Chad Gilstrap says his schedule is packed. On Sundays, he leads worship and pastors at Redemption Church. But being co-pastor at the church isn’t limited to Sundays; the ministry continues throughout the week.
But he also has a second role: as a real estate appraiser.
“I feel much more like a part of the church instead of separated from it,” Gilstrap said. “When you’re in full-time ministry you’re kind of set apart in a not always positive way from the congregation. … I feel like when you’re bi-vocational, you’re another person who’s just a member of the church. I’m not necessarily doing anything special, I’m just doing my part.”
Gilstrap is not the only pastor to hold a day job. The Association of Theological Schools found that about 30 percent of graduates from their 180 member schools from 2014-17 planned to hold a day job in addition to pastoring. An additional 18 to 20 percent said they were considering it.
Being bi-vocational comes with its own set of challenges and rewards, according to several Kansas pastors.
Sometimes working a day job is non-negotiable, particularly at some smaller churches that can’t afford a pastor’s salary.
In other instances, such as Redemption Church where Gilstrap co-pastors, not providing a salary to the pastors means the church can direct those funds into ministries.
Brian Buller, Gilstrap’s fellow co-pastor, said the church has about 30 people on its contact list and sometimes fewer on Sundays.
Having a smaller flock helps with juggling work and ministry, said Buller, who is a freelance software developer.
“It gets exhausting sometimes, but overall it is pretty rewarding,” Buller said.
One of the greatest challenges to bi-vocational pastors is making it to meetings throughout the week, Buller and Gilstrap said.
“At any time during the day I might have a client call me up and say hey, I need you to come into the office to figure out this problem, so I might have to set everything down and go,” Buller said.
“Adding being a pastor on top of that, it opens up more of that same type of thing, with the church congregation where if someone needs something, I want to be available to do that.”
Local gatherings of pastors often occur during the week in the middle of the day, a time that’s hard to make for pastors who aren’t full time.
Yet Gilstrap says he doesn’t see his church responsibilities as work.
SOURCE: KATHERINE BURGESS
The Wichita Eagle