guys who have been successful at this. I believe I can be bivocational and grow my ministry so I want advice from people who have experience doing that. Even if your church is not numerically growing, I’d still like to hear from you. I believe churches grow when they are healthy. If you help grow the health of your church as a bivocational worship staff member then I really need your help!

Email me your phone number.

Leave me a comment with your most effecive ministriy practice for bivocational worship leaders.

15 Responses to “Are You a Bivocational Worship Leader?”

  1. 1 Jay Sellers September 22, 2008 at 4:35 pm

    I couldn’t do what I do without a few hardworking musicians and Planning Center Online. PCO is like an assistant that never complains, never takes a break, never calls in sick…etc.

  2. 2 Mike Mahoney September 22, 2008 at 6:03 pm

    Time management is important. Much of my challenges involves finding time, and making descisions as to what to give my time to. I can’t do all the ministry-related things I’d like to do, so I select the important ones.

    The computer is your friend. The cell phone is your friend.

    You have to trust people to do what you ask them to. And to let them do it. Part of leadership is releasing people to do the things you point them at. You cannot be a bivocational micromanager.

    Realize your ministry is your calling. Your job pays the bills. But… do all things as unto the Lord.

  3. 3 Kyle September 22, 2008 at 6:52 pm

    Get a job that grants you a lot of flexibility, surround yourself with people who are mature, raise up new leaders you can lean on, get organized and get good at delegating.

  4. 4 brunettekoala September 22, 2008 at 7:49 pm

    Hi Billy,

    I’d like to encourage with some info from ‘the other side of the pond’ – most of the churches in the UK have bivocational worship leaders. Having a paid worship pastor in your church is a rarity over here. I’ve been involved in music ministry (as both musician/vocalist, co-ordinator and leader) for several years. I’ve been really lucky to have been part of churches that have grown and blessed with amazing times of musical worship.

    Organisation is key. Know your music team – their strengths and weaknesses. There is no reason why you should be doing everything solo. What gifts do you and your leaders see in others, what potential is there? There is potential to really release others in the gifts and skills God has given them. Humility and Maturity are other important factors.

    It helps to have structures in place – a rota of music teams, a regular night that is set aside for practice, contact list of musicians, PA/AV etc that someone else would find easy to use if you need to delegate.

    A wise Pastor’s wife once said – I don’t do anything that someone else could do. It’s real easy to do everything because we know we can do it, we feel it’s expected of us because we’re the person in the spotlight that is known for usually doing a particular role. But is there someone else who could do the same job?

    As for a job – you need to work out your schedule and manage your time well. I used to work as a Community Learning Worker – so I had to work evenings. But I knew music practice was on a Thursday – I would work any evening that wasn’t a Thursday, and I never took on jobs that meant I’d have to work Sundays to be freed up for my role in music ministry. Several of my friends have done or do jobs which require shift work making being a regular part of ministry week by week pretty much impossible.

    There is also a short article in ‘Inside-out worship’ (a book put together by Matt Redman) by Robin Mark, a Northern Irish songwriter and worship leader. He is bivocational.

    Sorry that’s a very long comment, and I hope it is a help and not a hindrance. You are more than welcome to e-mail any thoughts!!

  5. 5 jan owen September 22, 2008 at 10:47 pm

    Billy, I used to be this. For about 4 years – then I was REALLY part time for about 5 more! I’ve only been full time for 6 years.

    Organization was key and sharing leadership and responsibility was as well. I know you do that already. Go easy on yourself and don’t expect to get everything done that you do now – there will be a transition period as you adjust and learn and also as your staff and team learns and grows. You may have to really coach your team through this one, asking honestly for what you need from them. In some ways you now have an advantage – no one can say “but it’s your job to do it”! You’re all volunteers so you all have to row to get the boat where you’re going. You might truly consider training another leader in your church that can lead in your absence EASILY.

