Above: Manny Parker is north region sales manager for Rainmaker Sales, Inc., while also pastor of Mannford, New Hope where he has served for 27 years. Photo courtesy of Rainmakersales.com
MANNFORD—There is a lot of talk these days about sports heroes and what the “Most Valuable Players” are doing. There is a seemingly endless discussion going on about who is entering the transfer portal, or who’s going to the Super Bowl, etc.
But there is another kind of Most Valuable Player who, despite their immense importance, is not talked about as often, specifically the Multi-Vocational Pastor (MVP). An estimated 52 percent of Oklahoma Baptist pastors are multi-vocational. In addition to serving as pastors, they also maintain part-time and full-time jobs in other vocations.
“The unsung heroes of Oklahoma Baptists are multi-vocational pastors and pastors of our smallest in attendance churches,” said Todd Fisher, executive director-treasurer of Oklahoma Baptists. “These pastors faithfully shepherd their congregations with little pay, no accolades, and many do so while having a full-time job outside the church. They are incredible and tireless servants for the kingdom.”
One such pastor is Manny Parker, pastor of Mannford, New Hope.
“We planted the church in February of 1995, back when we didn’t know it was called church planting,” Parker said when explaining the origins of the church. “It was a Bible study we hosted in our living room that grew until we needed more room. We’ve met in a bingo hall, a ball room and other places in the past. Now we are so happy to be in our own building. It’s just beautiful!”
New Hope has changed locations a few times in the 27 years since Parker and his wife Kerry first planted the church. Now located in a recently constructed building the congregation built on Highway 48 in Mannford, the church has about 130 members and continues steadily in ministry, baptizing an average of 14 people per year.
Along with pastoring New Hope, Parker is north region sales manager for Rainmaker Sales Inc., a Shawnee-based provider polyethylene pipe, fittings, fusion equipment and accessories that serves the oil, gas and agriculture industries.
“I love my job, and the people I work with. Rainmaker management has been very supportive,” Parker said. “They have been understanding and flexible with me serving in the church, (especially) when I need to visit someone in the hospital or lead in a funeral. Also in my job, there is a lot of drive time that allows me to make phone calls when needed.
“I see myself as a simple country boy,” Parker continued. “I am so grateful to be serving in this role as pastor. I know I could not do what I do were it not for my wife Kerry. You could say, I am someone who never got over being saved. I’ve been in ministry for 40 years.”
The multi-vocational pastoral role is not an easy one. It requires someone with tremendous organizational skills who also has a lot of tenacity. As Parker describes it, someone with “too much grit to quit.”
“Though I have never been ‘full time,’ I have never stopped serving,” Parker said. “I don’t see a minister as someone who does it for the pay. It’s something you do because you are called. When we first started the Bible study in our home, I felt I would probably be a deacon or something. Now when people ask me how I became a bi-vocational pastor, I tell them, ‘God called me to do it.’”
There are many other multi-vocational pastors like Parker who work long hours in another job, but they also remain faithful to lead a local church.
“Often multi-vocational pastors put in 60 to 80 hours a week between church and their secular jobs,” said Philip Jones, MVP Ministry Consultant for Oklahoma Baptists. “These multi-vocational pastors, in my opinion, are some of the greatest men in the kingdom of God. It takes a special commitment and determination to remain faithful to God’s call on your life year after year. And don’t forget their wives. They are uniquely gifted by God for the role to which God has called them.”
Parker offers advice to pastors who serve in multi-vocational ministry.
“Keep it simple. As a pastor, you have to focus on the Great Commission and the Great Commandment; don’t overcomplicate it,” he said, referring to Matt. 22:36-40; 28:16-20. “Just love your people as you would your own family. Even if they get angry with you, or hurt you, love them. Like family, you would never turn your back on them because you truly love them.”
Parker also emphasized that multi-vocational pastors need to work to maintain relationships with other pastors, mentors and coaches. He said pastors need to be encouraged, resourced with practical tools and make time to network with one another in order to succeed in ministry.
“I have spoken to hundreds of pastors, and I know they can tend to isolate themselves and often find it difficult for them to build trust with others,” he said. ”Ministry is messy, if what you are doing isn’t messy, it’s probably not ministry.”
Parker also received encouragement and support when he attended the MVP Pastors and Wives retreat. The next retreat is scheduled for Feb. 18-20 at Falls Creek Conference Center in Davis.
“I like what Philip Jones is doing with the MVP Pastors retreats,” Parker said. “He’s not only giving them a break, he’s giving them more energy. Like we say out here in the country, he puts a little more ‘sic ‘em’ in them by encouraging them and giving them the value they deserve.”
Jones encourages all multi-vocational pastors to take advantage of this needed respite that is free for them and their wives to attend.
“With all that’s required of multi-vocational pastors—and let’s not forget their wives—there is little time left for these unsung heroes to recharge,” Jones said. “The MVP Pastors and Wives retreat provides an opportunity for these pastors to take a breath and reassess their value in the kingdom of God. If you know a pastor like this, send them a note of encouragement today! If you are one of these pastors, I hope you can attend the MVP retreat next month.”
For more information visit oklahomabaptists.org/mvp.