School administrator changes career to church leader


Tim Tharp, who grew up in Sidney, reached pretty much the highest level that an educator can achieve in the state. Yet, he wanted something more. Because of that desire, his life has taken a different path.

Tharp, who as served as Montana’s deputy state superintendent of public instruction under Elsie Arntzen for a year and a half, said he missed the positive and personal relationships that he had with children as a school administrator.

“I felt like I should be doing something else,” Tharp told the Herald. “I felt removed. I had been really involved with activities and athletics.”

Tharp’s long history in education started as a teacher in Scobey. He then served as superintendent/principal/athletic director at Dutton, Sunburst and Hobson.

But along with those strong relationships that Tharp felt with people, he also couldn’t ignore a strong push to serve God. Tharp took his feelings to the ELCA Bishop located in Great Falls, and he was urged to serve as pastor for First Lutheran Church in Savage and Grace Lutheran Church in Skaar.

Since the churches haven’t had a full-time pastor for several years, Tharp welcomes the opportunity to serve as the minister there. 

“In all regards, I’m treated as a regular pastor,” Tharp said.

He, however, isn’t scheduled to complete his studies to become an ordained pastor until January of 2021. So, Tharp is 48 years old, but the former longtime school administrator has years of studying to complete in order to earn his newest goal.

“After four college degrees, I’m back in school again,” Tharp laughed.

His study work includes a lot of online work plus eight weeks of on-location studying during a two and a half year period. Tharp explained six of those eight weeks will be spent at Cal Lutheran in Berkley, Calif., and the other two weeks will be at Luther Seminary in Minnesota.

Religious devotion is not totally new to Tharp. While school superintendent in Hobson, he filled in as a lay pastor at a church three Sundays a month. “I told them I needed one day a month off,” Tharp said of being a school superintendent and lay pastor. “I really enjoyed what I was doing. I got some great feedback.”

He is enjoying the service that he is conducting at the area churches.

“We have a group of really great people,” Tharp said. “It’s been really different coming back home. I love what I’m getting to do.”

He laughs that many people in the area know his last name because his mother, Violet, worked at JC Penney’s for many years. “They say is your mother…I say yeah,” Tim laughed.

He tries to get involved in Savage’s school environment by driving the bus for sports teams and playing his tuba for the school’s small pep band.

“I’m still helping people,” Tharp said of his role change from administrator to church leader.


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