>>Should Ministers Work a Secular Job?
It’s All About Obedience
Tommy FiGart ('87, '88)Tommy FiGart and his wife, DeLisa, pastor Grace Family Church in Vinton, Virginia. www.GraceInTheValley.com
Connections says: Advantages of Working a Secular Job
• Takes financial pressure off your family. Being unable to pay your bills adds unnecessary pressure to all of your relationships and is not a good witness. “If anyone does not provide for his own, and especially for those of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever” (1 Tim. 5:8 NASB).
After Tommy FiGart graduated from RHEMA, he worked full-time in ministry for several years. But then he took a position as a children’s pastor and got a secular job to make ends meet.
“After being in full-time ministry, it was a shot to my ego to take a secular job,” he says. “But I learned to establish my identity in who God said I was, not where my income was derived from.”
Now that Tommy pastors his own church, he continues in secular work.
“Having a secular job can be good, especially when a ministry is getting started,” he says. “In our first seven years we were able to secure a $2.2 million facility and add numerous key part-time positions with only 130 people, simply because the church did not have to pay a significant pastoral salary.”
Tommy says it’s all about obedience. “Don’t allow pride to stop you from doing what is right for your family and ministry,” he says. “The Apostle Paul built tents at times but he was not a tentmaker. He was an apostle, even though his income sometimes came from tent making. Ecclesiastes 9:10 tells us to do whatever our hand finds to do. If the income from your ministry is not paying the bills, go find something to put your hand to.”
Not every job requires a degree. “Take a look at your abilities and find a job that matches them,” says Tommy. “I had no skills other than preaching. So I found a job requiring communication skills—I went to work collecting past due loans over the phone. Not the most glamorous or pleasant job! But now I’m Corporate Director of Business Development for a multinational company while pastoring a church of 300. Soon I’ll be able to step from being bivocational to focusing all my time on ministry. In the meantime, I’m going to remain obedient to God’s leading.”
He sums up his bivocational experience: “The bottom line is that God has a plan for all of us, and we must be obedient to that plan. For some that includes secular employment. But when we follow Him, it always leads to success and victory!”
Hard Work Is Honorable
Bill Yanney ('91, '92)Bill Yanney and his wife, Trish (’95, ’96), pastor Family Worship Center in Sioux City, Iowa. www.FWCSiouxCity.com
Connections says: Things to Keep in Mind About Working a Secular Job
• Remember that Priscilla and Aquila and even the great Apostle Paul worked secular jobs (Acts 18:2–3). Working a secular job doesn’t mean you’re not in the ministry!
• Be clear about expectations—yours and the congregation’s. You may not be as readily available for church work as someone who is employed full-time by the church.
• The more others help, the more they will have ownership. Churches don’t “belong” to the ministers—they belong to the whole congregation. Get everyone involved!
• Stay in faith! God has promised to supply all your needs (Phil. 4:19). He may use a secular job to do so. Preaching the Gospel is the greatest privilege in the world. Sometimes it requires sacrifice—maybe only for a season. Keep a good attitude, keep your eyes on the prize, and always trust God as your source.
When Bill and Trish Yanney moved from Florida to Iowa in 2007 to start their church, they had three kids and one on the way, plus a rocky economy to face. It didn’t seem like a great idea.
“But we were led by the Spirit to go,” says Bill, “and that is the most important reason. It doesn’t matter what the state of the economy is—you need to obey God.”
Their pastor had told them, “Where God guides, He provides,” and the Yanneys believed it. “But that doesn’t mean you can sit back and just expect checks in the mail,” says Bill. They used a large offering from their home church to get into a building, pay other start-up costs, and meet some personal needs. But eventually things became financially stressful, and Bill took a part-time job teaching at a college.
“I had been a missionary and an associate pastor in full-time ministry for 11 years,” he says, “and it was hard to go back into secular work. But unless I had some outside income, we weren’t going to make it.”
According to Bill, living by faith doesn’t mean that things are going to just happen without effort. “I don’t think you should be ashamed of working a secular job,” he says. “I think it’s honorable to work hard in the secular world until the ministry can provide for you full-time.”
Bill plans to work his way out of secular employment. “I’m not going to do this forever,” he says. “I have a goal to be full-time in ministry by the end of this year. We started receiving a small salary from the church, and in the last year it has increased.”
When it comes to balancing ministry, family, and a secular job, Bill has three tips:
1) “Don’t let your relationship with God suffer. You can’t make it if you don’t pray. Prayer equips you to know what God wants to do in the church, what to preach, and how to pastor your congregation supernaturally.”
2) “Be careful not to choose a job that is too demanding. Mine isn’t. I prayed for it. If you ask God, He can provide that for you.”
3) “Make sure you’re taking care of your wife and kids, giving them the time they need. Some things in the church have had to go undone for a short time. You can’t do it all. I’ve found if I don’t neglect my family, somehow everything else just works out.”
Expand Your Influence, Be an Example
Matt Beemer (’91, ’92)Matt Beemer and his wife, Julie (’90, ’91), pastored in Manchester, England. They now live in Abuja, Nigeria, and are Directors of RHEMA Nigeria and RHEMA Egypt. www.RhemaConnect.com
Matt Beemer tells the story of a minister at a young church who wanted to quit his secular job (working for the county) to go full-time in ministry.
“Through his work he was meeting the most influential people in his community,” says Matt. “I suggested he go part-time, because it would be a shame to lose that influence. So he asked for two more days off per week to focus on his church. His employers agreed and kept him on with full benefits! Then he invited the local planner to come to church, which came in real handy when he was looking for property for his new building. When you quit your secular job, you shut the door on a sphere of influence.”
In his work as a missionary, Matt has observed that in many other countries churches can’t pay pastors, so they work secular jobs. “I currently know an attorney general, a minister of finance, and a judge who pastor churches,” he says. “Their churches are several thousand people, and they are full of influencers. On the other hand, I’ve seen full-time pastors who lead very small, unhealthy works because all the income from the church has to go to pay their salary.”
Another benefit of working a secular job is being an example. “It helps people see how to balance ministry, family, and working life,” says Matt. “If they see you having a strong commitment to church while still holding down a secular job, it shows them it can be done. This lends itself to a church with a strong voluntary leadership.”
The Beemers witnessed this firsthand at their church in England. “We had people who gave up working fulltime to use their gifts to help the church grow,” says Matt. “When they asked their employers to work only four days a week instead of five, they got approval and many times didn’t lose out financially either. Some people even sold their homes to purchase smaller, mortgage free homes so they could volunteer at the church. If people see you do it, they are more likely to do it too.”
Manage Your Time
“All ministers are challenged in the area of balancing time and commitments. Bivocational ministers just have one more ball in the air to juggle. My wife and I have learned to block out necessary times for each other and for study. That is the time we choose not to be flexible with.”Ron and Jaclyn Farmer (’04, ’05), bivocational pastors of Christ’s Church Triumphant Ministries in Jacksonville, Illinois.