RICHLAND – Five days a week, the proverbial school bell calls Doug Jacobson to duty. On Sundays, it’s the proverbial church bell that summons him.
Jacobson is pastor of Eureka Baptist in Richland and Elementary Superintendent at Swedesborg R-3 School District.
In this modern age, how does one juggle such diverse institutional work? According to Jacobson, who’s pastored at the same Richland church for 34 years, it’s all about “being accessible to the people.”
“I’ve found whether people come to church or not, they always want you to pray for them or seek your advice,” he added.
Jacobson has also been Superintendent at Swedeborg R-3 Elementary School for seven years. This follows 18 years as an elementary principal in Crocker and nine years as a teacher in Waynesville.
“All 34 years of my school work as a teacher and as an administrator, I’ve also been a bivocational pastor,” Jacobson said.
“Eureka (Baptist Church) is not even in the school district. While I was at Crocker, some people came to Eureka,” he said. The church runs 50-70 in Sunday morning worship.
“I’ve always been fortunate to work with a lot of Christians on the staff. The communities are friendly and receptive to the Christian flavor in the school. When people come to know you are sincere in your walk for Christ, people come to you.”
A woman who had been abused visited Jacobson a few years ago. She knew he was a minister and came to see him at his school office. Jacobson was able to get her financial assistance.
To be sure, there are challenges in the dual responsibilities. For example, The Gideons aren’t as free to bring New Testaments to schools as they once were. However, students at the school still gather around the flagpole to pray during the See You At The Pole (SYATP) event each year.
“All the districts have always allowed this (SYATP), and it hasn’t kept Christian teachers from participating. The Fellowship of Christian Athletes are still allowed. I’ve always been careful to follow guidelines for groups to function in the school. I don’t want to lose the opportunity to minister in the school and share my faith,” Jacobson said.
“Holidays are an issue that come up from time to time. The music teachers ask about certain music. I tell them to approach it from a historical standpoint. Jesus is a historical figure, and we’re just telling his story,” Jacobson said.
“One of the challenges in smaller churches is that the ebbs and flows in the congregation are noticeable, and it makes you concerned,” Jacobson said. But, he added, “you just keep preaching the Gospel and being faithful. I’m blessed at Eureka to have good support groups, good Sunday school teachers, good deacons, and we’re blessed to be unified.”
Jacobson sees time management as the biggest challenge.
“The tasks were easier as a teacher,” he said. “There are more activities to cover as principal and superintendent. I try to balance family life with my two daughters, my marriage, church life, school activities, sermon preparation time, visiting those in the hospital. I want to stay fresh physically, spiritually and emotionally.” ν