Many of us continue to read about the growing labor shortage across the US, especially as the number of younger trained professionals entering the workforce is far less that the huge numbers of retiring “baby boomers” born between 1946 – 1965. One way of addressing this shortage is better utilization of the mature worker, many who may not be ready for full retirement.
One way to use this excellent source of skilled labor is part time work or sharing a full time position between two or more part time mature workers. A church in Venice, Florida recently took this innovative step when they hired two pastors to fill what was initially publicized as a single full time senior pastor position.
The two pastors hired to fill the one position are Rev Elder Dr. Nancy Wilson, who recently retired as the Global Moderator (senior executive) of Metropolitan Community Churches (MCC), and Rev. Vickie Miller, who worked part time as a transitional pastor at four congregations following a full time 30-year career as a Guidance Counselor for a post-high school Vocational Technical School.
I recently had this discussion with Nancy about Suncoast Cathedral MCC’s process of hiring two part time pastors to fill the one advertised full time position.
STAN: “Nancy, where are you in your life journey in terms of retiring from a full time position but not being ready to totally quit working?”
NANCY: At 67, after a very intense career as a fulltime MCC pastor and then as Moderator of MCC for 11 years, I feel like I still have energy, stamina, skills and experience. And, during the 11 years as Moderator, I missed the challenges and joys of growing an MCC church.
STAN: How was Suncoast Cathedral MCC approached with the idea of job sharing?
NANCY: Vickie and I first talked to denominational officials to see if it would be appropriate for us to approach the chair of the search committee. They gave us a green light, and Vickie had a brief conversation with the chair. We were then encouraged to apply together and make our case. We were considered, as a team, along with a number of individual applicants.
STAN: What were the initial concerns when this idea was first considered?
NANCY: For us, our concern was that “part-time” would be a myth. So we convenanted to really keep track of our hours, and budget our time really well. We often drive together (it is a 45 minute drive with no traffic), and that gives us time to debrief, collaborate, check in. Also, would we work together well, with this intensity? We thought we would. Would we be complementary as well?
From SunCoast’s perspective, would people try to “divide and conquer,” or try to pit us against each other? Would they not see us as equal because I was the global Moderator of MCC? Would people be intimidated by my prior position, and be reluctant to warm up to me as pastor?
STAN: What are the advantages of Suncoast calling both you and Vickie into this role?
NANCY: I tend to be a longer term thinker, and have more experience in preaching and pastoring, including in larger churches. Vickie is a meticulous planner, loves designing worship and events. She loves working with teams, is a systems person.
We model team ministry, where it is not one person who has all the answers, or all the power, ideas or gifts. And I think we are a good reality check for each other. Both of us are devoted to what we do, and give our best. So far, no one has seriously attempted to triangulate with us.
I feel like Vickie has stepped up her preaching, and that has been very rich for us.
STAN: How have things worked out in the first few months of this co-pastoring position?
NANCY: Good so far – we are both there at Sundays, at board meetings, and one day a week we are both in the office, then each of us is there another day. . . we take turns with social and special events, occasionally both going. We are working slowly towards dividing up the work, and it seems pretty easy.
I do like preaching regularly, but not every week.
Our attendance has increased from 58 the last quarter, to averaging in the low 90’s since we got there – We are ready to break through this plateau. And financial giving has also improved.
The hardest thing was seeing how much neglect there had been, and dealing with some difficult building deferred maintenance issues right off the bat. Also, they have not dealt with a lot of losses and grief over the last several years, especially the death of their former pastor.
STAN: Anything else you would like to share?
NANCY: Vickie and I communicate well, we knew each other well before we started. We are really happy to both have a meaningful, pastoral position, and the ability to have time off every week to pursue other things. We also worked out the process, ahead of time, with the board, about what would happen if one of us resigned, or could not continue, so that it would be clear to everyone what would happen next. Finally we had to negotiate financially; it was a step up for them, as their fulltime salary was not really adequate for both of us. But, we were able to do that, and come to a satisfactory agreement.
STAN: Thank you Nancy! There are so many excellent points and tips that have come through in this interview that I decided to write part 2 – Five Tips and Best Practices for Engaging Senior Talent Through Job Sharing.