‘Pest pastor’ makes home connections

SPRING HILL, Kan. (BP) — Jay Sloan had a calling so clear, it bugged him into doing something about it.

Sloan has spent more than a year getting inside homes as the owner/operator of Believe Pest Control. At a client dinner last week, he formally announced the official launch of Believe Church this Easter. It wasn’t a surprise, as Sloan and his wife of 28 years, Ronda, have been active in the community with Believe Church’s launch team.

However, relationships established over a pesky wasp nest or safeguarding against termites will no doubt go to a deeper level. He’s learned some things in more than 15 years in pest control through lessons that prove quite beneficial for someone in a pastoral role.

“The need is universal,” he said. “Everybody at one time or another has had problems with a pest.

“It’s also an intimate problem. People are inviting you into their home to show something that they typically don’t want others to know about. They’re letting you into their world.”

Years ago as a 34-year-old pastor in California, Sloan needed another income stream to provide for his wife and four kids. That led to part-time work with some pest control companies.

Snakes aren’t the focus of Believe Pest Control, but can be removed if Jay Sloan is already responding to a call, as was the case here in the company’s early days. Looking on is his wife, Ronda. Photo courtesy of Jay Sloan

Six years later he started his own. Sloan’s father took a second home mortgage to help get it off the ground. A year later Sloan had paid him back.

From there, things got busy. Seven years with no vacation while serving as a pastor, worship leader and running a full-time pest control business led to burnout and Sloan stepping away from ministry in 2017.

He focused on recovery and work. While the pandemic in 2020 shuttered many businesses, it provided a boon for Sloan. Pests can’t run rampant and infestations need to be dealt with, so companies like his received the crucial “essential” label from the government.

“People were working from home and they noticed more ants and spiders,” he said. “Our business doubled.”

Eventually, he eased back into volunteering for ministry. In 2021 the opportunity opened up to move to the Kansas City area and near family, so he sold his business.

They launched Believe Pest Control in Spring Hill, the town’s first locally owned pest control company, and spent a year building inroads as well as financial security for his family. The family also attended New City Church, a Southern Baptist congregation in Shawnee.

Soon, discussions were happening about New City helping start a church in Spring Hill, south of Shawnee, with Sloan as the pastor.

New City Church and Believe Church are both Send Network churches with the North American Mission Board. New City is also the sending church for Believe Church.

In recent months, Believe Church has put itself in the community through outreaches like a block party and fall carnival. The Sloans’ work through their ministry as well as their company is notable.

“Jay and Ronda are a model for future planters concerning how to plant a church in a sustainable way in an underserved community,” said Matt Maestas, Send Network church-planting catalyst for Kansas City. “By first engaging their city through starting a business, they added value and addressed a real need before they ever thought of having a worship service.

“My hope is that increasing numbers of planters will see what Jay and Ronda are doing and consider it a preferred way of planting in the future.”

The couple respond to calls together, so clients get to know them both. They’ve also experienced the job together, as in stubborn wasp nests, spiders, ants, mice and SWAT teams.

Yes, that happened.

While on a call one time, Sloan was spraying inside a house. Suddenly a SWAT team burst through the door – weapons drawn – looking for a suspect at the residence. Sloan and his wife were detained before the suspect was found hiding in the attic.

Jay Sloan, at left wearing ball cap, stands beside his wife, Ronda, holding their grandson, Levi, following a Bible study in their garage among the core team of Believe Church. Photo courtesy of Jay Sloan

“It was a rental property and one of the family members was a convicted criminal,” Sloan said. “It must’ve been a big deal, because around 40 cops came in. They put me on the ground, pulled my wife out of the car. We were in 30-degree weather for about 40 minutes.”

On another occasion, an Indian family would not harm or remove rats in their home due to their religious beliefs. It eventually reached a point, though, where the infestation forced them to call Sloan.

“They asked for me to get rid of them; do whatever I needed to do,” he said.

New City Church has provided financial support for Believe Church, including in areas such as assessment and training. Through his company, Sloan focuses on pest control that requires continued visits – “No snakes or wildlife,” he said – and thus, consistent residual income.

It’s a model he’d like to see other church planters copy.

“I’d like to train ‘pest pastors’ who can offset their costs while building relationships with others,” he said. “Like anything, you have to do it the right way. Iron out the wrinkles as you go and don’t cut corners.”

A core team of about 25 adults and children meet on Sunday nights in the Sloan garage for Bible study. It appears those who first met Sloan as an exterminator are set to join them.

“We had a big client dinner last week, with about 80 people, and announced to them about the church,” Sloan said. “Our launch team served the food.

“About seven families came up to me afterward to talk about the church. They said, ‘Yeah, we want to be part of that.’”

Published January 20, 2023