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What is a bi-vocational pastor? Who are they?

Oct. 05, 2012 @ 12:00 AM

There are hundreds of bi-vocational pastors in West Virginia and thousands of them in the nation. Who are these men and women who are pastors and something else when it comes to the bulk of their income?

We have very few large churches in our state, not many that have a thousand or more constituency. The largest number of churches consist of fewer than 100 members and many have fewer than 50. That means that most churches cannot afford to have a full-time pastor.

What kind of work do these pastors do that pays them enough to serve a church that may pay much less than half of a full-time salary? Just about everything you can imagine. They may work as a schoolteacher like my dear friend, Oscar J. Byrnside, did for many years in Putnam County. William C. "Bill" Lusk and his talented wife, Emma, once served on staff at the Teays Valley Church of God, but for most of his 28 years as a pastor in Oceana, he was a school bus driver. He inspired many young men to enter the ministry, one of whom was Dr. Kenneth Toler, who for 13 years was pastor of the Teays Valley Church.

The Rev. Okey Boyd Hamon was instrumental in starting the Church of God in Putnam County, beginning on Scary Creek in 1936 and then moving it to Scott Depot in 1938. He pastored two churches in nearby Cabell County at Balls Gap and Blue Sulphur Springs. He was the owner of the Hamon Glass Factory at Scott Depot. Other pastors have served as lawyers, public school teachers, college professors, members of the state legislature and medical doctors. Pastors have been farmers, truck drivers, and carpenters such as Luther B. Mays, under whose ministry I was converted to Christ. I began preaching under the ministry of John Lovel Shinn, a welder and repairman on mining equipment.

The first pastor I ever heard with the Church of God, served as a pastor in Scott Depot. He was a brilliant, college educated man, Mark L. Haynie Jr., but he and the Rev. Ralph Parsons delivered the Charleston Daily Mail early every afternoon when it was an evening paper.

Other bi-vocational pastors have worked in insurance, at Union Carbide and with credit card companies. Gary Hale, outstanding pastor on Scary Creek, has been a building construction superintendent and was the job supervisor for the First State Bank's beautiful new building at Hurricane. Roy Hamilton, the bank manager, is also an ordained minister.

Bi-vocational pastors often were not educated for the pastoral ministry, but they have worked doubly hard in study and sermon preparation for their pastoral assignments.

During "Pastors Appreciation Month" this October, you will want to do something extra special for your pastor. The whole congregation will be especially generous and kind to those men and women for whom the church does not pay the larger part of their income.

I was 18 years old and at Anderson College when I first had a pastor who was paid a full salary by the church. Let your pastors know they are appreciated this month and every month.

Bill Ellis is a syndicated columnist who can be reached at P.O. Box 345, Scott Depot, WV 25560; phone 304-757-6089.