When I first began serving as pastor of Chevis Oaks Baptist Church, I tried to get to know both the people and the history of the church. As I was conversing one day with a sweet senior citizen, she began telling me about the first pastor of Chevis Oaks. I'll never forget one thing she told me. Her exact words were, "He was a working pastor." What she meant specifically was that he worked full time at a local paper mill while at the same time serving at Chevis Oaks. The bulk of his income came from the paper mill, while at the same time he received a small salary from the church. He remained in this capacity for 25 years.
In contrast to the first pastor, every pastor since (including me) has worked full time for Chevis Oaks. They have had no other occupation while serving the church.
It was interesting for me to listen to this senior citizen. When she said, "He was a working pastor," she carried a tone of respect in her voice. When I asked other people in the church about this, they all responded in the same way. They all, without fail, thought highly of the fact that the first pastor held down a full time regular job while at the same time pastoring the church.
This lady's words are significant. She didn't mean that full time pastors don't work. Rather, she meant that the type of work that full time pastors do is significantly different than what everyone else does. She seemed to respect that first pastor for being a regular person. His working a paper mill job (even if his reasons were pragmatic - the church couldn't afford to pay him much in its infancy) showed the church folks that he was willing to work hard and was like them. He was a regular person.
Their respect for him to this day shows me that they identified with him. He was one of them. I strongly believe this had something to do with his working a normal job.
What can we learn from this? When pastors work regular jobs, it shows the church that they are real people with real problems and real needs. It shows that they are not part of some sort of separate class of religious experts that need to spend hours and hours each work in their study. It tells the folks, "Hey, I'm one of you."
My encouragement to all pastors regardless of church size or model is that they go get at least a part time job to go along with their church responsibilities. The immediate objection for many pastors might be that they don't have time to do that. If that's the case, then it means that they are probably doing too much for the church. Others could pick up the slack. If a pastor asked his church for a reduced work load and a reduced salary, this would give the church much more money to either hire another part time pastor or (better idea) use it to more effectively reach the community and world with the gospel.
Pastors need to be regular people. It hurts the church when pastors are seen as experts, special, or different. Pastors need to be part of the flock. The flock needs to view them this way.
A great way to start is to get a regular job so the church people can say, "He's a working pastor."