Adam Copeland

When people ask me, “What do you do?” I often panic.  The answer takes some explaining.  Sure, I’m a pastor — three-quarter time in a small town over an hour away from my home.  But I’m also a freelance writer, a nice gig which both gives me great joy and allows me the flexibility to work the part-time pastor position.  Plus, I’m a student in a master’s program, studies which influences both my pastoring and writing.  So my answer to the question, “What do you do” comes out a bit differently each time.  And that’s ok — it’s the reality of my life, after all.

Adam Copeland

There’s many ways to work a part-time pastor position, but here’s how I manage.  On Tuesday mornings, I drive from Grand Forks, N.D. to Hallock, Minn. where I’m pastor of First Presbyterian Church.  Hallock is a town of 1100 residents, and the church has about 130 members on its rolls.  I usually stay in Hallock from Tuesday to Thursday, in a house owned by the church.  I try to schedule meetings on Tuesday and Wednesday nights, but as these things work of course, sometimes I visit a member in the hospital on another day of the week, or end up writing my sermon on Friday, that sort of thing.  I’m paid for thirty hours a week, and my goal each week is to work closer to 30 than 40, though some weeks I fail miserably.  Oh, and of course, I drive up to lead our service on Sundays.

I’m the first part-time pastor of the church and the first who has commuted, so there’s been some growing pains — members aren’t always sure what days I’m in the office, and my community presence is harder to keep up.  All in all though, the part-time aspects of my position go quite smoothly, and there’s plenty of perks too.  I do try to stay very available through email and phone to my parishioners, even when I’m not in town, but I also manage a pretty good job of not doing church work on Mondays (my writing day) and Saturday (my day off from it all).  Fridays often end up being half sermon writing half freelance work, which works fine as long as I remember which audience I’m addressing.

In my limited experience, part-time ministry, tent-making ministry, or bi-vocational ministry (whatever one decides to call it) is a workable way to pastor a small congregation.  Sure, there’s some pitfalls of scheduling and time-management, but my flexible freelance writing and schoolwork serves as a nice balance.  Since any pastor must switch quickly from one area of work to another — from pastoral care to theology, sermon-writing to bedside visiting — my multiple jobs just keep me on my toes even more.  So call me “pastor,” or “writer,” or “student” — all are fine since I do all three.  It’s my job and my call.

Check out Adam’s blog here.