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 18-20 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.
“That’s just my friend group,” Gilstrap said. “In terms of work, it’s just being mindful of those 10 families.
The Association of Theological Schools found that black non-Hispanic graduates were more likely to plan on bi-vocational ministry, as were graduates between the ages of 46-55. Graduates under the age of 35 were less likely to consider it.
Payte Johnson, Lindsborg campus pastor for Crosspoint, began both his job as pastor and a full-time day job at roughly the same time.
He works from about 7:30 a.m. until 4 or 5 p.m. in customer service at a bank, then works for Crosspoint from 5-9 p.m.
“I’m pretty tired, but God is good and obviously the rewards are sweet,” Johnson said.
While Johnson receives a grant from the Southern Baptist Convention’s North American Mission Board, he doesn’t get a salary from the church. Working at the bank is a way to pay the bills, he said.
On some weeks, Johnson doesn’t get a day off. He and his wife take a date night every Friday to make sure they spend time with each other.
Someday, he hopes to work in ministry full time.
For Johnson, scheduling meetings through the week is less of a difficulty, since the majority of people at his church also work an 8-5 job. When they’re at work, he’s at work too, something he said has supplemented his work as pastor.
“I’m saying, ‘Hey man, I know how you feel right now because I was just at work too,’” Johnson said. “For this current season I think it’s been really good to show my people that I’m in it with them.”