Part-time preachers work on weekdays, minister on Sunday

Published 12:00 am Sunday, February 24, 2008

Eight to five is work time, but for some men, where one job ends a higher calling picks right up.

The reasons vary — maybe the church can’t afford to pay them full time, or they may just like to work and get out in the world. But one thing is certain, working for man five days a week makes serving God 24/7 a challenge.

The 14-year pastor of Riverside Baptist Church in Vidalia, Glen Harrigill, is also the manager of Carquest, where he works because his congregation is too small to pay him full-time.

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After more than 20 years in the ministry, Harrigill said being a full-time pastor would be ideal.

“I would love to be full-time, but I do enjoy being out in the public eye and being able to meet folks and see and be seen by them,” he said.

At times he has had to drop what he was doing at work and put on his pastoral mantle for the emergency needs of the flock, but Harrigill said he works at Carquest with a group of guys who understand that his real job is being a pastor.

And his church understands that he has to work to make a living, too, Harrigill said.

For Todd Welch, the 10-year pastor of interdenominational Cornerstone Church in Vidalia, much the same can be said.

Working a 55-hour workweek delivering and stocking displays for Frito-Lay means that some Sundays Welch has to start his route, take a break to teach and minister at his church, and then hop back in the truck and resume deliveries.

Should a pastoral emergency occur dropping everything would mean leaving a company truck and disrupting a delivery schedule.

And a passerby just might see him doing some spiritual counseling via cell phone while steering the chip truck down the highway.

While he, too, would like to become a full-time pastor, Welch said being bi-vocational still gives him lots of opportunity to be a full-time minister.

In the workforce, Welch is often given the opportunity to answer any questions those who might not ordinarily seek out a pastor might ask.

“It’s a good thing to get to be around people, being out in the workplace.”

After a while, though, balancing the tension between one job and another can force a minister to choose.

Russell Wagoner has been in the ministry for the last 20 years, but until recently he has served off-and-on as an interim or pulpit-supply preacher for flocks that have found themselves woefully without a shepherd.

Knowing that he was supposed to be in the ministry was never in question, he said, but how he was supposed to serve was.

“I knew years ago I was called to be a pastor, and I just put it off and put it off and I just had to make a choice,” he said. “It’s something that the Holy Spirit guides you in; it’s not something that you wake up one morning and decide, ‘Oh, I want to preach.’”

Over the years, he worked as a production coordinator for an oil company and later as the secretary for the local parish government.

Because his wife is from Scotland, Wagoner said his first inclination was to be a missionary, and though he didn’t end up in the British Isles, he did serve as a bi-vocational “missionary pastor” near the Deer Park area at Bougere Baptist Church.

The church had closed its doors, and he and another friend approached three of the members about getting the congregation reorganized, Wagoner said.

Serving as a Sunday school teacher, music minister and occasional preacher, Wagoner worked with the church — which eventually called a pastor, not him — for 10 years.

And so went his ministry. During the weeks, he would work, and on weekends he would go where he was needed.

Then, last year Wagoner went to Cliff Temple Baptist Church in Kingston to do some fill-in work. The congregation eventually called him to serve as their interim pastor, and after seven months called him as their pastor.

At that point, he was still bi-vocational, but when the congregation decided a short time later to increase his pay to the point where his only job would be his ministry, Wagoner resigned his position with the parish government.

Though he liked his governmental position, he said, the change has been a welcome one.

“Just being out there and being able to minister to the people is just great,” he said.