3 Reasons I Am A Covocational Pastor
Full-time Christian ministry is a blessed avenue for ministry. Oftentimes, people forget that there are biblical and effective alternatives such as covocational and bivocational ministry. To know more about the differences between these alternative ministry styles, check out these definitions from NAMB. Now, hear from Corey Ickes about why he is a Covocational Pastor.
Church planters spend countless hours figuring out ways to engage the communities that Father God has sent them to. Among many of these various ideas of how to engage their community, rarely is employment considered.
Often employment in the community is relegated to “Plan Z” once the support from back home has run dry. My encouragement to church planters is to consider a different way – consider getting a job. I’d like to share from my own experience of planting in New England, how gaining employment in my immediate community has done a few things to benefit our ministry and my family.
#1 I’m Among The People
First, my 9 to 5 job immediately landed me among the exact people that God has called me to love, serve, and share the good news of Christ with. It is so important to learn from Jesus in the way that he spent significant time with people in his community. Often bivocational or covocational work is viewed as a barrier to ministry, but I contend that the workplace can be a conduit for being the hands and feet of Jesus to those in your community. I often consider how much time I spend with people in my community at work. It would be nearly impossible to attempt to create that kind of intentional time and rhythm among people outside of a work environment.
#2 I Am Practicing Everyday Discipleship
Second, having employment in my community helps immensely in building relational bridges for gospel proclamation. The work environment naturally provides ample opportunity to be a disciple of Christ “in the midst of everyday stuff” (to use Jeff Vanderstelt’s language). My coworkers and I have good days, bad days, busy days, crisis moments, sad moments, joyous times and the list goes on. God uses the ups and downs of a work week to put his people on display for his glory. Paul tells us in 2 Corinthians 4:7 “But we have a treasure in jars of clay, to show the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us.” Every workday is a chance to allow the surpassing power of God to be displayed as we seek to know Him and make Him known.
#3 I Am Sustained Financially
Last, getting a job in your community also has a very real benefit – financial sustainability. Cost of living, living expenses, ministry expenses are all very real and unavoidable things. Sustainability is often overlooked in the church planting strategy.
I recall hearing an aspiring church planter discuss his need to raise one million dollars for 5 years of financial support before he would ever consider going to his mission field. A veteran planter asked the aspiring planting if he would go if he did not raise all the money. The young man said “no.” This conversation struck me deeply as an aspiring church planter. Was I potentially not willing to respond to God’s clear call on my life just because my funds were not fully in place? I believe many planters need to consider a different way. My encouragement to planters is to consider the viability of having a job in the community as a means of being in the place that God has called you.
Looking For Teaching Moments
Allow me share a brief story in which I was greatly overwhelmed by God’s provision in giving me a job as one of my main ministry contexts.
In the midst of a hectic week, I had a staff member who was really hurting – physically, emotionally, and spiritually. I was greatly moved by the Spirit to share with her the hope we have in Christ, but like most employers, my employer would rather keep that type of conversation out of the workplace.
Despite the discomfort, I opened my mouth. I quickly told my staff that I had some words of encouragement, but they’d be coming from a pastor and not her supervisor. I asked her to please stop me at any point in which she was uncomfortable. She nodded in silence. I proceeded to share a very concise word about the futility of attempting to find hope apart from Christ. I encouraged her to entrust herself to the Creator God who made her, purposed her, and loved her so much that he crushed his son on the cross for her. The moment passed quickly. My staff briefly acknowledged needing hope beyond herself and the conversation ended.
The marketplace is filled with little teaching moments like this one. Although that particular conversation did not end in a miraculous moment of repentance and belief, I walked away with an overwhelming peace that Jesus placed me in this job for moments like this. Christ enables me to work in my office in order that I can slowly but faithfully point my colleagues to King Jesus.
Consider A Different Way
Church planters, pastors and friends, consider this: Jesus might be calling you to a different way – to get a job for the sake of the Kingdom.
Corey Ickes is a Regular Contributor to The Vermont Church Planting Blog and serves as Missional Community Pastor of Rivertown Church in Brattleboro, VT. He works full time in health services. Corey is husband to Ashlee and dad to Wyatt, Shepherd and Elliott.