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Helping Low Income Pastors Increase Their Income

| Business, Personal Development, Personal Growth | 0 comments

Over the past 7 years, I’ve served as a bi-vocational pastor of a small church near my home. For the uninformed, “bi-vocatiional” — also referred to as “bi-vo” — is the name used to signify that a pastor is leading a church that is so small that it doesn’t need, or can’t afford a pastor who is paid a full time salary to work a full-time job.

The struggle is, at times, quite frustrating.

Frustrating Growth
Frustrating Income
Frustrating Time Management
Frustrating Focus


The Frustrating Growth of a Bi-Vo Pastor

A Bi-Vocational Pastor often finds himself struggling with the frustration of not having enough time to work on personal growth (spiritually, financially, or otherwise). His time is constantly spread thin by the need to prepare sermons, visit church members, do the “work of the church” in evangelism and ministry to the community, etc.

This struggle often gives one very little time to work on personal growth. And, it is quite difficult for a pastor who is not growing to lead a church and its members to growth. I’d even go so far as to say it is darn near IMPOSSIBLE!

A church that isn’t growing (spiritually, numerically, etc) can so frustrate its leaders. They KNOW deep inside that a lack of growth is a signifying factor of failure — if not in their eyes, then in God’s.

And, the honesty of all honesty is that, when we aren’t focusing on our own growth and development, we can’t help others do the same.

This year (2022), I will be focusing on personal development in many different ways. But, this is only possible because I have made some significant changes in my life this past year. I have taken the time (mainly due to CoronaVirus) to re-focus on personal, spiritual and financial development. This growth has availed me much more time to increase and expand my territories under God’s leadership.

And, as a result, I will be spending a good portion of my time helping other pastors (bivocational and full-time) in a project I call the 10k Challenge. (I’ll explain in a few days)

The Frustrating Income of a Bi-Vo Pastor

When I started serving as a Bi-Vo pastor, my church income was $500 per month with no benefits. No vacation, no time off, no supply pastor, no insurance, no retirement. Just $125 per week.

Shortly after accepting the call to this ministry, my job situation changed. The company I had worked for downsized. And, so did my full-time job.

Going from ANYTHING to $500 per month is a frustrating move. But, I stuck there. I served this church for five years. 260 weeks. I mean, EXACTLY five years — to the date!

When I needed to miss a Sunday morning or Sunday night, I had to pay someone to fill in for me. When I took a vacation, I paid someone to fill in for me. If I was sick, or my wife, and I couldn’t make it in, I paid someone to fill in for me.

And, then, after the downsizing of my income and my career, I found it difficult, as a nearly 50 year old man, to replace that career  and income. 

The amount of frustration is almost crippling in such a situation.

There were days I wondered if I just needed to quit pastoring and return to church membership. There were days I even considered not going back to church – PERIOD.

And, to be honest, there were moments I wished I could just scream at the church members “YOU’VE GOT TO DO SOMETHING! WE CAN’T STAY THIS WAY FOREVER!”

The Frustration of Time Management as a Bi-Vo Pastor

Now that you’ve considered the frustrations of income and personal growth while being a Bi-Vocational pastor, let’s consider the issue of time management.

If a Bi-Vo pastor is married, there are – at minimum – four calendars he must manage.

1. Career Requirements. If you are fully employed, there is a minimum of 40 hours (typically 60+ hours) per week that is required of your time. That’s about half of your entire week.

2. Family/Health Requirements. If you sleep eight hours a day (I know  it’s highly recommended, for for the longest, I went on 5 hours a day — just don’t do it!), that’s another 56 hours.

I’m not a mathematician, but, I can handle simple math. 60 + 56 = 116. This accounts for all but 52 hours and we’re not even considering the “Family” portion of this calendar, OR the hours needed for sermon preparation, hospital and family visits, phone calls, church services, etc.

Let’s take about 20 hours from the remaining 56 hours for family time. It’s not much time – less than 3 hours per day on average. But, it IS important to spend time with the family! (VITALLY important!)

52 – 20 leaves 32 hours.

3. Ministry Requirements. Now, there are 32 hours remaining in your weekly calendar. Sleep is accounted for, career is plugged in, a MINIMUM of family time is worked into the schedule. 

Next, you must consider the ministry schedule.

On average, I spend 8 hours per week on sermon preparation PER SERMON.

That eliminates ALL of the 32 hours and take four more hours from one of the other two calendars!

What are you going to take away from? Will you reduce your sleep requirements? Your family? Your health? Or the other ministry requirements?

Yes, we’ve failed to account for hospital visits, nursing home visits, parishioner visits, evangelistic visits, or other related meetings — not to mention committee and other leadership meetings required each month as the administrative leader of the church.

Then, there’s calendar number four….

4. Personal Requirements. I once read a great quote by Abraham Lincoln.

If I only had an hour to chop down a tree, I would spend the first 45 minutes sharpening my axe.

If your “axe” (mind, soul, body and strength) isn’t sharpened, how will you accomplish the task ahead? 

Remember what I said about personal development or growth? How will you ever have time to read and study books, and other tools to grow personally? To improve your inter-personal skills? To improve your communication skills? To learn more things so that you can teach more things to yourself and to your church members?

This brings up another new level of frustration for a bi-vo pastor: FOCUS.

The Frustration of Focus for a Bi-Vo Pastor

I was once taught by a wise man I follow that the word “FOCUS” helps us to understand the path to success.


We don’t follow two courses. We focus on ONE. We’re not traveling in two directions to get to one destination. We “press on to the mark of the high calling.” We FOCUS.

Look at everything I’ve listed in each of the four calendars above:
Personal Growth

If I were to create a calendar for each of these six things so that I could adequately serve each category, how much time would each require? I’d venture to say that I should spend approximately 30 to 50 hours each week on each of these categories.

Six categories of time – using 40 hours (the average between 30 and 50) would amass 240 hours. A full 72 hours MORE than is available in a week.

So, how does a Bi-Vo Pastor FOCUS on these things to keep them accomplished each week? 

We have to focus on one plate we’re spinning full time until we reach a level of success so that we can remove our focus from it so much that we drop the other plates.

This is why I started focusing on minimizing the time restraints of providing financially for my family.

That’s why I’m going to help you accomplish what I did.

I discovered a wise man’s 30 Day Challenge. This man had already accomplished a lifestyle that financially equipped him to provide for his family and replace the 40 to 60 hour work calendar with a 20 to 30 hours work calendar (per week).

That’s right, in one year’s time, after starting this 30 day challenge, I was able to quit working a full time job and earn a full time revenue with just 20 to 30 hours of focused, directed work.

 This year, I’m going to help you through the very same challenge. Literally.

I’m going to hold your hands, and provide assistance, guidance and instruction on top of this wise man’s instructions. And, my goal is to assist 1000 pastors in need of increased income reach their goals of providing for their family’s financial needs while reducing the time constraints your employer places on your time.

 If you’d like to join me in this journey, click here for the announcements concerning this challenge. 

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August 2022

Phillip Swindall

133 Mountary Circle
Gadsden, Alabama 35901
(256) 504-4198

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