Many ministers throughout church history have supplemented their spiritual work with a secondary job or business. Some see it as a temporary solution until they can minister full time. Others see it as an opportunity to reach the marketplace for Christ. But recently, the pandemic has forced many to see bivocational work in a new light.
During the pandemic’s mandatory lockdowns, numerous churches and concert venues shuttered their doors. This not only hurt church giving, but it also forced almost all music artists to cancel their concerts. And what happens when music groups can’t tour? Their industry suffers—and so do their bank accounts.
But while many artists were struggling during 2020, others were able to stay afloat. And many of them in the Gospel music industry have supplemental jobs to thank for that, says Dean Hickman, owner of The Guardians.
A Singer of Many Talents
Hickman tells Answers in Genesis that, for The Guardians, COVID-19 didn’t mean a salary cut. It simply meant more time alone with family. Even though their tour dates dipped from the usual 80 to 90 per year to a total of 12 in 2020, each member of the southern Gospel quartet was taken care of.
How did The Guardians come through the pandemic financially unscathed? It turns out that Hickman isn’t just a talented tenor. He’s also a business-savvy leader. With that expertise, he also manages a team that inspects nuclear weapons facilities for the Department of Energy.
“No other company in the world does this,” he says. “We actually go in and try to steal the special nuclear material, or the nuclear weapon, or we try to sabotage that weapon and their facilities. We use special forces and SEAL team members, open up a window of time at the facility, and during that period of time, we will attack the facility.”
If Hickman’s group is successful, the site shuts down temporarily while its leaders present a report to Congress explaining how they will fix the security issues. Once they have implemented those changes, Hickman’s group inspects the facility again.
Hickman’s two careers certainly seem like polar opposites. After all, how much does testing nuclear-weapons facilities have in common with singing Gospel music? Probably about as much as making tents has to do with church-planting. The apostle Paul supported his ministry with his work as a tent-maker, as did Aquila and Priscilla (see Acts 18:1-3). Paul and his fellow missionaries “worked night and day” to earn an income that was separate from their ministry (see 1 Thessalonians 2:9).
More Opportunities to Minister
Perhaps COVID-19 confirms the wisdom in this practice. After all, Hickman’s non-ministry work didn’t just provide for his immediate family—it also freed The Guardians to keep ministering despite the pandemic’s threats to the Gospel music industry.
And ultimately, that’s what The Guardians are all about, Hickman says. Their mission is simply to encourage people with their gospel-centered lyrics and catchy country melodies.
“We are a ministry group,” he says. “We look for very meaty songs, and we record songs that will go into the heart. Our ministry goal isn’t to become No. 1 in all areas but rather to get out there, minister to people, and help people the best we know how. And God has really blessed us in that area. No doubt about it.”
Since the lockdowns have lifted and venues have reopened, The Guardians have successfully picked up more tour dates. Within the first three months of 2021, the group had 15 performances, which was more than what they had in all of 2020. And to add to their success, their song “I Wish I Could Tell You” became a No. 1 hit in April.
Within just a few months, they will also be performing at the biggest Christian music festival in the world. On August 10 and September 5, The Guardians will take the stage at the Ark Encounter in Williamstown, Kentucky, for the 40 Days & Nights of Gospel Music event.
“I think this event is great for southern Gospel music, to get the word out,” Hickman says. “It’s also great for the glorification of Christ, that people hear this music.”