A new kind of pastor is emerging on the North American mission field, one referred to as a freelance, marketplace or co-vocational pastor. The concept is familiar to The Wesleyan Church.

“For Wesleyans,” said Ed Love, multiplication director for The Wesleyan Church, “co-vocational church leadership isn’t new. In fact, this type of leadership is tapping back into our roots that John Wesley initiated through his field preaching strategy, society overseers and mission stations.”

Love highlights characteristics of co-vocational pastors, saying they:

  • work a marketplace job by choice, not because the church can’t afford to compensate them at a full-time level.
  • view their workplace as one of their primary mission fields and find their marketplace job to be a useful tool to build relationships and share their faith.
  • have the leadership capacity to handle high work volume.
  • view their primary role as an equipper and mobilizer of people.
  • know their time is limited so they tend to delegate and empower leaders to carry out the work of the ministry.
  • experience a great amount of freedom, because they are not financially dependent on the church.
  • tend to have a strong teaching gift and have found creative ways to become trained as a pastor.

Brandon Hempel, Madelyn Martinez and Randy Lance are a few examples of co-vocational pastors within The Wesleyan Church. Hempel recently resigned as an assistant pastor in Michigan to plant Home Grown Church in Lansing. He also serves as a coach with The Greenhouse, a church planting network in the West Michigan District. His income comes from being an adjunct professor at a nearby university and a hospice chaplain. Martinez serves as pastor of The Community – La Comunidad, a church plant in Garden City, Kansas. She recently resigned as a full-time elementary school teacher and took a part-time position as a science teacher. Randy Lance co-pastors with his wife, Katie, at Thrive Church in Eaton Rapids, Michigan, and is launching a new location in nearby Charlotte in this fall. He is a software engineer.

All three pastors say being co-vocational is a choice, although, for Martinez, it began as a necessity.

2018 Sacrificial Generosity Award Video

Congratualtions to Made MV (Madelyn) for being selected for the 2018 Sacrifical Generosity Award in honor of Rev. Yorton and Thelma Clark! Madelyn, your service to the Kingdom has been an honor to witness. As you continue to work, may God bless you abundantly as you bless the Garden City community! Special thanks to the The Kansas District of The Wesleyan Church for making this award possible.

Posted by Olathe Wesleyan Church on Friday, July 27, 2018

Madelyn Martinez – Sacrificial Generosity

“Starting a church plant from scratch made it [being co-vocational] a necessity but in part also a choice,” said Martinez. “I knew what God had called me to. Also, I am single. This means there is no secondary income, nor health insurance/pension to rely on. Because I did not want to take away from the finances of the plant, especially in the early years, I chose to work.”

Hempel was motivated to be co-vocational because of the Apostle Paul.

“I have chosen this path because I have been so convicted by Scripture of the apostles’ work outside of their ministry,” said Hempel. “Paul, the tent maker, has always inspired me. And in all reality, the apostles’ co-vocational work was also part of their ministry. I truly felt God lead me into co-vocational ministry, and I absolutely love it.”

Lance equates his choice to be co-vocational with his calling.

Randy & Katie Lance

“I believe I have been called to be co-vocational to work with churches/ministries that could not afford to pay a full-time pastor’s salary while being on the missional forefront of evangelism, outreach, community engagement and service to the needs of the community,” said Lance.

Just with any job, including those in ministry, there are pros and cons. Time management is more difficult as a co-vocational pastor is essentially working two jobs. Working a paid job that fits with ministry expectations is vital too.

“The chosen co-vocation has to truly cooperate with the ministry,” said Hempel. “A pastor simply cannot have a job that takes 50+ hours a week to do and does not intersect with ministry and the community. Co-vocational pastors have to be creative in their co-vocation.”

Expectations of the congregation can weigh heavily on the pastor too since time is divided between the church and the marketplace.

On the opposite side, several pros exist for co-vocational pastors. Since churches are not paying their salaries, more finances can be allotted to ministry and missions budgets. Co-vocational pastors can have more relational time spent with people in the community. Being co-vocational helps pastors relate to how congregants are ministering within the workplace. The co-vocational model also “teaches people that their faith really can intersect with all areas of life.”

Martinez teaches at a school with a high Hispanic population and since that is her church plant’s target demographic, her job has given her more opportunity to build relationships with families. Changing from a full-time to part-time position has also allowed her more time to focus on the church plant.

Lance offers another perspective, which he is unable to classify.

“I am not sure if it is a pro or con but being co-vocational means you rely on many people in the ministry to step up and lead different aspects of it,” said Lance. “This means that my discernment of potential leaders and assigning things to people needs to be on point and always on.”

Brandon & Jessica Hempel

Hempel has noticed that his focus has changed as he transitioned from 10 years of traditional ministry to co-vocational ministry.

“I am no longer focused on buildings, dollars, attendance, programs and events,” said Hempel. “Rather I am focused on mission, discipleship, relationships and serving. Co-vocational pastoring has bettered my ministry because it has shifted my focus back to the most important thing Jesus told us to do: ‘make disciples of all nations.’”

“I believe the future of church multiplication is going to include the creative works of co-vocational pastors,” said Love. “We will soon see educators, small business owners, executives and farmers take on the role of pastor within their circle of influence, much like John Wesley saw in his day.”