Pastor Jeremy Keys and his wife, Mathilda, planted a multicultural church called City Mosaic Church six years ago in northeast Calgary. Pastor Jeremy has worked bi-vocationally from the very beginning and has some great thoughts on church planting with this model. We trust his story will be an encouragement to you.
How did the dream of City Mosaic Church first develop in your heart?
I believe there is a generational calling on my family to be ministers of the gospel. Growing up in a family where so many members were missionaries, pastors and church leaders of some kind had me feeling from a young age that one day I would follow in the same vein. However, it wasn’t until I met my wife, Mathilda, that I finally got my stuff together and went off to Bible college to study. I had never really thought about church planting until one day I turned to my wife and simply said, “You know, I think I want to plant an intentionally multicultural church one day.” It made sense and seemed to be from the Lord, seeing as I have a multicultural marriage (my wife is of Haitian descent).
Why did you go with a bi-vocational model of church planting?
Becoming a bi-vocational pastor really began out of necessity. I’ve always been in church situations where there either wasn’t enough money to pay me a full-time salary, or if there was, it wasn’t much. I have usually had to work another job in order to make ends meet, so when it came time to plant, I was already used to the grind. With two kids who are active in sports, school and all the other things that go with raising teenagers, I simply need to keep working two jobs until the church grows large enough to cover a full-time salary.
What are the wins of planting with this model? The drawbacks?
A few pros: I don’t have to rely on how giving is going from month to month to meet our family needs. It’s very freeing. Let’s admit it as lead pastors: if times are financially hard in the church, fear can set in and make it difficult to lead.
Another good thing about being bi-vocational is, I’ll be honest, it’s really nice to go somewhere where I can take off the “pastor” hat a little bit and just work a regular job. I’m in construction and building maintenance, and so it’s nice at the end of the day to see something I’ve built or fixed as opposed to only engaging all the dreaming and visionary stuff we do that we might never see!
A few cons: These are probably obvious, but they are worth mentioning. It gets tiring when you have to work a job, spend time with your family, get the kids to activities and still do all of the ministry things that we as pastors do. I’m blessed that I have a flexible job that allows me to do some of those things during my work day. Even with that being said, I simply don’t have the time to pour into some of the things that full-time pastors do. So I often have to split my time between two things when others might get to choose one of them and focus on it exclusively.
What do you need in your leadership toolbox to be a successful bi-vocational planter?
You definitely need times of rest! It has to be intentional and it has to be frequent. You also need to learn to trust people with leading ministries, something that I still find hard to do at times. You also need to be sure of the calling on your life and that God is indeed leading. It can be easy as a bi-vocational pastor to feel down on yourself like you’re “less than” a pastor working full-time hours. Sometimes that’s my own insecurity speaking inside my heart and mind, but there are also other times it feels like that’s how other pastors perceive bi-vocational ministry. I don’t think it’s ever intentional, but the conversation gives it away. When you’re sure of your calling you can shrug it off and not carry bitterness. The ability to let things like this go is a must!
Last comments? Any encouragement for prospective bi-vocational planters?
Yes. There is one thing that I have heard more than anything else as long as I’ve been planting, and it’s “I don’t trust God enough.” It’s been said in many ways, sometimes point blank, sometimes veiled, but the meaning is the same, that if I would just “trust God” and quit my job, He would meet the needs. I don’t believe that for a second because the Lord has not yet told me to quit my job. The Lord may tell me to jump in a pool one day, but if I get anxious and go jump in the pool before He’s filled it with water, I’m just going to break my legs. God has provided a way to meet our needs while we continue to serve Him in ministry and I am trusting that He is leading and knows exactly what He’s doing. Focus on what God is asking you to do and don’t worry about what others think you should do. Thanks for allowing me the opportunity to share.