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Two Hats: Downtown Pastor Also a Fast Food GM

Pastor Terry Endsley is in the pulpit at times. More often he can be found elsewhere — restoring a stage for youth programming, visiting someone in the hospital — or managing a local McDonald’s. That latter job — which is more than full-time — is part of a bi-vocational life Endsley said keeps him connected to what his congregation is experiencing in their day-to-day world.

WHEELING — The odd combination of jobs that Terry Endsley balances on a daily basis is easy fodder for jokes — most of them likely ending with a punchline about combo meals or, “You want fries with that?”

While Endsley’s good humor suggests he would probably chuckle along, he notes his second vocational act is no laughing matter. It’s a God thing, Endsley said of adding pastoral duties at Centre Wheeling Fellowship to the hard-charging demands he faces as general manager of the McDonald’s store in Martins Ferry.

“When I leave the (McDonald’s) job and switch to this job, this job is a calling and I don’t count the hours,” he said. Until he actually did recently and realized he’s working the equivalent of two full-time positions.

“I work about 50 hours at McDonald’s and 30 at the church,” he said matter of factly. Then he grinned and swept a hand around his study-like office, tucked into one corner of the multi-story building located in the Centre Market neighborhood. “I’ve fallen asleep at my desk — this desk.”

A DELICATE BALANCE

While full-on pastoring came along only in the last decade, Endsley said he began ministerial training at age 18, while attending the United Pentecostal Church. Feeling a call to the Wheeling area by his early 20s, he said he worked in various, non-pastoral capacities during the majority of the nearly 40 years he has spent in the restaurant world.

That includes 22 years at the downtown Elby’s Big Boy. When that store closed, he operated his own Endsley’s Restaurant at the same site for seven years. It was after he took on leadership of the McDonald’s store in 2007 that his church activity turned pastoral.

First, Endsley said, he pastored a United Pentecostal Church in Steubenville. Then, he came to Centre Wheeling Fellowship, a non-denominational congregation likely best known for its Free Bike Depot ministry.

The switch was a notable move to the middle for both Endsley and the congregation.

His own lifelong church affiliation had leaned toward Christianity’s doctrinal right — with such cultural practices as women not cutting their hair. The Centre Market congregation, in contrast, had a long association with mainline Protestantism and became independent when members felt its current affiliation had moved too far to the doctrinal left.

So, while he’s popping out of McDonald’s on occasion to visit someone in the hospital or conduct a funeral, he and a team of church leaders are also hammering out where they are in terms of biblical Christianity.

Sometimes it comes with visuals, he noted. He requested that the pulpit literally be moved to the middle from a raised platform on the side of the altar that seemed distant from the people in the pews. A historic infant baptismal left the sanctuary while an immersion baptismal is now located on the ground floor — the same level where winter services have moved in order to keep heating costs down.

Money issues like that loom big for today’s churches, he said, noting many American congregations can no longer afford a full-time pastor. That is especially true if health insurance and retirement funds are part of the package, he said. Growing up, he knew many pastors who did not have any insurance, a sacrifice he thought was greater than should be expected in the modern world.

Given that kind of thinking, Endsley said he accepts only a housing allowance from the church. He believes this is a good solution all around.

“It keeps you current with where people are at and what they’re doing,” he said of his hope to continue his secular work until retirement. “But, at the same time, I’m not (financially) reliant on the church or a burden to the church, which helps us both grow.”

That cutting loose of the pastoral ministry from church finances also set up a dynamic that surprised both him and the congregation, he noted. There’s a relationship rather than an employer-employee agreement.

He hopes members have come to an understanding that, “he’s doing this because he loves us and cares for us.”

DOUBLE TEAMING

The idea of relationship pervades both sides of his work, Endsley said. It takes a team for things to happen on both sides.

At McDonald’s, he said the franchise-owning Stoltz family has been understanding if he needs to leave for a funeral service, for example. He said his staff of about 60, which includes eight manager assistants, is well able to keep the burgers and fries moving at those times.

A similar team is now in place at the church, he noted. The congregation includes two retired pastors, several seasoned teachers and Dave Holloway, a retired Oglebay administrator who co-pastors, managing the building and the church’s finances.

The team approach has allowed the congregation — which is down somewhat to about 35-40 since the pandemic — to move toward keeping the church building hopping all week long, Endsley said.

There are counselors on site and multiple peer-support programs to help people facing addiction, homelessness and other issues. Bringing that commitment even closer to home, a baby is whimpering down to a nap in the apartment above Endsley’s office during his interview. The church has committed to housing a young mother in need and her infant for a year — and helping them move toward independent housing after that.

Multiple Bible studies take place in various parts of the building. The basement is dedicated to the Free Bike Depot, which has launched some 2,000 bicycles into the community on an as-needed basis.

Recently, Endsley has been painting and otherwise refreshing a stage area intended for youth programming. Interestingly, a plaque to one side of the stage revealed that was also the intent when the stage was built literally 100 years ago.

He’s clearly not the first person to put in some serious time at the church and he hopes to keep on doing so. He’s learned the kind of pacing it takes to do such things, he said. “I get enough exercise at McDonald’s (plus) naps and proper sleep.”

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