Thriving as a Bi-Vocational Leader in Ministry

I’m not sure how my friend, Brandon Catoe gets it all done. He’s a husband, father, business owner, adventure seeker, and an incredible campus pastor at our Christ Fellowship Okeechobee Campus in Okeechobee, FL. I’ve never known Brandon to miss a meeting at church or the office, nor one of his son’s football games. So how does he get it all done?

I recently had the opportunity to talk with Brandon about what he’s learned the last two years while serving his family, leading his business, and growing his ministry influence, and below some tips Brandon shared:

1. “Stay anchored to the call.”
For Brandon, this is the call to ministry and building God’s kingdom. The natural pull for any business owner or leader, is the company. After all, it’s typically the company’s compensation that’s allowing you to offer additional time in ministry. Remembering the call is particularly significant on tough ministry days – days when you wonder if your sacrifice is worth it, if you’re making a difference. For Brandon, the conviction of the call compels him to stay committed to the life of the bi-vocational pastor.

2. “Establish accountability outside your business and church.”
Having a relationship that can help you process frustrations both at work, or in ministry, is key to your emotional health. An accountability partner that understands both worlds can be hard to find, but they’re out there. The most important attribute of this relationship is finding someone strong enough to remind you of your key convictions. Brandon has a weekly meeting with his accountability partner, and that keeps him grounded and focused on both his career and his church.

3. “Intentionally include your family in ministry.”
Because of the demands on the schedule, a pastor’s family can be excluded from ministry without intentionality, and that’s why Brandon is always working to involve his family. He continually shares the stories of transformation with them, and reminds them of what they’re accomplishing together. Another simple step he takes, is to keep his wife updated by forwarding to her any ministry related emails and calendar invites as soon as he gets them. This practice keeps her more connected to what is taking place within the ministry. As a bi-vocational pastor, learning how to involve your family will strengthen your family bonds.

4. “Stay connected to both teams.”
Every business owner and ministry leader knows that it’s all about the team. You can’t do one without with other. For Brandon, the corporate team gets four days a week and two hours each morning. This ensures that his day-to-day business operations will continue in his absence. Wednesdays and Sundays are committed to ministry. Wednesdays are typically for meetings and planning for the weekend, while Sundays are focused on his two services and building relationships with his volunteers. Being a team player and a team leader is vital to any bi-vocational leader’s success.

While I’m not a bi-vocational leader, I’ve learned a ton from Brandon. His ability to manage teams, protect his family time, and still have fun, inspires me to be a better leader and pastor. Are you a bi-vocational leader? If so, in what ways are you finding success in balancing both worlds?

How Does a Leader Protect Family Time?

There is an incredible tension in ministry, multisite or not, on how we spend our time as leaders. The demands of ministry will always exceed our capacity to respond. We can’t do it all, no matter how hard we try. So many of us feel the pressure to accept every invitation and respond to every request, even at the expense of our families. Our desire to please people, or be liked, drives us towards an unhealthy pace and pattern, where ministry always overrides family. So what can we do? How can multisite leaders protect their family time and serve from a place of health, especially family health?

While I haven’t mastered the art of family-life balance in ministry, the following three practices have proven to be beneficial in honoring our family time:

1. Scheduling family time is necessary.

More than just protecting our Sabbath, we must protect our time with our families. Intentionally scheduling time for family ensures that vacations will be had, games will be attended, date nights will be a reality, and family time will be a priority. In multisite ministry, the calendar is key in protecting time with the family. Ministry is seasonal, and we can often predict when specific weeks will be busier than others. Effective multisite leaders forecast their ministry and family calendars 2-3 months in advance. This forecast allows for proper planning in both life and ministry. We all know that the Fall Festival and Christmas Eve services are coming soon, but do you know what your family is doing for fun in the next three months?

2. Explanations are necessary.

Some multisite leaders will disagree with me here, and that’s okay. I believe that it’s critical to model, and express the importance of our personal family values to those we lead and serve. If we want people to value our time with our family, we must share the value that our time with our family means to us. Our explanation is not an excuse but rather a model of family health. Our family also deserves an explanation from time to time, because we cannot make every family outing, and an explanation will go further than ignoring the situation altogether. Do the people you lead and serve know the value you place on your family time? Does your family know the value you place on your time together with them?

3. Creativity is necessary.

“Date Night” and “Family Movie Night” can become routine real quick. We need to be as creative with our family time as we are with our ministry programs. Sometimes we put more energy into a church service or outreach than we put into a family outing. Reserve some energy and get creative. Here are some ideas to get you thinking:

  • Pitch a tent in the living room, put a camp fire on the TV, and tell funny stories to your kids.
  • Ditch the restaurant and have a picnic.
  • Take a spontaneous road trip.
  • Play Wiffleball in the auditorium one night (trust me, this is a blast).
  • Cook with your kids.
  • Take a Sunday off but don’t tell your family, surprise them with breakfast in bed.
  • Take a food tour one night: appetizers at Chilis, dinner at Roadhouse, dessert at Cheesecake Factory and coffee at Starbucks.
  • Host a family talent show.
  • FaceTime the grandparents.
  • Book a hotel with an indoor pool during the winter and have a pool party.
  • And the list goes on.

How creative have you been with your family time recently?

Our family is our number responsibility as leaders, and at the end of the day, all we have is our family. And at the end of our ministry, let’s make it our goal to have them still. Get creative, schedule some time with them and model before the families you lead and serve what it’s like to have healthy time with your family. Again, I haven’t figured this whole thing out, but these three patterns are helping me protect my family time.

What practices have you found beneficial in protecting your time with your family?