The Apostle Paul argued strongly that pastors of the newly-born church must be paid. Citing a passage in the Mosaic law, he asserts, “You shall not muzzle an ox when it is treading out the grain.” If animal-power was to be protected, how much more so hardworking preachers?
In contrast though, he also elected to return to his previous day job of constructing tents rather than burden a persecuted church with his upkeep. He surrendered his right to compensation from his churches.
Fast-forward to a time when almost half of small churches cannot fully support their senior pastor. Instead such leaders work either part-time or full-time as well as carrying the burdens of ministry.
It sounds less than ideal, until you actually meet some of these bi-vocational dynamos. It seems they can have everything, except maybe, sleep.
The Rev. Mark Schooley leads League City’s Five Solas Gospel Church. His day job is at the NASA Johnson Space Center.
“Being a pastor makes me a better NASA contractor,” he said. “I can’t say enough good things about that organization. My work has allowed me to fund the church plant, so knowing that makes me kick in extra effort on the job. That, and, of course, it wouldn’t square at all to preach on Sunday and not work hard on Monday. The two must go together or not at all. Same as with all Christians, really.”
He added that the reverse was true. Administrative skills and a knowledge of science picked up at the space center have made him a better pastor. But what about the time required for two careers?
Because my family is all in on the church plant, we spend plenty of time together,” Schooley said. “That just leaves the remaining three: NASA, church, and sleep. I pretty much don’t sleep anymore, leaving plenty of time for church and NASA. So, as Meatloaf sang, ‘Two outta three ain’t bad.’”
The Rev. Brad Gartman is one of the founders of a building-less church known as The Springs. It has met in the homes and in the League City YMCA.
“Working co-vocationally has allowed me to create a bit of financial independence while still allowing me to have a flexible schedule for both my family and my ministry,” he said. “As a freelance graphic artist, I am able to set my schedule and adjust as needed. Having a full-time job outside of the local church also allows me to feel the tension our families feel when trying to add church activities to their daily schedules.”
Locally, such two-career pastors manage every type of job from selling insurance to offering electricity deals, from painting houses to managing margarita machines on wheels. How does Gartman recommend choosing a compatible secular career?
“Find a smart job that pays well enough and doesn’t take all your time and energy away,” he said. “Don’t set up shop in a back room where you do not have the flexibility to engage with people. Anything that allows you to serve others, will help you in your ministry and might even blur the lines for you when looking at the two. Also, remember that you are not superman and you are called to shepherd your family well first. If you fail at that, you fail.”
Our Faith caught up with globetrotting Roman Catholic Deacon Sid Cammeresi just before he flew off to Trinidad on one of his consulting projects. He’s a world-class expert on the esoteric topic of pressure relief valves. His well-worn passport traces journeys from Saudi Arabia to India. His religious vocation finds him ministering at Texas City’s Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal.
Since his travels limit the routine, daily activities deacons often perform in support of local priests, he and his wife Tory have taken up alternative, weekend outreaches, such as the prison ministry at the Carol Young Unit in Texas City, part of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice.
“But, I also came to look at my ‘parish’ as somewhat extended into whatever corner of the world I happen to be in any one given week,” Cammeresi explained. “Encountering new people every week I always attempt to evangelize every day, all day. Only last month, while visiting a client in Russia, I had dinner one evening with two engineers. Out of nowhere one of them asked me, ‘Do you believe in God?’”
After a two-minute testimony from Cammeresi, his Russian contact reacted, “I would like to have a life like that.”
Lastly, even though he may have more air mile credits than any other bi-vocational minister here, he hasn’t found life-balance to be the challenge that books on this topic are alarmed about.
“If I do proclaim the gospel with my life, I don’t have to really force a balancing,” he said “I let Him have the wheel, everything comes together for His good, for my good, according to His plan, which is the best that anyone could ever ask.”
Next week in Our Faith: Retired pastors and some lay leaders can spend six months leading a church in the United Kingdom with most expenses paid thanks to a novel coordination ministry in League City.