UNION — It’s hard to find research on bi-vocational pastors, but as churches continue to reel from the 2008 recession, more and more churches are being forced to turn to part-time pastors. In 2007, for instance, 40 percent of churches in the Southern Baptist Convention, were using bi-vocational pastors.
For nearly a decade Rev. Robert R. LaRochelle has lead the Congregational Church of Union, and all the while working full time as a guidance counselor at South Windsor High School. Until recently he also coached the varsity baseball team.
He said using part-time pastors is an issue many churches are facing.
“It’s becoming an economic reality,” he said.
LaRochelle explained that he intentionally sought a church that needed a part-time pastor because he needed extra income at the time. But he knew right away that bi-vocational pastorship was growing trend – a drift he doesn’t mind at all.
He says serving a church part-time allows him to pursue both his passions – ministry and counseling – and he uses both skills in both of his crafts.
“He has a passion for anything he does. He loves counseling, he loves being in the ministry,” said Mike Bombara, fellow counselor at South Windsor High. “He’s one of the few people I know in life who loves doing his job. It’s a precious commodity.”
Bombara added that when crisis situations arrive at the school, LaRochelle is quick to react and reach out to the students.
Over the years, LaRochelle has learned how to excel at both jobs, care for his family, and still have time to watch the Red Sox.
“He’s the best pastor I’ve ever come across and I’m 75 years old,” said Donald Graves, member of CCU. “Him being a counselor is a large benefit. It gives him wisdom in situations that might come up. I think great value to our church.”
Because he’s seen more and more churches, particularly evangelical churches, considering turning to part-time pastors, he felt a book on the issue was apposite. Churches, he explained, need full-time leadership, even if they can only afford a part-time pastor.
“The same needs are there, the need for ministry is there, the worship needs are there…” LaRochelle said.
But that shouldn’t deter churches from moving to a part-time pastorship. He explains in his book that by using other leaders within the church, the congregation’s needs can still be consistently met. And, he added, pastors need to approach their bi-vocational ministry with a different methodology, which is explained in the book.
The text, which will be released in the Fall and can be pre-ordered here, is a tool for church search committees, seminarians, church councils, pastors and parishioners, he explained.
Evident of his time management skills, LaRochelle is able to maintain a regular blog, which can be viewed here.