The Weekly Rhythm of a Bi-Vocational Pastor with Three jobs and Three kids
My parents keep saying to me, “It’s a good thing you are young.” They are right and honestly I feel like I am getting older by the minute (wait, I am getting older by the minute…) But, the reality of life for us right now is that I have three jobs. My wife and I also have three kids. I guess you could say that I have a job for each kid. I’ll say this right up front: this is probably not a sustainable life-style for too much longer. But it is where God has us and we have chosen to place ourselves here for this moment in our lives.
My role at The Well consists of being the main visionary and key leader at the church. My role revolves mostly around keeping us on mission, keeping us focused on our goals as a community and leading our Ministry Leadership Team. In addition to the regular admin tasks of pastoring, I teach about twice a month. I also end up spending a lot of time meeting with people inside and outside of our church. My primary leadership gift from Eph. 4 is “Apostolic” and thankfully the church has given me a lot of room to express that freely.
In 2004 I quit my job at Starbucks (the first time i worked there) and ventured off into the world of webdesign. I had spent the previous few years teaching myself through designing (and re-designing) my blog. I also got some good experience doing some work for The Well’s website. In my learning process I had some great mentors and was comfortable enough to try and see if I could make it going out on my own. This has proven to be a good way to be a “tent-maker” even though it has also been challenging at times. Time and time again God has given me the contact I needed to make the sale that would make it possible for us to make our payments for the last 5 years.
In June of this year, we decided it would be best for me to go back to Starbucks again because we needed the extra cash and the extra-good (is that a word?) health benefits that Starbucks offers. Up until then the church had been covering our health insurance but the coverage we could get from starbucks was much better. Also we needed the extra cash from hourly wages. Thankfully, I was able to work a pretty good schedule where I only work weekdays, I only open and I never work past 11 am. In fact, many days I get off as early as 9:00am. Of course, this means I have to be up at around 4:30am everyday, but after a while you get used to that.
So, with these three jobs + a family my life rhythm looks something like this:
Monday – Friday mornings I spend my mornings steaming milk and taking orders in the drive thru at my starbucks. Like I said, I only open so that means I have to be at the story by 5. But, most days I am out by 9am. The weeks that I only work four days a week, I get of a bit later. Basically, I need to average about 20 hours a week in order to qualify for the benefits.
I spend Monday and Tuesday afternoons concentrating on my 343design needs. This means I usually have room for two main clients at a time + support needs for current clients. I then use Saturday mornings (or afternoons when the kids are sleeping) to tie up loose ends from the week. This usually works out well until I have a project that needs attention during the rest of the week. If I can, I try and let those needs ride till Saturday. But sometimes I need to spend some time during the day or even in the evening to care of that. Of course, by the time evening rolls around, I’m pretty tired so evenings aren’t very productive for me anymore.
I then concentrate on church work on Wednesdays – Friday afternoons. This means that at least one of those days is usually meeting heavy. Recently I’ve been using Wednesdays and Thursday’s for that and then trying to let Friday be a day where I finish my sermon or spend some time studying/planning. On the weeks that I preach, I tend to try and have less meetings so that I can spend more time studying. Also, when I do preach I try and get the text in front of me on Monday sometime so that I can spend the week working with the text bouncing around in my head. I have found that this is some of my most important and helpful sermon prep time. This way I get to live the text instead of just studying it.
I try to be home by around 5:30 or 6:00 so that I can be in time for dinner with my family. After dinner these days means wrestling with the boys and finishing up Cole’s homework. We do our best to get the boys in bed by 8:00 if possible. If they are in bed any late than this, it means bad things for the next day. This usually means by 8:30 or 9:00 Melanie and I are able to spend the rest of the night cleaning up, relaxing, reading or watching some TV. This is pretty much every evening of the week unless its Monday or Wednesday. Every other Monday night Melanie goes and knits with some women from the church and then each Wednesday I c0-lead our church’s midweek bible study.
One of the things I’ve learned in the past few years is that when you have kids, it changes everything. Like it or not, our lives revolve around loving and caring for these three small lives. I’m so thankful that these four wonderful individuals are the people that God has given to me to journey through the second half of my life. Our challenge as a parents is to find ways to give time and selves away to others, especially those less fortunate than us, and let the gospel direct the this journey we are on together. But, that’s another blog post for another time.
Why do I share all this? It’s not for you to feel sorry for me. Remember, my wife and I have chosen this way of life. I tell people all the time that I would rather serve part-time at The Well the way we do then full-time at an established church where I am not able to live out my calling as freely as I do. The Well is a fantastic community and Melanie and I feel such freedom to be ourselves. We don’t have any need to put on some kind of fake “Pastor Family” faces. This is not only great for us, but it is also great for our kids.
Rather, I share this because there is a new reality for those of us who feel called to plant churches. Many students graduate from Seminary expecting to be able to get a full-time job in a church or find full-time funding to start a church plant. Sorry folks, but while those days are not gone, they are definitely changing. If you are passionate about church planting and/or starting something new, you have to be face the reality that you might have to take a different approach to supporting yourself.
Also, I think my story is a good example of why it is important those who are called to serve the church to have other skills that will allow them to make an income. I have been blessed to have developed a skill that gives me a pretty decent income (no, I’m not talking about Starbucks). I don’t make a ton of money and freelancing has its ups and downs. But, I know too many ministers who can’t imagine how they would make a living if they couldn’t be employed by the church. To me, that is a scary place to be. Nobody wants to be making decisions how to lead based on the welfare of their family. But frankly, far too often organizational decisions are made in ways that ensures the paycheck of the employee before the success of the mission. And, I think this happens in businesses as well as churches.
Okay, that’s probably enough for now. There is so much more to say about this whole topic. There are positives and negatives to this kind of approach for pastoral leadership. Maybe I’ll get into those at a later date.