Pastor’s day takes him from factory to rodeo arena

By Sue Sprenkle
AUGUSTA, Kan.—Each workstation is a flurry of activity. Plastic bottles stream down the conveyer belts. Hands reach out to adjust the bottle to face the same direction before it goes to plastic wrap packaging. Across the floor, someone shouts above the racket to shut down one of the machines and reload.

Don Mayberry walks through the factory’s maze of machines and activity, stopping to talk to each person. He asks about family, the latest sports event or simply how their day is going. The conversations inevitably end in teasing, laughter and smiles. He leaves his co-workers at BG Products with a trademark fist bump or the occasional side hug. It’s the same exact greeting he uses at the cowboy church he pastors in Augusta, Kan.

The bivocational pastor spends three 10-hour days a week working as BG Product’s chaplain while pastoring Three Wooden Crosses Cowboy Church at the same time. His days can get long, especially on Wednesdays when he works all day at BG and then rushes to the church for youth group.

“It sounds like a lot of work, but I love it,” Don shares. “It’s the Lord. He put these two jobs together that I just love.”

Pastors working two jobs is “not the exception but the norm” in the Kansas-Nebraska Convention of Southern Baptists. David Manner, KNCSB associate executive director, counts 279 bivocational pastors (60 percent of pastorates) throughout the two states. That’s higher than the national average for the Southern Baptist Convention at 50 percent.

“If we counted support positions, that number would be even higher,” Manner points out. “We believe that bivocational ministry could be a game changer in our rural areas. Yet we rarely have resumes to recommend for the vacant bivocational positions.”

Don and his wife, Sherry, have only been working in bivocational ministry for four years. The veteran pastor of 35 years spent most of his time working as a full-time pastor in Illinois and Kansas or as the Illinois Baptist State Association’s director of missions. Their plan had always been to start a cowboy church when they retired, but God had other plans. He woke Don up one night and the couple knew they couldn’t wait any longer.

Mayberry sees bivocational ministry as a key in rural America.

“A lot of rural churches either died or are one funeral away,” Don says. “We’ve told rural America that they have to go to the city to get what they need and they don’t want to go.

“Bivocational ministry is a way to fill this void and bring Christ to these small communities,” the veteran pastor says. “Our cowboy church has stepped up as an alternative for the local farmers and ranchers.”

3WC is a gathering spot for the community. It’s so busy that Sherry admits she often wishes for a rainout. The pastor’s wife works a full-time job, too, so they can make ends meet financially.

“We are here every weekend with some event,” Sherry says, laughing at her own honesty. “But I wouldn’t change it. The church has become part of this rural community and draws in people from other rural areas.

“The nice thing is that we aren’t the only ones here,” she says, motioning to two women working with her in the kitchen. “When you have a bivocational pastor, the congregation really has to step up and be more involved.”

3WC church members are easy to spot around the arena and church working - they wear red shirts. They effortlessly interact with the cowboys and families that came for the final roping event of the season. They man the announcer’s booth, gather the steers into the chute, keep time and even enter the competition as ropers.

Sitting in the middle of the activity atop his horse is Don. He preaches from his perch. He rides from cowboy to cowboy teasing and asking about their families, leaving them with a “fist-bump” goodbye. He prays with a woman for her son then gives her a side hug.

A visiting roper watches the exchange and asks a red-shirted church member, “Is that man really a preacher?”

They glance at Don loping around the arena. “Yep,” the church member says, adding an invitation to regular church services. “You’ll feel comfortable. He’s just a regular guy like us. He works two jobs, too.”

See also “7 tips for bivocational pastoring”