How a job becomes a ministry

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Pastor Glenn Boyde says he has almost always worked bi-vocationally. It’s been part and parcel of his role as church-planter since the 80s; he would enter a community to start a church and find a job to make a living.

When he and his family moved to Mewassin, a small farming community in Alberta, in 1991 to pastor Mewassin Free Methodist Church, Glenn started work as a custodian for a clinic because the small congregation did not have the funds to support him with a full-time wage. In 1995 he started working in schools. He recognized that his job as school custodian was an opportunity to minister to the community – not just something to support his ministry at the church. As a result of this mindset, he has seen his influence grow in the community and has moved from the role of Custodian, to Head Custodian, to Educational Assistant and Counsellor.

Pastor Glenn Boyde stands outside Mewassin Free Methodist Church, in Alberta (2009)

“I’m not really a good custodian,” Glenn jokes. “I do a mediocre job of cleaning, so they have to have a reason to keep [me] around,”

An unsolicited e-mail from the principal of the school where he works, sent to the Bishop in June, reveals that Glenn’s passion to serve others has made an impact.

Glenn is indeed our custodian and as he cheerfully performs all the duties of the Chief Sanitation Officer, as he refers to himself, he comes in contact with students, staff and parents. He takes the time to listen to their thoughts and questions, laughs with them and truly can make a difference in their day…

I believe that Glenn’s calling is really about people and helping them become productive students and citizens. He is able to fully focus on kids for several hours per day as we have been able to employ him as an Educational Assistant.

Each of us at Duffield is truly blessed by Glenn’s presence at our school. He touches the lives of many and puts a smile on all our faces each and every day.

I mention this e-mail to Glenn when I start our interview over the phone. Glenn was sure to tell me that this good news story is by no means limited to him or his ministry. “This stems from the nature of our church’s ministry. What we’ve chosen to do is to just operate in the presence of Jesus. So everything we do, we’re doing it like Jesus is right there with us.”

When he started as a custodian, he wanted to portray Christ to the kids. While he cleaned the desks in the rooms, he would pray for that child. He started to see opportunities open up to him to develop relationships with the students.

One school year was a particularly hard one for the school where he was working at the time. There were tensions between teachers, as well as between parents and teachers. Glenn recognized that this turmoil was trickling down to the students and they were suffering because of it. In order to lighten the mood, Glenn started dressing up as different characters. It started with Constable Zippy Clean of Grime Stoppers. He’d make comical announcements, songs about school events, and “lovingly” poking fun at the staff. He’d have contests, taking pressure of teachers to police the mess in the classrooms, and present, for example, The Golden Toilet Brush Award to the class who had done the best job of keeping their room clean. This was well-received by staff and students alike. Other characters developed out of it, who started to make special appearances at the assemblies and awards ceremonies: “Jumpin Jock Rock (a DJ), Luigi (the pizza guy),The Mediocre Zuchinni (magician… knows 5 tricks), Suzie Somethingorother…”

Glenn made a name for himself – or several names – with these characters. When Glenn transferred to another school, Zippy Clean et al. came with him.

Principal Terry Caouette of Duffield School, his current school, says, “It really isn’t about the room that is the tidiest, but about those who may need a boost as Glenn ensures that each class has an opportunity to ‘win’ the award.”

Through this and other means (such as humorous trivia Questions-of-the-Week on his office door), Glenn started developing relationships with the students, the parents, and the staff. In conjunction with the administrative staff, Glenn started to engage with the kids as a counsellor would. Parents would even come by and chat with Glenn. Glenn’s role at the school started to morph due to the positive response.

Currently, as a part-time Educational Assistant, Glenn often takes on the disciplinary cases. The school psychologist noticed that the students Glenn works with have such incredible turn-around and has plans to give Glenn a permanent position as counsellor.

Glenn seems to be a naturally good-natured man. The e-mails I exchange with him before our interview are cheery and encouraging, as is our phone conversation. He keeps attributing his success to Jesus, so I ask him, isn’t this just part of who he is?

“Coming up through the 80s, I was a preppy, yuppy pastor looking for success. I had all the books about how to do things the right way. No, this all comes from transformation that Jesus has brought about in my life. There might be some things that are natural, I wouldn’t disavow that, but there was a distinct point in my life where I started operating out of the presence of Jesus in my life in everything I do.”

The year before Glenn moved to Mewassin with his wife and two kids, in one year they had two stillborn children. They’d wanted another child so desperately. The grief that accompanied these deaths was debilitating. “I had never experienced pain like that before. I remember with one child, they brought the baby in and had a funeral service at the hospital,” Glenn says. “What hurt the most was that I’d never be able to hug my baby.” Glenn explains how important hugs are in his family. “My kids are in their late-20s and I still hug and kiss them.” He gave his stillborn children to God’s care asking him to hug them.

But in that moment of pain, God comforted Glenn. “As clear as I’ve ever heard God speak to me, he said that he has children in this world that he wanted me to hug for him.”

“When I see a child, I know that Jesus is standing there with arms around them, but they can’t feel it. So this person needs to feel the arms of Jesus hugging them, and we give them a hug. It’s not just that it’s you hugging the person… [People feel] the hug of Jesus.”

But what about balance? I ask Glenn how he finds time for both his ministry and his vocation?

Glenn says that the people in his church see themselves very much as a ministry team. “People don’t always look to the pastor to do everything.” If there is a need, they get together and pray. There are people who share the speaking duties. There are people who visit.   They all have the areas where they help out. At the heart of it is discipleship training, where they “bring it back to the place that Jesus is right there with us in everything we do.” It blurs the lines between ministry and vocation.

While the school makes plans for Glenn and his future with them, Glenn knows to leave it God’s hands and enjoy every opportunity he gets to minister to others.

Glenn signs off an e-mail, “Serving Jesus is so much fun, it almost feels like the enjoyment of it is selfish sometimes… Enjoy His Embrace.”


 

Glenn makes an appearance at a family wedding as “Aunt Gertie,” one of his characters.  His act was so well-received he may soon be working tri-vocationally!


 

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And I keep praying that this faith we hold in common keeps showing up in the good things we do, and that people recognize Christ in all of it. (Philemon 1:6 The Message)

 

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