Bivocational pastors find joy in serving, connecting

by C. Walter Overman
  • Gary and Marie Henderson

  • Jim Hunsucker

Monday, July 30, 2012 | 2 yrs old

Bivocational pastors work long hours – some log 90 hours every week between two or more jobs. The long hours impact their families and their ministries, and make it difficult to find time to build relationships with other pastors.  

The busy lifestyle sometimes takes its toll on bivocational pastor Jim Hunsucker. “My wife has to remind me that I’m still a husband and father,” he said.  

Hunsucker is a 15-year veteran of bivocational ministry, serving for the past year and a half as pastor of Wadeville Baptist Church. He spends most weeknights visiting members of his congregation or handling any situations that need his attention. It’s not uncommon for his average workday to extend well into the night.

“A lot of people don’t understand what a pastor does,” he said. “If a pastor just had to preach on Sunday morning and lead Bible study on Wednesday night, I wouldn’t feel right even taking pay for that.”

Despite the hardships, Hunsucker loves life as a bivocational pastor.  
“I wouldn’t trade it for anything,” he said. “It’s been a real blessing.”

Hunsucker owns a computer repair business in addition to serving as pastor at Wadeville. And that’s not his only ministry position.  

“I’m the youth pastor, the associate pastor and the minister of music. I do everything,” he said. Hunsucker doesn’t mind the various jobs; he considers it a joy to serve and minister in so many ways.

Time to Connect
Lester Evans, Baptist State Convention of North Carolina senior consultant for bivocational ministries, said Hunsucker’s story is common among the more than 1,400 bivocational pastors who serve North Carolina Baptist churches.

“Bivocational ministry is not a second-class thing. It’s a noble calling,” Evans said. “If God places a pastor where God wants him, there is no move up from there. He should bloom where he is planted.”

Evans said bivocational pastors have many needs, but one of the greatest is to connect with other pastors who share similar ministry experiences.

“Many bivocational pastors tend to become lone rangers because they are out there by themselves and they begin to think that they are the only ones going through these troubles,” Evans said. 

Every summer bivocational pastors from across the state have an opportunity to connect with their peers during the North Carolina Bivocational Ministries Conference. The annual conference features plenary and group sessions tailored to the needs of bivocational pastors and their spouses. This year’s conference was held July 13-14 at Caraway Conference Center in Asheboro.

“These kinds of events allow them to connect with other bivocational couples or pastors or spouses who are struggling with the same type of issues,” Evans said. “It becomes a way of tremendous encouragement for them.”

Hunsucker and his wife look forward to the conference every year. He not only enjoys meeting fellow bivocational pastors, but the conference also allows him to spend quality time with his wife and experience personal spiritual revival.  

“It’s a nice relief from what goes on from day to day,” he said.

Prior to attending the conference for the first time, Hunsucker felt no one could identify with his day-to-day routine. Yet, it did not take long for him to understand there are many pastors like him.
  
“It just felt good to talk to other pastors,” Hunsucker said. “I can’t put into words how much every bivocational pastor needs to be here every year.”

The greatest joy
Gary Henderson, bivocational pastor at Orrum Baptist Church, first attended the conference in 2004. He was hesitant to attend the conference, but the event is now an annual priority on his busy schedule.    

“When I started coming here it made me feel good to be around people who were doing the same thing as me,” he said. “Everyone here knows exactly what you are talking about.” 

Henderson also works full time for the city of Lumberton. Although he often works 12 to 15 hours a day between both jobs, he wouldn’t trade bivocational ministry for another way of life.  

He believes having a secular job helps him connect with his congregation.

“They know that I have a job like they do,” Henderson said. “I think that helps me relate to the people better.” 

Henderson has been a bivocational pastor for almost 10 years. Like most bivocational pastors, his greatest challenge is finding the right balance between meeting the demands of ministry and serving his family.

“I know what the priorities are, but sometimes they get moved around,” he said.

In recent years he and his wife, Marie, discovered that one way to overcome this struggle is to do ministry together whenever possible, including taking the entire family on hospital visits.   

It’s time well spent.

“When God called my husband into the ministry it was not just him, it was me and our children, too,” Marie said. She said the joy of serving alongside her husband and rejoicing together over the fruit of their labor is worth every effort.      

“When you feel the presence of the Lord in a worship service and see a young child accept Christ, that’s the greatest joy.” 

Next year’s North Carolina Bivocational Ministries Conference will be held July 12-13 at Caraway Conference Center. For more information, contact Lester Evans at levans@ncbaptist.org.