Melvin Jackson sells real estate in Los Angeles, Calif., and also works on approving loans for people looking to buy a home.
Meanwhile, in Niagara Falls, Ont., Allen Kleine Deters works in a cigar shop and is also a blues musician.
Both are pastors within the Christian Reformed church. They are part of a small but growing contingent of so-called “bivocational” pastors within the CRC—people who hold an outside job in addition to their pastoral duties. They were among about 50 people who recently attended a two-day conference in Grand Rapids, Mich., on the future of bivocational ministry within the denomination.
Jackson, who pastors Grace Unlimited Church, a Christian Reformed congregation in Los Angeles, has typically held a sales job for the 17 years he has been a pastor. He says having a job outside the church gives him a way to connect with people that sometimes leads to them coming to worship. “You end up being able to understand them as people in the workforce because you are there also,” Jackson said.
Kleine Deters, who is pastor of The Bridge, a missional CRC church plant in Niagara Falls, agrees.
“For me, it gives me a lot of valuable recognition and networking in the community,” he said. “It builds relationships with people who I may not have been able to [meet if I were a full-time pastor].”
Amy Schenkel, U.S. national director for Resonate Global Mission and a former bivocational pastor herself, says more than half of CRC church planters hold outside jobs in addition to their pastoral roles, and that may eventually lead to changes in denominational policy.
“What is already happening in practice, our denominational polity hasn’t caught up to it yet,” Schenkel said. “The structures and systems that we run our denomination by haven’t changed to accommodate that yet.”
While it’s highly unlikely any such changes will be addressed by this year’s synod, the annual general assembly of the CRC, Schenkel says it’s possible that the discussions at the conference may lead to proposals that could be addressed at future synods.
The conference was put together by the Financial Shalom project, an initiative that seeks to assist CRC pastors who face financial challenges through providing support for immediate financial needs as well as long-term financial management training.