Book Review: Dennis Bickers, The Art and Practice of Bivocational Ministry: A Pastor’s Guide

Book Review: Dennis Bickers, The Art and Practice of Bivocational Ministry: A Pastor’s Guide

The model for ministry is changing in churches everywhere. This book provides a guide for navigating the waters of bivocational ministry.

The writing is on the wall, and many great leaders have read the writing word for word. They each have made their analyses, which appear to be consistent across denominational lines. There is a seismic shift happening in ministry across denominations, and it's projected to continue for the foreseeable future.

The Art and Practice of Bivocational Ministry brilliantly examines this seismic shift from the 1950s professional minister model to the emerging bivocational minister. At first glance, it may seem to be an alarming alteration from the more traditional form of ministry—the “fully-funded” pastoral model. However, the seemingly inevitable shift from full-time pastor to bivocational pastor appears to be the next phase for the church, and The Art and Practice of Bivocational Ministry provides practical tools to equip any minister for success.

Bickers, a bivocational pastor himself, examines the ups and downs, the good and bad, and the pitfalls and mountain tops many pastors who are not “fully-funded” face.

He assesses some of the most significant challenges to bivocational ministers, such as balancing family, finances, church responsibilities, and others. His conclusions, while realistic, are not negative, but instead are uplifting and helpful to the many denominations facing this reality today.

Bickers quickly moves beyond his assessment of the challenging shift of a “fully-funded” pastor model to offering a carefully systematized coaching strategy for the successful bivocational minister. The remainder of The Art and Practice of Bivocational Ministry aims to assist both judicatory (denominational) leaders and bivocational ministers themselves in successfully navigating the tide-waters of this emerging ministry method, with the ultimate goal of enhancing each ministry to achieve its ultimate purpose—making Christlike disciples.

Bickers suggests that “coaching is one option that provides a context to help ministers address the challenges they face. Bivocational ministers need someone to come alongside them who appreciates what they do and the sacrifices they make. Many of them need a coach” (p. 39).

Coaching, according to Bickers, “is a tool to help people get from where they are to where they want to be” (p. 40). He suggests that coaches are not counselors per se but mentors who provide the necessary support and encouragement that already well-equipped and trained bivocational ministers need to succeed, given their unique ministerial challenges.

Bickers writes, “Coaching begins with the premise that the person being coached already knows the steps to take but for some reason is reluctant to take those steps” (p. 41). It is, therefore, a good coach who comes alongside to assist ministers and hold them accountable, to challenge them beyond themselves, and then to help them take those steps forward to fruitful ministry.

In the latter half of The Art and Practice of Bivocational Ministry, Bickers illuminates the process of coaching the bivocational pastor by inviting us to preview five of his one-on-one systematic coaching sessions. Although each scenario is different, the yield for the minister is bountiful and productive.

The book concludes with a special chapter for judicatory leaders, encouraging them to provide the necessary resources to coach the bivocational pastor and the needed support for this trend that will continue for the foreseeable future.

For every bivocational pastor and judicatory (denominational) leader, this book is a must-read. The writing is on the wall that the church is moving away from the “fully-funded” pastor model to the bivocational pastor model in greater numbers than ever before. Embracing this new model and coaching ministers through unique challenges are necessary steps to ensure a successful, fruitful, and sustainable ministry for every pastor in the years to come.

Robert A. Castile is a bivocational pastor currently serving on the Kansas City District Church of the Nazarene.

Note: The Art and Practice of Bivocational Ministry: A Pastor’s Guide is available to order through The Foundry Publishing. www.thefoundrypublishing.com; (800) 877-0700.

Holiness Today, May/Jun 2018.