“Todd and Dave have been incredible in building a culture based on their joint vision for the church: all of life in and with Jesus, by the power of the Spirit, all for the glory of God,” said Kris Burns, administrative assistant at Summit View BIC. “But there is not a formula or a secret recipe for their success. … They’re just guys who make room for Jesus to do the work,” she concluded.
We’ve been thrilled to get to know these two passionate Christ-followers and believe you’ll be encouraged by their story!
Q: Thanks, pastors Dave and Todd, for generously taking time to sit down and share some of your story with us! How and why did you start co-pastoring at Summit View BIC?
Dave: It started one day when, more out of desperation than a clear discipling plan, we said, “Do you wanna, maybe, get together for breakfast this Thursday? No expectations. We’ll just see where it goes?”
That’s what we did — and we’ve very rarely missed our weekly breakfast in the years since!
The idea for co-pastoring grew out of these Thursday morning breakfasts. Looking back, God clearly wove our lives together at a time when Todd and I were both in somewhat dark, needy, doubting places. God used this relationship to get us much more firmly attached to and grounded in Jesus and connected to each other! As we learned and grew and realized how similar our thoughts were about what the church should be, we said, “Hey, wouldn’t it be fun to pastor a church together someday?”
Then we’d both laugh because we knew that would never happen.
In the fall of 2017, Summit View was looking for a full-time pastor. Todd and I had both spent most of 2017 serving as part-time interim pastors at BIC churches — Todd at Summit View and I at New Beginnings Church in Ephrata. Both of us were asked if we would consider putting our name in for the full-time position.
Todd and I, unbeknownst to each other, both said no to the full-time role mainly because of our other jobs. We then floated the idea to Bishop Bryan Hoke and to the pastoral search committee at Summit View about our applying together as co-pastors: two half-time guys making the equivalent of one full-time pastor.
And for some crazy reason — with a little bit of fear and trepidation and uncertainty (“so who’s actually going to be in charge??!”) and a whole lot of God! — we were chosen to serve as the co-pastors of Summit View BIC Church, beginning March 2018.
Todd: I have always thought that the strongest moving entity in the world can be the Church of Jesus when following the leading of the Holy Spirit. How could it not be — a group of people being led by the Creator of all things? I have always believed in the power of a team, and although it can be sticky and hard work at times, working with people is always the best use of our resources and talents.
Around 2010, I met Dave Fulmer. We were both struggling with some things, and we started meeting on a weekly basis for breakfast. This turned into a deep, honest, iron-sharpening relationship unlike any I have experienced. We often spoke of working together if God ever opened the doors for that opportunity, not knowing how that would look.
Our brutally honest approach with each other proved to be an anchor God would use to form a relationship that would lead to working together at Summit View BIC. I really do believe that God built the relationship for this very purpose, almost like he knew that by ourselves we might be too arrogant or self-absorbed to effectively lead.
Yet, together in constant communication, we find ourselves vulnerable and continuing to grow, being OK with not having all the answers and pointing each other to Jesus.
Q: What does joint pastoring look like each week?
Dave: Serving as co-pastors is a 100% collaborative effort. Todd and I literally talk over just about everything that isn’t trivial and inconsequential — and often we talk about those things too! Yes, by job description we have our specific areas of oversight. Todd is responsible for the staff (we have four other part-time staff), building and grounds, and all administrative matters. I oversee all our ministries and ministry leaders. We equally plan and divide the work of preaching, teaching, and worship, and we share in pastoral care and visitation.
One of the most significant and life-giving things we do together is laugh — a whole lot actually!! We both think we are pretty funny. And we are each other’s biggest fan. I know that may sound cliché-ish, but it is 100% true.
Todd: It is funny how sometimes it seems like Dave and I share a brain (which may be why God has us doing this together). Yet other times our life experiences have led to completely different perspectives on a subject. Through co-pastoring, we get to walk in each other’s shoes for a spell. By being open to learning from our different perspectives and, at the same time, willing to provide feedback agenda-free (except for our mutual objective and passion to know Jesus), we provide each other an incredible gift. Being humble and vulnerable with one another is probably the greatest benefit of co-pastoring.
Ephesians 4:11-12 says that we are called to equip his people for service.
So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.
In our co-pastoring environment, we remind each other weekly of this truth, and in turn this keeps us focused and confident knowing that we have each other’s back until the end!
Q: You’re bivocational. Where do you work outside of Summit View BIC, and what do you enjoy about your other job(s)?
Dave: I’ve served as a bivocational pastor for almost 18 years. My “other job” now is working with my dad in our own little insurance company, Fulmer Insurance LLC. The great majority of our clients are folks 65 and older who can be on Medicare and are thus eligible for the various plans we offer. I truly enjoy helping folks work their way through the maze that can be senior citizen health care. I work out of my home, and the hours are very flexible, so it has fit quite well with the no-two-weeks-are-ever-alike role of pastoring.
One of the things I’ve always appreciated about being a bivocational pastor is that it helps to keep me a little more grounded in the world of most of our church family members. When we are recruiting volunteers, I want to be conscious of their work life, and Todd and I both want to make sure our preaching and teaching demonstrates some direct connections between the biblical texts and the work situations in which these dear folks find themselves 30-60 hours each week.
Todd: Like my father before me, I have always been fascinated by computers and drafting. That interest eventually led to my being the owner of a small land development consulting business in West Chester, Pennsylvania. Our company, InLand Design, does civil engineering and land surveying. My partner and I started the firm in 2009, and it has been in constant growth ever since. I enjoy running the inner workings of the company, bringing the team together, problem-solving, and taking care of the computer/network needs of the organization. Our largest asset is our people, and we certainly enjoy getting to know them and providing a good place to work in a family-oriented kind of way.
Q: What would you tell other pastors who are considering co-pastoring a congregation?
Dave: I’m not sure you could put two strangers together and expect it be successful. Todd and I both firmly agree on what we believe the Christian life is all about and what the local church should be focused on. Again, this common ground was hashed out over many breakfast discussions, so we brought this unified vision to our co-pastoring roles, even presenting it to the pastoral search committee before we were ever hired. We believe Jesus gives the local church her marching orders when he tells his followers to go and make disciples. We define disciples as those who are learning to live all of life in and with Jesus, by the power of the Holy Spirit, all for the glory of God. Todd and I are firmly committed to evaluating everything we do by that mission.
Todd: I could not imagine being dropped into a co-pastoring role with a stranger. This is working for Dave and me because of our relationship as brothers. There is a lot of give and take, and you must be willing to do both.
If anyone is considering co-pastoring a congregation, seek Jesus for the fit! I don’t believe that there is one church model that everyone should be using to maximize success. I love that we serve a God who loves to surprise us and do things through us that are outside the norm. Our total reliance on God is the only constant. If God is leading you this way, you may find a new level of accountability, vulnerability, and friendship that may just breathe new life into your ministry.