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 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. In my own experience of planting in New England, gaining employment in my immediate community has done a couple of things for our ministry and my family.
First, my 9 to 5 job immediately landed me among the exact people that God has called me to love, serve and testify to the good news of Christ. The Lord in his sovereignty has put me in my place of work for roughly 40 hours per week with my coworkers. I can’t imagine what it would be like to attempt to create that kind of intentional time and rhythm among people outside of a work environment. It would be nearly impossible.
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 at work, bad days, busy days, crisis moments, sad moments, joyous times and the list goes on. Seeing all this in light of God’s goodness and provision to provide incredible moments of demonstrating the love of Jesus, giving grace in bad days, resting in Christ in the midst of a busy season, pointing coworkers to hope found in Christ when tragedy hits. While all of this opportunity is being provided, I have also had to find the critical balance of depending on the Spirit’s guidance on when to speak and share of Christ’s goodness during the work day.
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. 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.
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 my staff was really hurting – physically, emotionally and spiritually. I was greatly moved by the Spirit to share about 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 have some words of encouragement, but they’d be coming as a pastor in the community rather than as her supervisor. I asked her to please stop me at any point in which she was uncomfortable. She nodded in silence. I proceeded in sharing 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 gave brief acknowledgment to needing hope beyond herself and the conversation was over.
Although the 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 this moment. Christ enables me to work in my office in order that I can slowly but faithfully point my colleagues to King Jesus.
Church planters, consider that 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 Vermont Church Planting’s Blog and serves as Discipleship Pastor of Rivertown Church in Brattleboro, VT. He works bi-vocationally in health services. He is married to Ashlee and has a son named Wyatt.