A married couple who are passionate about pastoral care regularly offer short-term support to pastors in need of a break.
Assemblies of God U.S. Missions career associate Robert L. Koch and his wife, Vickie, serve with Church Mobilization. They repeatedly have filled in as interims at churches so pastors can take a sabbatical.
The Kochs seek to encourage pastors who need a helping hand.
“Whatever the pastor needs is what we do,” explains the 68-year-old Koch, an ordained AG minister. That might include baby-sitting young children so the parents can go out for a date night, or watching their house and pets while they take a child to college.
“Of course we can preach for short term or sabbaticals,” says Vickie, 69. “We help with vacation Bible school, Sunday School, or life groups, and repair just about anything. Robert loves to paint, and there is always something that needs to be painted.”
Timothy M. Black, pastor of Emerald Coast Church in Fort Walton Beach, Florida, has known the couple for more than 30 years. Robert and Vickie’s three children attended the youth ministry when Black served on staff at Eastside Assembly of God in Tucson, Arizona.
Since Black became pastor of Emerald Coast in 2013, the couple have made two short-term visits to the church. After the congregation moved to a new property in 2016, Black asked the Kochs to assist for a couple of months.
”They helped with pastoral care, projects around the church, and they spoke on Sundays and Wednesdays so that I could take a vacation,” recalls Black, 56.
He calls the supportive couple “a pastor’s best friend.”
“They are beloved by our congregation,” says Black, noting that Emerald Coast has increased fivefold to nearly 200 members since the Kochs first helped the church. “They always bring a breath of fresh air and support.”
The couple’s pastoral ministry began in 1995 during a revival at Eastside Assembly. Robert recalls a vision he had during a Saturday morning prayer time at church. He stood in a chapel with seats filled with pastors, although he didn’t recognize them. Yet he sensed the Lord telling him that he needed to provide them help.
In 2000, the couple became pastors of Mammoth Assembly of God in Arizona, where they served for almost 13 years.
“From there God gave us the skills and experience we would need to minister to pastors, having been one,” says Vickie, who is a credentialed AG minister. “Our ministry focus is for pastors of small churches that do not have staff and who need the help.”
The Kochs, who live in Tucson, travel to the churches in a Class A motorhome. They say their ministry has been needed even more since the onset of COVID-19.
“Many pastors needed encouragement, a listening ear, and some help with ministry and projects that they need to get done,” Koch says. “When the pandemic hit, people stayed home and it was discouraging to preach to a much-reduced congregation.”
Mark L. Geer, lead pastor of Oak Harbor Assembly of God in Washington state, had not taken a sabbatical in 35 years of ministry when the Kochs contacted him about coming to help in 2017 at the church, which averages 50 attendees.
“I asked Pastor Robert if he and his wife would be willing to serve as a fill-in minister while I was gone for four weeks and he was delighted to do so,” says Geer, 53. “Their ministry went far and above what we could have ever expected.”