A former international missionary who is pastor of two churches in Yadkin Baptist Association believes his arrangement might serve as a model for other smaller churches.
Joey Tomlin is pastor of Flat Rock Baptist Church in Hamptonville and Zion Baptist Church in Union Grove. He’s served the two churches since July 2007.
Les Davis, the director of missions for the association, said each church has maintained its identity. Similar arrangements might help some churches keep their doors open, he said.
Tomlin said more churches might have to share a pastor in the future. He said he thinks his situation works better than pastors having a secular job in addition to their ministry position.
“It’s a lot better than the bivocational model,” Tomlin said.
When a pastor has a separate job, he is limited by its requirements, he said. Sharing a pastor might also allow churches to have pastors with more qualifications, said Tomlin, who has a doctor of ministry degree.
“It enables them to have someone who’s not looking to go somewhere else,” he said. “I’m looking to stay.”
Tomlin thought he might have to take a secular job when he was talking with Flat Rock in late 2006 and early 2007. Then he found out that Zion, the church he led when he was in seminary, was without a pastor.
Tomlin discussed the possibility with Davis. Later, Tomlin wrote a proposal and presented it to the churches.
Tomlin said both churches thought it would be better than the pastor having a second job. Each voted to call Tomlin. The votes were nearly unanimous.
The churches are four and a half miles apart. On Sundays, Tomlin goes to Sunday School at Zion at 8:45 a.m. with worship following. He then leaves to go to Flat Rock for worship at 11 a.m.
Neither has Sunday evening worship, but Flat Rock has a children’s program and Zion occasionally has other events then.
“They seem to understand when I can’t be there because I have something planed at the other church,” Tomlin said.
Until recently on Wednesdays, Tomlin would lead Bible study at Flat Rock from 6:15 to 7 p.m. then leave to go to Zion from 7:15 to 8 p.m. He’s helping start a youth ministry at Zion on Wednesdays that will change that schedule.
Flat Rock has about 80 attending. Zion has about 40 to 50.
Tomlin said the churches do some things together. They’ve held a joint worship service and worked together on an Operation Inasmuch ministry blitz.
The two churches are similar but have some differences, Tomlin said. Both have deep roots in the community and everybody gets along.
“We don’t promote one church over the other,” he said.