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The bi-vocational pastor: Leaders work additional jobs to support churches

By: Steve Rabey Religion Correspondent
October 6, 2017 Updated: Today at 8:28 am
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Danny Garrido raises a hand as he sings along to a worship song during the service at The Crossing Church in Colorado Springs, Colo. on Sunday, Sept. 17, 2017. The service at the church began and ended with music. (The Gazette, Nadav Soroker)

Jesus encountered many tax collectors and chose one named Matthew to be his disciple. When the Rev. Danny Garrido of The Crossing Church preaches about these encounters, he cites his full-time job as a sales tax investigator for the City of Colorado Springs. He takes only a small salary from the church he founded in his home 17 years ago.

Garrido is a bi-vocational pastor, one of many in the region.

Garrett Swasey, the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs police officer who was killed in the 2015 Planned Parenthood clinic attack, was a co-pastor of Hope Chapel.

Danny Garrido talks about his eventual retirement and the need to stay busy in his office in Colorado Springs, Colo. on Monday, Sept. 18, 2017. Garrido works for the city of Colorado Springs as a sales tax investigator, as well as running the Crossing Church where he works many evenings. (The Gazette, Nadav Soroker) 

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 perent to 20 percent said they were considering it.

Garrido says he's "trying to be obedient to what God wants me to do" by serving the Spanish-speaking church without expecting its hardworking members to support him.

"We serve the Hispanic community, which is a bit different than other communities," says the 60-year-old father of four. "The majority work in construction or other blue collar jobs, and consequently the church does not have the financial capacity to pay me what I need to support my family.

"I also want to lead by example. Everybody is at work from 8 to 5. No one has any excuse to be absent from prayer meetings because of work, because they all know that all of us go to work in the morning."

The Crossing Church is part of the Springs-based Christian and Missionary Alliance denomination, which has bi-vocational pastors in some of its 20,000 congregations worldwide, especially in newly planted churches.

Emanuel Otero, front, laughs at Pastor Danny Garrido's joke during service at The Crossing Church in Colorado Springs, Colo. on Sunday, Sept. 17, 2017. Garrido tries to emphasize common sense and a proactive relationship with god over spirituality and holiness. (The Gazette, Nadav Soroker) 

Spokesman Rick Hemphill said a bi-vocational approach "provides a means for them to initiate the church plant without burdening the congregation, and it also gives the church planting pastor the opportunity to understand and know the community."

Answering multiple calls

Stephany Rose Spaulding, an assistant professor of women's and ethnic studies, has taught at the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs for seven years. Three years ago, she added a title: the Rev. Stephany Rose Spaulding, pastor of Ebenezer Baptist Church.

She has preachers and evangelists in her family, but her role model was the female pastor of the Chicago church where she grew up.

"She did not take a salary," says Rose Spaulding. "Growing up, I saw that her commitment to the church was a deep commitment."

After Ebenezer's previous pastor left, guest preachers came and went, but the members needed more than sermons.

"There was an absolute void in terms of the care the congregation needed," she said. "It felt as if God had specifically called me to this community of people. I could sense and feel the needs of this community in my spirit, so I yielded to God, and said, 'Yes, I will do this.'"

In May, Rose Spaulding indicated she's pursuing a third calling by running to replace Doug Lamborn in his Congressional District 5 seat in next year's election.

"In the same way I felt called to Ebenezer, I feel I am being called to this particular race," she said, adding that she isn't seeking additional callings.

"I'm really grateful to be in all of the places I'm in, but before doing more I will need to have a discernment conversation with God about the possibility of a blessing of an extra hour in the day."

Today's tent-makers

Nearly 2,000 years ago, the Apostle Paul modeled bi-vocational ministry. He organized church offerings to pay pastors but also worked as a tent-maker so he wouldn't be a burden to new churches.

The Rev. Promise Lee of Relevant Word Christian Cultural Center follows a similar model. "I am currently full-time, but often work bi-vocationally in order to help the ministry," said Lee.

The Rev. Alan Briggs works with some of today's tent-makers: young, spiritual entrepreneurs who may get paid to write computer code by day but spend the rest of their time serving churches or doing mission work.

Briggs is a pastor at Vanguard Church and leads Frontline Church Planting, which helps pastors who start new congregations. Frontline's MULTIPLY conference will be at Vanguard Church later this month..

Briggs also writes books and articles, including one titled "9 Flavors of Bivocational."

Three of his flavors are:

- "Intentionally bivo," which is the model for pastors such as Danny Garrido and Stephany Rose Spaulding;

- "Cash cow bivo," the term for churches led by people who don't need income;

- and "Oh crap! bivo," which Briggs describes as ": "There is a moment, usually a very exact moment, when a planter realizes their current funding model just isn't enough, and they have to rush off and get a solid job."

Briggs says bi-vocational ministry is the ecclesiastical expression of America's burgeoning gig economy. More people are doing more gigs, such as driving for Uber or renting out a room via Airbnb, instead of relying on a job with salary and benefits.

"As the gig economy grows, those working in churches may have several streams of income," says Briggs. "You'll see more bi-vocational and tri-vocational pastors who actually enjoy the variety in that. I resonate with this myself while I function as a pastor, coach, consultant, writer, network leader, and a dad of four."

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Katherine Burgess of The Wichita Eagle contributed to this story.

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