My Shortest Full-time Work

You won’t find this on my resumé: About Jerrie Barber. But I was the full-time preacher for a church in Tennessee from 9:30 p.m. on a Wednesday night until 6:00 a.m. the next morning.

Context is important in reading any statement.

I was in my first full-time preaching work. We lived in a house that was dreadfully cold in the winter. You couldn’t heat and eat at the same time. There was one three-stack electric heater for the whole house. The fuse box was 60 amp. If we had the heater on and tried to cook on the stove, fuses would blow.

We had a new baby. I discussed the situation with the elders. Since we rented the house, they said they couldn’t do anything about it. If I didn’t like it, I should rent another. I was paying $35.00/month rent. I made $100.00/week — total. I paid rent, utilities, insurance (none), taxes.

We thought we needed to leave to keep from freezing our new baby. A week after Jerrie Wayne was born I tried out at a congregation nearby. Evidently, they liked me. They said they didn’t want to make a commitment until they met my wife and baby. We went the following Wednesday night.

I met with the elders. They asked me if I believed baptism was essential for salvation and if I were “anti” (believed it was sinful to support children’s homes from the church treasury). I asked them about their ten-year goals. One of the elders said, “We haven’t discussed our ten-year goals. It would probably be to piddle around like we’ve been doing and pay for our church building.”

They also had another request: “Since you’re young, you’re going to make a lot of mistakes. We want you to ask at the beginning of every elders’ meeting, ‘What have I done wrong since the last time we met?’ ”.

Winter and cold weather were approaching. We had a baby twelve days old. They had a preacher’s house with an electric heater in every room. I agreed.

When we started driving home, Gail asked, “What do you think?”. I replied, “We’re moving. I’ve got a key to the church building. I’m starting bringing my books tomorrow.”

She asked, “What about our salary?”.

“$100.00 a week; $15.00 dollars a month for utilities. If we don’t spend it all on utilities, we can spend the rest for anything we want to.”

Gail: “Jerrie, that’s what we make now. We have no money in our budget for clothes and furniture. We have been spending $10.00 a week for groceries. We have a new baby who needs to eat.”

After going over our budget in detail when we arrived back home, we concluded we couldn’t make it.

I called my father and told him our dilemma. He said, “You’re probably just upset because change is confusing. When you have time, come home and we’ll discuss it.”

I replied, “It’s eleven o’clock. We can be there in two hours.” We loaded our new baby and drove to Centerville.

When I showed my budget to Mother and Daddy, Daddy said, “There’s not a way in the world you can make it on that.”

I replied, “I told you that two hours ago.”

We talked util 6:00 a.m. I hoped one of the elders was up. I called. After identifying myself, I said, “The Bible says when a Christian sins, he should repent, confess, and pray. Last night I told you I’d do something I can’t do. I’m sorry. In the future I’ll take time to think before I promise. I’ve repented, I’ve confessed, and I’ve been praying most of the night. I’ll put the key to the church building in an envelope and mail it to you.”

What did I learn?

  1. Slow down. Don’t get married after the second date.
  2. Ask more questions.
  3. I didn’t pick up on the clear sign they didn’t think I’d do well. We would’ve never had a honeymoon.
  4. Don’t agree to humiliate yourself by asking for criticism at every elders’ meeting. That would’ve never worked. I didn’t start liking criticism until fourteen years later. Criticism Rule
  5. Agree to a reasonable time to think away from each other before making the final agreement.

But all was not lost. We moved to Madisonville, Kentucky. They had elders who were wise, compassionate, and patient. The church had many encouraging Christians. They expressed appreciation often and well. We had eight years of great growth. It was here I turned down my first raise (I was one scared preacher): My First Raise and Why I Turned it Down . The elders dealt with my fear. They knew how to get my cooperation.

God has blessed us abundantly!

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Jerrie Barber
Disciple of Jesus, husband, grandfather, preacher, barefoot runner, ventriloquist

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