    Take care of yourself and don’t try to do it all. I think you can streamline and figure out what your focus is and simply do those things, as “Simple Church” advised. For instance, for me, my worship ministry process is simple: Wholehearted Worship = worship. grow. obey. together. So I hit on each of these once a quarter – something team building, a lesson or a worship or a training experience, and a service opportunity, etc. You may have to simplify and see how others can help you do these things. LEaders will pop up i’m sure.

    Any leads on a job? PRaying for you friend!

  6. 6 Steve September 22, 2008 at 11:08 pm


    I’ve been bivocational for 5 years now. The biggest factor in growing the ministry and ultimately the church has been having the best family and super supportive wife. Yeah, trust others that volunteer with you and deligate responsibilities, but now you will have to prepare for the weekend at home more then before. It will take time away from your family. 😦
    I’d love to chat with you about a typical week and other aspects of life as a bivocational.

    (from my wife)…
    As the wife of the bivocational minister….I agree! It takes some time away from the family, and that is why we try to plan good “weekend” time with Dad. That has meant changing our views on some things that others might see as important, but we found that God honors us for putting our relationship and that with our kids first on those days.

  7. 7 Matthew September 23, 2008 at 5:50 am


    Spent 2 years on PT staff in music ministry, and spent 1 yr launching a church with about 100-150 in attendance in a portable setting.

    I’ve got to OVER-emphasize Steve’s point. Make sure you’re doing a good self-check and family-check weekly to make sure you’re not abandoning your family. It’s too easy to do. The other big problem can be your spiritual life. Take your “Mary” time to sit at His feet daily, otherwise you’ll run like Martha in the kitchen.

    8 hrs of sleep may be a thing of the past – and that’s just life.

    Use good tools –
    PCO being the biggest tool.
    Ask for help from someone with an Admin gift to get things set up in PCO.
    Release others into ministry.
    SIMPLIFY. The worst thing you can do is try to continue like there’s been no change. The only person you’ll fool is – well, no one. Simplify what you do.
    I don’t know about you, but bigger than my gift of music, is my gift of pastoring. My wife’s not a morning person, and couldn’t have lunch with me much, so I would set up breakfast and lunch meetings daily. I could cover about 10 meetings a week to meet with admin-gifted person, meet with necessary staff, meet with others leading that weekend, meet with new musicians, work to disciple a younger believer, etc.
    With this change, I wouldn’t give up much more than 3 nights a week for the church.

    You have a calling to the local church, but God knew exactly what would happen in this time. Don’t cheat your employer because the church needs you – there’s no integrity in that. We don’t do what we do for money, but it’s a part of life – we need it – and you have to give full attention and priority to those who are paying your bills.

    Getting good input like this is great, but now would also be a good time to get one person to act as accountability during this transition. Someone who’s in your corner and can support you through this thing without emotional involvement.


  8. 8 Russ September 23, 2008 at 6:28 am

    I actually looked up the word “bivocational” and couldn’t find it. But wouldn’t you make money from both if you were bivocational?

    Seriously, though, my dad works a “secular” job full-time and pastors a church full-time, so I’ve definitely seen it work. The church he is at is growing, and he hates working outside, but he’s done it for the last four years to pay the bills.

    Long story short, he took over the pastorate at a church where the previous pastor wrecked everything by having an affair. What was a growing church of 100+ dropped down to about 30. That was almost 5 years ago.

    They went through a phase of about 2.5 years of “binding wounds” and helping people move past that betrayal, but still hovered around 30-40. The last 2 years have been pretty good. They will most likely break the 100 barrier at Christmas this year. Yay!

    Anyways, I’m rambling, but just wanted to give an example of someone who not only is bivocational, but also is doing it in a very tough situation.

    God’s Best,

  9. 9 Randy Miller September 23, 2008 at 7:39 am

    I’m not a bivocational pastor, but I did want to post you and let you know I’m praying for you and asking God to open doors, windows, drawers, minds, everything to provide for You. He didn’t bring you all this way to leave you high and dry.

    I would echo the same comments as above: don’t leave your fam in the dust. Provide for your family first, then church. Us churchworkers get it backwards all the time. If the church isn’t happy that you’re not spending more time doing the things you usually did, so be it. Let it ride knowing that you are doing what you need to do to support your family.

