If you’re part of a church planting team (or if you’re considering it), then you probably know that your position does not come with a salary. Nope. Instead, it comes with a lot of hard work, a lot of prayer, a fair amount of discipline, and a need to support yourself and your family through some means other than drawing a salary from the church.
Back in the day, we called this kind of ministry bi-vocational or tent making. And way back in the day, this was the only kind of ministry there was. Before big churches with big budgets and denominations and all of that, followers of Jesus worked for a living and lived out their mission for little or no income. Yes, they were missional before missional was in vogue.
I am seeing a fair number of church planters employ this model in recent years. As denominations either cut back on church planting or attach too many strings, church planters are raising support on their own and funding the mission through a job outside the church. If you’re one of these guys or gals, you might interested in six good ways to earn an income while planting a church:
- Freelance. You’ve got skills, and services like Elance, Odesk, and Freelancer provide a way to use those skills on behalf of clients around the world. The church planters I know who freelance like it because of the extreme flexibility of schedule it provides.
- Substitute Teacher. You’re educated, good with people, organized, and can control a crowd for at least sixty minutes, all of which makes you a great candidate for teaching in public or private school. Depending on the school system, some subs work up to a day or two per week. It’s a great way to meet people in the community and provides ample fodder for sermon illustrations.
- UPS/FedEx. Talk about hard work – this job is just that. Loading trucks all night so the rest of us can get our books, shoes, and toilet paper delivered is grueling, but it also pays pretty well. I’ve known plenty of church planters who work a night shift, take a nap and then do ministry for a few hours. They tell me that one of the upsides of all that hard work is the money they save on a gym membership.
- Coffee Shop. This gig is not just for those who live in Seattle or Portland. Now that there’s a Starbucks on every corner in America, there are a lot of opportunities to sling coffee for a few hours and still have time and energy (from all that caffeine) for ministry. The coffee shop folks I know have taken advantage of early morning shifts that leave afternoons and evenings free for ministry. And those who work for the big green mermaid also benefit from the benefits.
- Home Improvement. This line of work isn’t for everyone (what is?), but some church planters love the variety and the interactions that come from working at Home Depot, Lowe’s or some other hardware/home improvement store. Unlike some other forms of retail, this one feels kind of rugged and doesn’t require you to listen to Muzak all day.
- Book Store. Admittedly, there are fewer and fewer brick and mortar bookstores around these days, but if you’re lucky enough to live near a Barnes and Noble or even a LifeWay store, then this might be a good fit. I’ve known quite a few church planters who’ve made rent by stocking shelves and chatting up book buyers. The way home improvement seems rugged, working in a bookstore feels smarter than other retail. And we all know that church planters are smart.
These are the jobs I’ve seen work well for church planters. Other church planters avoid these kinds of jobs and go for a straight up occupation that can be a long-term source of income. What have you seen work for church planters? And if you are (or have been) a planter, what did you do?