When David Vellenga graduated from San Francisco Theological Seminary in 1971, he went straight into full-time pastoral work, following what is for many the standard path.
But roughly seven years later, intrigued by hearing about a program funded by the Lilly Endowment
to train "dual-role" clergy, Vellenga
began to veer a different way.
wife went to work full-time - she's
a computer programmer and systems analyst - Vellenga
became a full-time dad, serving a small church on a part-time basis.
He also earned a two-year degree in electronics.
And when the family moved to Raleigh, N.C., for his wife's career, Vellenga went to work full-time for a Research Triangle firm in microlithography, which is part of the process of making computer chips.
stayed in that job for 20 years, switching four years ago to similar work at North Carolina State University
On the pastoral side, Vellenga
took part-time church ministries - at a small church and doing pulpit supply.
He's now the stated supply pastor at Nutbush Church, a congregation of about 40 members near Henderson, N.C., an historic congregation that has had a part-time pastor for decades.
"They're a small congregation that has really adapted well to part-time leadership and don't have a dependency relationship on the pastor, which I think is all really good," Vellenga
"It of course relieves the financial burden, in that they don't have to support a full-time (economic) package for a pastor" - his
health insurance and pension benefits are all supplied through his
And the lay leaders "really have a sense of ownership about the church. … They basically do just about everything in the day-to-day operation of the church.
preaches on Sundays, performs weddings and funerals, and visits people who are ill.
For himself, Vellenga
, 64, has enjoyed the balance between a technically-oriented job and one that focuses more on people.
given anything up by switching from full-time ministry to tentmaking?
"Not really, no - I really like it," Vellenga
said with a laugh.
For presbyteries, having ministers who are to some extent financially independent can be uncomfortable, Vellenga
said - although there's precedent for tentmaking from the earliest days of church history in the United States.
also finds that his
interactions with people at his
technical job can be a form of ministry too.
"We come up against people who are totally different from Presbyterians," he
"They are people of every faith, or none."
Outside the church, Vellenga
never introduces himself as a minister to start with, although he
does tell people about his
pastoral work as he
gets to know them.
"Sometimes they will share things with me that they might not want to even share with their own minister," Vellenga