Husband and Wife Co-Pastor together: "Along the Way"

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A husband and wife Co-Pastor one of Rapid City's largest churches.
We share their journey, from feeling "called" to ministry, to where they are today.

The traditional church model includes a Senior Pastor, which has traditionally been a man. But Calvary Lutheran Church is flourishing with a new leadership model.

From outside, Calvary Lutheran Church in southwest Rapid City, is a majestic structure built with brick and mortar. But inside the church, one major characteristic, is a leadership style built with faith, love, and a long journey to get here.

Steve Long asks Pastors David and Becky Piper,
"So you're not the Senior Pastor?"
They answer, "No"
Steve asks "And you're not the Senior Pastor?"
"No," they reply.
"You guys are?," Steve asks.
"Co-Pastors," the Piper's answer.

Co-Pastors David and Becky Piper, husband and wife, share the leadership. It's an alternative to the traditional Senior Pastor.
And it, seems, perhaps predestined, when you consider the odds that these two would end up in Rapid City.

They grew up in different states, graduated from college in different states, neither are from South Dakota, and neither are from Indiana which is where they met.

"Yeah he was volunteering at another church with their youth program and my roommate said. Well you should meet this volunteer that I know, you might hit it off," explains Pastor Becky.

"There was a purpose for us to be there together and meet each other," Pastor David says.

Pastor Becky says, "So when we met we were both wrestling with seminary. Like, is that where I should go? Is it not?"

Still here they are. Clearly they did go to Seminary. And they did 'hit it off' as a couple.

It was on a backpacking trip they took in 1997, when David proposed, and Becky accepted. That was one step on their path here to Rapid City. But first it led to their walk down the aisle to become man and wife. They got married in 1998.

"We were married before we went to Seminary. So we went together as a married couple which is unusual. Most people go and they might meet somebody and then get married. So we went as a married couple, and honestly the first time out into the churches we were in separate places and so we had to balance that out and started a family," she explains.

In 2004, the 2 Pipers became Pastors, but not at the same churches. A decade later, in 2014, David applied for an Associate Pastor position at Calvary Lutheran. And soon, in another clue pointing to destiny, the Senior Pastor position opened up.

"Then that gave the church the opportunity . Oh what do we do now? And they thought, well, David's married to someone who's also a pastor. Maybe there's a chance you could have pastoral leadership in a different way," Pastor Becky says.

And the church did decide not to hire 1 Senior Pastor, but rather two Co-Pastors, Piper and Piper. At the same time they were helping to shatter an old gender barrier.

"As a female the assumption would be that I'm the associate or that I'm not in this role," Pastor Becky says.

And her husband Pastor David adds, "I get to work with my best friend and the person I trust the most in life and in ministry."

They each carry half the load of being lead pastors. For example Becky oversees worship, David's responsible for Administrative duties. However, they split the preaching, which is perhaps the most visible role, right down the middle.

"I personally think it works better. I think it matches the Biblical model. When they sent the disciples out, how did they send them out? They sent them 2 by 2. Why did they send them out 2 by 2? Because no one's strong enough in every area," Pastor David says.

Pastor David is now 45, Pastor Becky is 44, their two boys are now age 10 and 12. There's no more of the lifestyle of Mom in one place, and Dad in another.

"The best thing about it to me is that we get to be together. We get to be a family. And some of that too. It's a way for congregation members to see us as real people, that we're family people. We're a Mom and a Dad, a husband and a wife and we have good times and bad times together too so," Pastor Becky says.

They've been co-pastoring now for about 3 years. And this is a big church, Pastor David estimates their congregation at roughly 3-thousand people.

Pastor Becky says, "For some congregations it works, and for some congregations it might not work. It might be not the right set up. So I think we need a variety of leadership styles for the church as a whole, for the church to be able to work."

Clearly it's working here at Calvary Lutheran. And perhaps it was even predestined, when you look at the path of life that led the Piper Pastor's to Calvary Lutheran, right here in Rapid City

The Pipers are not the only husband/wife team to Co-Pastor. It's becoming a more common model.
Just one model of many.

If you've met someone cool "Along the Way" please call us or e-mail me at stevel@blackhillsfox.com to let us know.