Working split shifts

Saturday, March 22, 2003

Working split shifts

Area pastors with second jobs watch time carefully while juggling church, work

By Beth Lewis ~ Southeast Missourian

The life of a bivocational pastor is a juggling act.

There's family, church needs plus a 40-hour work week, which sometimes leads to little free time.

But Rick Crump, pastor of Perkins Baptist Church, wouldn't have it any other way.

Crump, 46, is a certified pharmacy technician at St. Francis Medical Center in Cape Girardeau, where he has a schedule that allows him to enjoy Sundays off to spend with his church family and work flexible hours the rest of the week.

"All of my co-workers are fantastic to cooperate and help me out however they can," he said.

About 12 percent of the nation's churches have bivocational ministers who split their time between a secular job and a leadership role in the church. And the number of bivocational ministers could increase as older clergy retire and fewer young people enter seminary for pastoral training.

Some of the region's bivocational pastors will gather March 28 and 29 in Cape Girardeau for a Mid-Continent Bivocational Celebration at the Holiday Inn. A Southern Baptist Bivocational Ministry Celebration conference is also planned during the afternoons of March 29 and March 30. The meeting will include pastors from Missouri, Arkansas, Tennessee, Kentucky and Illinois.

Urge for more

Bivocational pastors serve churches both large and small. Many began as members who felt an urgency to do more in the church.

Five years ago, Crump was the Sunday school director at Fellowship Baptist Church in Cape Girardeau when he felt that God was leading him further into the ministry. He began to fill in for smaller area churches when their pastors were absent.

"I thought, 'Great, this is exactly what God wants me to do,'" he said.

But Perkins Baptist near Delta -- the third church he had preached at -- had an interesting offer for him after his sermon: their pulpit.

"That was the last thing I had in mind at the time," Crump said. "But God worked it out. I know now without a doubt that was where God was leading me."

Even so, Crump tried to talk the committee out of asking him. He gave them a list of reasons why they shouldn't call him to be their pastor, he said, laughing. "They didn't listen."

However, Crump doesn't regret his decision, even though it put more responsibility on his shoulders.

"Sometimes, you feel like you're being pulled in so many directions that you just want to run away, but God has blessed me so much through the members of my church," he said. "Not only am I there for them, but anything that comes up, they're there for me, and it's just such a blessing."

Crump said Perkins Baptist has always had bivocational pastors. "The people there are very understanding, and don't put more on me than what I can really do," he said. "In fact, I think I expect more of myself than the church expects of me."

Time managementCrump's duties include delivering two sermons each Sunday, leading a Bible study on Wednesday evenings, making visits and working full-time at the hospital. All this sometimes doesn't give him as much time to spend with his wife, Carolyn, two children and grandchild as he would like, or much time for himself.

"It's a tough decision sometimes, to decide what the priorities are for free time," he said. "You want to give your family the attention that they need, but you want to be there for the church when they need you."

Dave Schaffner, pastor of St. John's United Church of Christ in Fruitland, agrees. Time management for a bivocational pastor is all about figuring out priorities.

"The priorities of Jesus Christ are more important than some other things," he said.

Schaffner said he, too, draws strength from his family to handle his responsibilities, especially from his wife, Barbara.

"She realizes it's always been a goal of mine to do this," he said. "Whenever I feel like I want to retire, she's the one who keeps me going."

Schaffner, 66, has worked as a credit manager at Jim Wilson Co. in Cape Girardeau for 35 years, and praises the Wilson family for accommodating his church work.

"The Wilson family has been very, very supportive of me," he said. "I can't help but step back and admire how generous they've been with my time."

Faith in the workplaceBoth Crump and Schaffner find ways to take their faith into their respective workplaces.

"It's amazing how many people approach me, knowing that I am a pastor, and ask for prayer," Schaffner said.

Crump fondly recalls times when his job at the hospital has led him to be able to pray with people in times of need. Once, he said, a member of his church came in after being in a bad construction accident, and he was able to go be with the member and pray with him and comfort him during the situation.

"It is kind of unique, but it's advantageous to be able to see things in a hospital setting from both perspectives," he said.

Crump will attend the upcoming meeting for bivocational pastors, and said he is glad the state Baptist convention recognizes the needs of pastors like him.

"When you pastor a church, especially with the time constraints of a bivocational pastor, sometimes you just need to have the company of other pastors, and to be fed yourself spiritually by sitting and listening to someone else," he said.

blewis@semissourian.com

335-6611, extension 197

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