Driving Ministry Opportunities
Matthew and Tammy Craft didn’t have promises of a cushy income and tremendous benefits when they quit their jobs and moved to Illinois from Advance, Missouri, to pastor Nashville Assembly of God. They did have a parsonage, a small salary, and a sure call they both knew came from the Lord.
After they had settled in, Craft, 52, began to look for an additional job to supplement his income. Because he had driven semi-trucks most of his life, he thought that seemed logical. When he went to the state’s Department of Motor Vehicles office to transfer his license, he found he had to retake all the tests. His decision to take a refresher course at 160 Driving Academy in Belleville, Illinois — about 45 minutes from Nashville — proved to be a provision he didn’t see coming.
“Before I finished the course, I was offered a teaching position there,” says Craft. “I never had to look for work, it came to me. Praise the Lord!”
Craft taught at the academy for two years until being offered a job at the state’s Department of Transportation, which provided more financial security. He still misses instructing at the academy.
“Teaching was a lot of fun,” says Craft. “It not only allowed me to share my knowledge of trucking, but also gave me an opportunity to speak into students’ lives and answer their questions. Sometimes the cab of that truck was almost like Sunday School!”
A pair of Craft’s former truck-driving students, Amanda Valleroy, 40, and her fiancé Alfred Aukema, 46, now attend Nashville First Assembly. The couple will be married by Craft at the church in October.
“One of the biggest things about Matt is that he is a very social person, a people person,” says Valleroy. “He is a laid-back southern Missouri guy, so easy to talk to. I had always seen him as truck-driver Matt and didn’t know he was a pastor until I heard him talking to another driver about his church.”
Bivocational ministry like Craft’s is becoming increasingly common. According to studies cited in the May issue of Influence magazine, 68% of Assemblies of God churches reported less than 100 weekly attendees and 38% of AG pastors have second incomes — most of them out of necessity. Although working a secular job while pastoring provides needed finances, it also offers unique opportunities and challenges.
“Being bivocational will keep you real,” says Craft, who studied through Global University. “The biggest advantage is that you are around people who don’t think like you, who don’t believe like you, and it gives you an opportunity to introduce Christ into the conversation.”
Such openings do not come without drawbacks, however, primarily the inability to be in two places at the same time. This juggling act requires organization, time management, and the help of others. Nashville AG congregants knew Craft needed to work a second job, and they have been understanding about his schedule.
“My main responsibility as a pastor is to preach the Word,” says Craft. “But without the cooperation of the members of my church and my wonderful wife, I could never do what I do.”
Craft says many church adherents have been willing to dive in to help when needed for hospital visitation or other responsibilities. Tammy, who formerly worked in a hospital lab, is a stay-at-home wife who can oversee church responsibilities such as dinners and cleaning.
“Tammy was married to me when I was a truck driver, before I was a pastor, so she is able to take charge and make decisions,” Craft says.