Called to serve, called to work: choosing a bi-vocational path

Have you ever had to choose between two professions where you find yourself loving the work you do for both, but are forced to make that difficult decision of which life path to take (at least for the time being)? Imagine being able to do both!

Meet the Rev. Victoria A. Lasley who has managed to serve as the associate pastor of Fairview Moravian Church in Winston-Salem, North Carolina and work as a cosmetologist at Mickey & Co. Hair Designs in King, North Carolina part-time. As she works two part-time jobs, she is considered bi-vocational.

While at Fairview, Victoria split her time between her church and salon duties, serving set office hours as a pastor on Sunday, Monday and Tuesday; working set hours behind the chair at Mickey & Co. Hair Designs Wednesday through Friday; and takes time out of her days when she isn’t serving as pastor or cosmetologist to serve on different committees and boards for the church as well as serving as a Trustee for Salem Academy and College and the chair for the Laurel Ridge Board.

For Victoria, bi-vocational ministry was her answer to the question “What do I want to do with my life?” In addition to providing a “back-up” plan if college did not pan out the way she was hoping, cosmetology provided her a way into the ministry.

“I became interested in the idea [of bi-vocational ministry] when I transferred to Salem College for my sophomore year of undergrad in 2011,” Victoria says. Having grown up in the church and heavily influenced by the men and women at Bethania Moravian Church, Victoria felt the call to serve at Laurel Ridge; first in hospital chaplaincy, which later shifted to congregational ministry.

She started cosmetology school during her junior year of high school as a back up plan if college did not work out; while attending college she completed her license. “I began to see the possibilities of working my way through college and potentially working as a cosmetologist and minister,” Victoria notes.

Wanting to work in two different careers, she turned to her friends, family and advisor for advice. Her advisor, Dr. Marlin Adrian, Assistant Professor of Religion at Salem College, challenged her with the question, “Why can’t you do both and who is stopping you?”

After much reflection, research and discussion with her family, Victoria decided to go for her MDiv at Wake Forest University while maintaining her job at the salon. As certain classes are required of Moravian candidates at Moravian Theological Seminary, with both specific educational and hands-on components, Victoria worked together with the Rev. Joe Moore to figure out a three-year plan of classes and internships which would allow her to pass both her MDiv and meet the requirements set by the Provincial Elders.

In the end, after many conversations with Moravian Theological Seminary, Wake Forest University School of Divinity and the PEC, a compromise was made for her MDiv degree to be recognized along with the completion of her Certificate of Moravian Studies with the Distance Learning program in May 2017.

“Without Rev. Scott Venable agreeing to take me as a pastoral intern my second year of divinity school and encouraging my vision of ministry and God’s call, there is no telling if I would have been called in a bi-vocational setting like I am at Fairview. Good conversations filled with questions, concerns and excitement from Fairview members and boards helped them see how this model works and Fairview took a chance on me and we all stepped out on our faith in May of 2017 when they extended the call and I accepted.”

Cosmetology as Ministry

“I see bi-vocational ministry as an opportunity to bring the secular and sacred worlds together,” says Victoria. To unite the secular and sacred, Victoria listens. Serving her clientele in the salon, Victoria notes that the salon is a place for people to download their burdens by sharing them with their cosmetologist, allowing the space to become a place of ministry. She listens to her clients while she works, and because they know her background in the church, she provides a safe space where her clients can open up about their lives and their burdens.

“If anything, even though we’re not seeing members of my clientele necessarily in Moravian churches, they know who Jesus is,” says Victoria. “If they don’t, they figure out who Jesus is by the time they leave because I respectfully mention him once or twice. And they hear Christian music throughout their time here in the salon. We play it with other genres of music to be respectful of all faith backgrounds and beliefs.”

As a result, Victoria feels that working at the salon has been beneficial, not detrimental to her ministry work. “If anything, it’s helped influence me to meet people where they are [in their lives], in the church and here in the salon.”

Besides listening, Victoria connects the secular and sacred via finances. “I noticed the Moravian churches around me were beginning to share their financial troubles and I wanted to be proactive about my call into ministry. I wanted to help,” she says.

Since not every church can afford a full-time pastor or two pastors, Victoria decided to research bi-vocational ministry instead. “I discovered many churches have a long history of this practice that comes with a lot of benefits,” she says. “Bi-vocational ministry offers me the opportunity to serve a church in the best way possible without bringing them financial stress; I can still make a living and fulfill God’s call on my life into the ministry.”

While Victoria isn’t alone in her bi-vocational ministry, as a young pastor she has demonstrated that bi-vocational ministry is a viable option of service for those who feel called to serve the Moravian Church, but also wish to pursue other paths. Bi-vocational ministry offers a possible solution to lessening churches’ financial burdens and may provide other ways to do local mission and outreach work. 

Story by Anna French, IBOC intern. View the Board of Cooperative Ministries interview with Victoria at: https://www.moravian.org/bcm/2019/06/05/being-a-bi-vocational-pastor/

Ed. Note: Shortly before this story went to press, Victoria took a leave of absence from Fairview. She remains dedicated to active ministry.