    Remember, God may give you hundreds of churches to be a part of, but He gives you one family to be a husband/father to.

  10. 10 Eric M. September 23, 2008 at 4:53 pm

    You will need to be very strategic with family and ministry… This is the order…


    It is doable but it is not easy. With ministry… others will need to be empowered to take on some responsibility. Give ministry away. Some things might need to be dropped or shelved for a later time. If something is not getting done DO NOT guilt yourself into taking on more. (I do that all the time) Major on the Majors. Make sure your wife is not overwhelmed with church responsibilities. You are her protector and provider, she is not your ministry partner or secretary…(personal experience…)

    Plan out your personal devotions/study and church “work”… and don’t mix the two. Don’t spend all your evenings at the church building.

    It is all good… “Phil 3:6 And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.”

  11. 11 Billy Chia September 24, 2008 at 9:36 pm

    Amazing tips everyone, thank you!


    “Don’t cheat your employer because the church needs you – there’s no integrity in that.”

    You are right on with this insight.

    Also, I’m just like you man, I am WAY more of pastor than I am a musician.

  12. 12 alex September 25, 2008 at 12:25 am

    Billy, props to you man. Humble, teachable, reaching out. Awesome – God will bless this.

  13. 13 Bridget September 25, 2008 at 12:10 pm

    Yes I’m bivocational. I didn’t use to be (back in 97-00 I worked for a church.)

    I commute to work (1 hr each way) via train. On W/Th my husband picks me up from the train station with a sandwich and we drive straight to church. There is no way I’d have time to go home, eat dinner, change, etc.

    I lead worship four times a week.

    Sunday morning (easiest for me–me and a vocalist. We rehearse at 9:30 for a 10:00 a.m. service. I arrive at 9:00 to setup the keyboard).

    Wednesday night (I have a replacement once a month where I “just play keys.” Otherwise, it’s me alone (on guitar as of 9/24)).

    Thursday nights (Women’s Bible study… 3 songs on guitar). Every fourth time I lead the study.

    Friday night (outreach at our motel with guitar, cajon, and vocal… we do more of a sound check than a rehearsal.)

    I tutor Algegra on Tuesday nights. I have found that Mondays I am too tired to make decisions (on setlists).

    I’ve been experimenting with my schedule and I have found (as recently as this week) that the following works best for me.

    Saturday mid morning I study the scripture for Sunday and choose songs. I email the pastor the lyrics and my vocalist by 3 p.m.
    Sunday afternoons I choose the songs for Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday (all of which are played on guitar). I have a limited amount of songs I can play on guitar, so studying for song choice isn’t effective.

    I also make the most of my lunch hours (Bible study) and commuting time (iPod sermons, podcasts, songs to learn)

    Above all I will say this: I have no young children (just step-children and grandchildren). My husband is the assistant pastor at our church and the senior pastor at our outreach so I have his full support both with effort and emotionally. I wouldn’t do it otherwise.

    The gifts and calling of God are irrevocable (Romans 11:29). This causes me to keep on in His power and with His strength. I do it through his strength. There’s no other way.

    Also, I will say that I was entirely spoiled when I worked at the church and had much less compassion for people who couldn’t make rehearsals on time (when I played keys on the team), etc.

    All of our seasons of life are tools for us to learn to draw closer to God and to become more like Him–mostly, it seems compassion and mercy are high on that list when it comes to church musicians.

    Email me anytime.

    Bridget Willard
    Worship Leader
    Calvary Chapel Seaside
    Laguna Beach, CA

  14. 14 Gus Macaulay December 16, 2008 at 9:36 am

    Hi there,

    I’m a bivocational pastor in Scotland and have compiled a practical guide to being bivocational and making it work. It’s all about boundaries, margin and balance, and if it works, it can work very well. The church I lead has grown three times the size in three years (often despite my leading mind you). If you want to e-mail me, I can send it to you as a Word attachment. Feel free to get in touch at

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