Christianity Today | October 30th, 2016 | Bi-vocational ministers are common—but what's it like to have a bi-vocational congregation?
It’s Friday night, and Season’s Harvest Café in Cypress, Texas, is bustling. Dust from the gravel driveway creates a cloud that sparkles in the headlights of the pickup trucks that just pulled in.
Walking up to the front of the log cabin is a red-feathered hen, looking curious but unbothered by the stream of people coming and going. She looks around for a minute, and then turns around and heads back to the pen by the barn. Meanwhile, a couple sits together on a wooden swing hanging from a large oak tree, listening to the twang of a banjo coming from the back patio, while smoke from the barbecue lends an aroma of down-home cooking.
If I didn’t know any better, I would think I had just pulled up to a farm in the country. Instead, I’m in a restaurant five minutes from a busy freeway in the suburbs of Houston—a restaurant that also serves as a church.
On a quieter day, after the Season’s Harvest lunch crowd has cleared out, Pastor Beket Griffith greets me at the door. He welcomes me with a wide smile and introduces me to his wife Joanne, who is the restaurant’s executive chef. We sit down, and they explain how their desire to serve God in ministry collided with their dreams of owning a restaurant, and how they are managing to do both while simultaneously raising a family.
Grandma’s Kitchen, Prison Ministry, and a Home Church
The interior of Season’s Harvest has a homey feel to it, with a large stone fireplace and old photos with an early American feel. These aren’t random pictures, though; they are of Joanne’s family, including one of her grandmother, who Joanne said played a big part in her love for cooking. Beket said they always had it in the back of their minds to open a restaurant, but their heart for ministry came first.
“We got married, and we knew we both loved the Lord,” said Beket. “We didn’t know what we were going to do, but we knew we wanted to do something centered around our family, centered on ministry, and we were going to homeschool. We just started moving forward with that mindset, seeing where God took us.”
Beket had a few small jobs before he began working in full-time prison ministry, while Joanne stayed home and homeschooled their children. It was during that time Beket felt the call to become a pastor. With his own pastor’s blessing and encouragement, he branched out on his own and began a home-based church called Family of Faith Community Church.
Just because Beket started a church, however, didn’t mean he could give up his day job. The couple lived on his salary from the prison ministry while he learned the ropes of being a pastor.
“People think being a home church pastor is just preaching on Sunday mornings, but it’s a whole lot more than that,” Beket explained. “We were doing three services a week, plus weddings, funerals and counseling…everything that comes along with being a pastor. Plus I was still working full-time.”
Even with Beket’s prison ministry job, the church, and homeschooling their five children, though, the Griffiths’ dream of owning a restaurant one day was still in the back of their minds.
“My wife is a great cook,” said Beket. “And with the home church and all, we could see that hospitality was one of our gifts. But we always thought we would pursue the restaurant idea after the kids grew up.”
God, it seems, had other plans. In 2010, the couple ran across a house they thought would be perfect for a small café. The front room would be used as the dining room, the kitchen was in the middle, and a room in the back would serve as the school for their children. Things came together, and in September of that year, Beket dropped the keys in his wife’s hands and said, “Congratulations! We now own a restaurant.”
The Dream Becomes a Reality
The Griffiths named the new restaurant Season’s Harvest, a name based on 2 Corinthians 9:10, which reads, “Now he who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will also supply and increase your store of seed and will enlarge the harvest of your righteousness.” As Joanne explained, “We really felt like the restaurant was to be the ministry for this season of our life, to bring a harvest into his kingdom.”
It took a leap of faith for that to happen, as the restaurant became more than Joanne could handle on her own. Within six months of opening, Season’s Harvest was making enough to support itself, but not their family. Beket felt led to quit his job at the prison in order to help run the restaurant, but he didn’t know how they would make it financially.
“I had to believe that if I quit my job to do this, God would provide,” he said. “Literally overnight, business tripled. It was like God’s confirmation: ‘You did what I told you to do.’”
Five years later, the restaurant outgrew its original location and moved to the spacious log cabin where it resides today. The church, which was still operating out of the Griffiths’ home, moved into the new restaurant location, too.
Joanne and Beket talk about how their dreams have come together in this one space. In the upstairs of the log cabin is a school room, while the restaurant is housed downstairs and out on the back patio. Breakfast and lunch are served five days a week, and dinner—with live music paired with the menu—is served on Friday nights. Church is held there on Sundays; however, the Griffiths see the restaurant as an extension of their ministry throughout the week.
“It’s about feeding the body and the soul,” Beket said. “The restaurant is the avenue through which we bring people into our lives.” Joanne continued, sharing the story of how their chef was recruited from Florida and became a believer after coming to work at the restaurant. The staff, some of whom are members of the church and some of whom are not, can frequently be found playing Christian music in the kitchen or studying Scripture together outside.
“We live in such a hurting world,” Joanne said. “We just love on people and pray for them.”
The Griffiths say the greatest challenge they have as bi-vocational church leaders is time management. They live just a few miles down the road, but Beket says with a smile, “We just go there to sleep.” In a life centered around Season’s Harvest, he says they have learned over time that there’s “good busy” and “bad busy,” and he admits they have been both. Today, though, the couple is intentional about making time for their marriage and family.
“If you talk to someone in the restaurant business, they’ll tell you it takes up all of your time. But then when you talk to someone in ministry, they’ll say it’s your life,” said Joanne. “So it’s like, how do we fit homeschooling, raising our five children, and reaching out to the community, while also doing these two things that take all of our time…and doing it in a healthy way, a way that glorifies the Lord?” She offers up the answer with a laugh: “By the grace of God.”