Guiding bivocational ministers through the tax maze

Special considerations for ministers who also work outside the church.

By Bobby Ross Jr. | For Church Finance Today

Vince Stover left a full-time pastor’s job in 2014 and moved 250 miles with his wife, Katie, to a city where the couple didn’t know a soul. He found a job in insurance sales and planted Bible Pathway Baptist Church in Lexington, Kentucky. The couple started a family, welcoming sons Brett and Camden.

Yet it was the prospect of filing his annual tax return—for the first time as a bivocational pastor—that kept him awake some nights.

“I was scared to death,” said Stover, who still pastors Bible Pathway but now sells advertising and programming time for a local radio station. “I had been a pastor before, and we did our taxes ourselves. But I knew there was a lot more involved now.” So, he and his wife, Katie, sought help from a qualified accountant.

As a bivocational minister, Stover is far from alone. Around one-third of all pastors have a job outside of their church work, according to a survey conducted by National Association of Evangelicals and Grey Matter Research. “Bivocational ministry is how a large and growing number of the world’s churches are pastored,” said small-church pastor Karl Vaters on the blog he writes for ChristianityToday.com. “Even in the United States, their number is increasing at a rapid rate as the size of existing churches continues to decline and new church plants pop up.”

Like Stover, many bivocational pastors have felt overwhelmed by tax issues related to bivocational ministry. Along with that, many church financial managers don’t have the tools needed to help their bivocational pastors with these issues.

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This article appears on the April 2018 cover of Church Finance Today, a publication of Christianity Today.