I just got a sad email from a friend of mine. This friend is a pastor at a local Internet based church. On top of his Internet based church he has also been running a ministry helping the needy in the local community.
Suffice to say that he’s leaving the ministry. He’s closing down his Internet church and his local ministry because of financial difficulty. I know all about struggling financially while doing ministries. It’s an extremely difficult challenge that produces an overabundance of stress. It’s also one of the main reasons that ministers leave the ministry.
I wish this was an isolated incident, but it’s far from that. Sadly, this is really an all too common occurrence. Pastors are leading a group in their walk with Christ, writing and doing sermons, counseling, studying, leading and grooming other leaders, developing materials for classes, and so on. And on top of that, for this particular friend and for many others including myself, he was bi-vocational (worked a regular job while doing the other list). Imagine taking your already full schedule with your work and family and then adding additional study, writing, prepping, meetings and so on to it. Now realize what you just added to you immense schedule was ultimately more important (in the overall scheme of things) than your normal schedule. Add to this situation that the more important things you are doing aren’t providing financially for you and your family, so you have to do the lesser important items to fund doing the more important.
Welcome to what being a bi-vocational pastor looks like. The truly sad part of this is that you begin to go around in circles. Your finances are okay so you put more focus on the ministry. Then your finances struggle so you put more focus on “work” and the ministry suffers. Then you begin to focus back on the ministry as a reaction to complaints or issues you’ve noticed, then your finances begin to suffer even worse. The death spiral. It’s all too common.
I do know some pastors who are surviving the balance of ministry and work, but it’s very difficult and sadly more common for people to fail than to succeed. I’m finding myself praying extensively for us to make it through this phase in ministry. Also, I’m praying for it to be a short phase. I’m already finding myself concerned with my ability to put the focus on ministry and trust God to provide financially. Prayers for funding, not for our comfort but for us to be able to focus on what’s truly important. And please pray for my friend as he goes through this stressful situation as well.