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Published Date: September 6, 2001


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Couples Multiply Their Gifts by Serving as Co-Pastors

Only by the grace of God, say Russ and Amy Jacks Dean, has their dream come true. It’s the same for Mark and Mary Driskill, for Bill and Mary Dell Sigler and for Steve and Carla Street as they pioneer a new model of ministry for many churches: married couples serving together as pastors.

“Our being here is a real testimony to how God works,” says Mark Driskill. He and Mary started in December 1999 as pastors of Cornerstone Baptist Church in Hartsville, S.C.

Like the other couples serving together, the Driskills have had to find their own way, discovering for themselves the secrets, rewards and potential pitfalls of working together.

Amy and Russ began last October as pastors of Park Road Baptist Church in Charlotte, N.C. “This had been our dream since seminary,” says Russ, “and it has been absolutely fantastic.”

Having spent more than 10 years thinking about how they could make a joint pastorate work, the Deans were ready when Park Road showed interest. They came to their first interview with a detailed plan of working together — a plan that showed how their individual strengths could best be utilized to maximize their ministry. He would concentrate mainly on worship planning, administration and outreach; she on discipleship, pastoral care and missions. They would share the preaching.

The Driskills found their way to Cornerstone in much the same way, coming from New Hope Community Baptist Church in Jackson, Ky., where for 10 years he had been pastor and she minister of education. “We decided that sending two resumes would be confusing,” Mary says, “so we designed a brochure/resume that listed our individual and combined gifts, education and experience. We also sent a video that included one sermon by each of us.”

The Driskills seek to utilize their individual gifts to strengthen their ministry and home-school their four children, ages 2-10. Mary is the worship planner and administrator; Mark handles outreach and counseling. They’re both schoolteachers for their children and preachers for their congregation. “Our church is very flexible and gives us a lot of leeway to do what we need to do,” says Mark.

At Kilmarnock Baptist Church on the Chesapeake Bay in Virginia, Bill and Mary Dell Sigler found their place of service five years ago. The Siglers, in their second careers, were just out of Baptist Theological Seminary at Richmond (BTSR) when they were recommended by BTSR president Tom Graves.

A retired Marine, Bill takes a different approach to ministry than does Mary Dell, a former special education teacher. “They definitely augment one another,” says John Texter, who along with his wife Joy joined the church two years ago. The Texters also appreciate the positive role model the Siglers provide. “They are a good example of what a marriage can be and how a couple can work together,” says Joy. “They show our youth, especially, what a happy marriage is.”

“The benefit for us personally,” adds Mary Dell, “is that we have a shared calling that we can play out together in one church.”

The journey to a joint pastorate for Steve and Carla Street has followed a different path. They are pastors of Rivercrest Fellowship in Jackson, Miss., a church they started in 1993. “Some people assume that we started the church so that we could work together,” says Carla. “But actually we started it because we saw a need to reach out to unchurched people.

“For us, our journey here began with the struggle we have felt since we became engaged: How is it going to work for us as a couple if we are both called to the pastorate? Even after we decided to start this church, we still struggled with what our roles should be.”

They decided they would both be pastor. They have settled into their areas of giftedness, Steve in administration, Carla in education. They share preaching and visiting duties. They are parents of twin 2- year-old sons who occupy much of Carla’s day while Steve runs their auto-glass business.

“I feel like the church gets more than just two people,” says Steve, moderator-elect for Cooperative Baptist Fellowship of Mississippi. “It’s more than one plus one equals two. It is a multiplication of gifts. We have a synergy that develops because we are each operating from our own strengths and complementing the weaknesses of the other.”

One downside — which can also be an upside — to joint ministry with a spouse is that it becomes very difficult to leave the job at the office. “We never escape the pressure and pangs of ministry,” says Mary Dell. “The church is our life.”

“It’s hard to come home and not talk about church,” adds Russ Dean.

But, says Mark Driskill, “I see it as a benefit to have someone in the house who understands being a pastor. We can talk about issues, fears and ideas. It takes a lot of the loneliness out of being a minister.”

Overall, all four couples have concluded that the benefits of joint ministry far outweigh the few negatives. “It is all we had hoped for but really, honestly, we didn’t expect to find,” says Russ Dean. “We are in a place where we can both be pastor — where we can share our gifts for pastoral ministry in an equal way. It is true equality.”

Reprinted with permission of the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship.