A Multicultural Colorado Church’s Bivocational Advantage
By Carl Stagner
In August 2008, Bobby Washington returned as senior pastor to East Denver Church of God in Denver, Colorado, along with his wife Regina. In the mid-1990s, they’d given pastoral leadership to the youth ministry there, soon after graduating from Mid-America. It’s not been easy doing ministry in the heart of the city, but it’s been a tremendous blessing. It’s also not been easy being bivocational, but they’ve found the payoff to be both eternally rewarding and incredibly practical. Meanwhile, the church continues to reach across the cultural spectrum, with flexibility otherwise unavailable if Pastor Bobby had insisted on a full-time position.
Pastor Bobby has two other jobs, in fact. Godside Ministries came into being after the ministry couple left East Denver the first time. With a focus specifically on urban youth ministry, the nonprofit was designed to support the same concept of ministry they led with the youth. “We tried to give the urban youth the same opportunities as the suburban churches offered their youth groups,” Bobby and Regina explain. “The ministry provided jobs and volunteer opportunities for life skills and job skills.”
Back at East Denver, Godside Ministries has been an “advantageous” relationship. The church and the nonprofit partnered to implement and sustain a monthly food bank for the community, as well as a variety of other community outreach activities. Besides his ministry experience, Bobby’s IT skills have also come in handy. Not only does he supplement his family’s income through Affordable Computer Solutions, he also offers the church technological support and upgrades often only larger churches ever see.
“It has been an intricate part of [our] tent-making for the past twenty years, which has eased the burden on the church having to pay a full-time salary,” they explain. “These computer skills have been used to provide the church with various technical upgrades, such as office computers, projectors, sound system, and a video security system. This, of course, has diminished the cost of those enhancements significantly.”
Certainly, there are challenges to bivocational ministry. Pastor Bobby is often stretched for time to plan and prepare for sermons, visitations can become tricky, and they’ve been known to schedule church events around his work schedule. As an independent business owner, however, Pastor Bobby has been able to avoid scheduling conflicts with the church’s normal weekly schedule. In the face of the challenges, Bobby and Regina choose to focus on the positive.
“The lessening of the financial burden in both directions,” Bobby cites. “The bivocational experience allows for [unique] personalization of sermon illustrations. There’s the blessing of meeting and connecting with people in the world and helping them with life issues.” As a computer guru who is also minister (or a minister who is also a computer guru!), some have come to know Bobby Washington as “Pastor PC.”
East Denver Church of God is a multiethnic, multicultural urban church. And that’s the way Bobby and Regina like it. “It represents heaven to us,” they say. “East Denver has had a long history of continually being a multicultural congregation.”
But their multicultural composition isn’t the only thing people notice. Their reach beyond the four walls helps people where they are, in their individual time of need. The food bank is only one example. Though it began at the home of Bobby and Regina, it grew for eight years and is now housed at the church. “Our prayer, of course, is that the ministry of the food bank reminds our community of why the church exists, as we offer prayer and personal conversation during the food distribution.”
On the heels of the church’s recent centennial celebration, Pastor Bobby and Regina say that their prayer, going forward, is that their multicultural church would remain relevant as Denver’s demographics continue to change, and that they will be able to effectively engage the younger generation.
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