3 Ways To Better Serve People in Multivocational Ministry

A growing number of people in Canada are juggling more than their vocation and their personal lives. Research from graduates of the Association of Theological Schools in Canada and the USA suggests that almost one-third of graduates in 2017 anticipated going into bi-vocational ministry.[1]

In fact, growing numbers of people are sensing a call to engage in multiple, often diverse and entrepreneurial, endeavours for the Kingdom. This is not entirely new. Paul was a tentmaker (Acts 18:1-4) as well as a preacher-teacher-writer-friend-mentor and entrepreneurial church planter.

Following in his footsteps, others—in what has recently been coined “multi-vocational ministry”—are finding the calling comes with “possibilities for [the] sustainability of congregational ministry and understanding unique opportunities in the intersection of the sacred and the secular.”[2]

It also comes with a cost.

Recent cross-denominational research found that many in multi-vocational ministry in Canada are weary, isolated and under-supported. We can all play a role in changing that.

Unsurprisingly, spiritual resources are significant to pastors, especially remembrance of calling to ministry, theological meaning-making, and relationship with God. Overarching beliefs influence the meaning pastors make of the challenges and suffering they encounter.  – How Do Pastors Bounce Back from Challenges? 

How are we responding at Briercrest?

We are listening.

Across Canada, these same weary respondents said colleges and seminaries could help by providing “leadership skill development” and “skills for leading teams [were] considered valuable for multiple contexts.”[3] They also requested advanced education in Entrepreneurial Strategy. The report concluded that an emphasis on leadership development “can apply to multiple areas of work [and] could offer many benefits.”[4]

Participants also indicated the importance of “biblical interpretation, ethics, social analysis, and developing personal self-awareness. The application of these skills, however, would need to consider both ministry and marketplace contexts.”[5]

We are partnering.

The Briercrest Counselling Centre and Paul E. Magnus Centre for Leadership Studies are partnering with the Wellness Project at Wycliffe to create customized resources and opportunities to gather. 

Ministry leaders with multiple vocations often find it challenging to balance work commitments, side hustles, and family responsibilities. However, Briercrest offers support and guidance to navigate this difficult balancing act, specifically for multivocational ministers. To ease the burdens of these ministry leaders and their families, the Briercrest Counselling Center is providing free counselling services thanks to a recent donation. These services aim to help multivocational ministry leaders prioritize their various roles and responsibilities while maintaining their mental and emotional well-being. – Help for Multivocational Ministry Leaders

1. We Can All Make Space at the Table for Different Approaches to Ministry

As you can imagine, the reality of having not one or two but three or more vocations adds complexity to the lives of people in multi-vocational ministry.

Scheduling can be a nightmare. Perspectives may be shifting. Yet, people on the margins are doing some of the most creative and redemptive work.

How does your church, organization or institution make space for this?

At the Paul E. Magnus Centre for Leadership Studies, we are listening carefully and seeking to provide “just-in-time learning,” creative, and co-creative ways to serve people in entrepreneurial ministry. 

2. We Can All Pay More Attention to our Faithful but Frazzled Friends

I Thessalonians 5:12-14 reminds us to “respect those who labor among [us]” and to “esteem them very highly because of their work.” Who do you know that is juggling multiple priorities? What would it look like for you to pour some love and support on them this week?

The research found that some people in multi-vocational ministry have found ways to integrate the various pieces of their lives. Paul’s tent-making was not just in support of his ministry. It was part of his ministry. The two parts of his life worked in service of the community and the Church.

Integration can be challenging. The diverse pieces of calling can seem more in conflict than in support of each other. Healthy personal lives, Sabbath practices, and family times can be hard to maintain. Burnout and/or quitting are genuine concerns. How can we (as friends and neighbours) step in to make a difference as they figure this out? Don’t forget spouses. They may be struggling even more.

Juggling multiple priorities can also make it harder to maintain wise mentoring relationships—a recipe for disaster. Who in your circle could use a little bit of your time and counsel? 

3. We can all Listen and Learn

God does not change. The calling of the Church to be the Church does not change; the way it looks in each generation does. If you are called to multi-vocational ministry or would like to learn more about how the Spirit is moving among people with this unique calling in Canada, we welcome you to join the conversation. 

Robert Bachman and leadership student


[1] Jo Ann Deasy “Shifting Vocational Identity" in ">Theological Education Insights from the ATS Student Questionnaires, Theological Education 52, no. 1 (2018): 63–78.

[2] James W. Watson et al, Canadian Multivocational Ministry Project Research Report, 2020, p. 22.

[3] Canadian Multivocational Ministry Project Research Report, p. 19.

[4] Canadian Multivocational Ministry Project Research Report, p. 20.

[5] Canadian Multivocational Ministry Project Research Report, p. 20.

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Ellen Duffield

Ellen is Coordinator for the Paul E. Magnus Centre for Leadership Studies at Briercrest Seminary and an affiliate of Leader's Village. She is also the author of The Brave Way (2019) and blogs at bravewomen.ca.

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