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Career Counselling

28 July, 2003 9:02 PM

How should an emerging church planter financially sustain themselves and their family?

Today I worked another shift at the warehouse that I've been picking up casual work at for the last few years. This morning my boss pulled me aside and asked me to consider taking on full time work there. I knew immediately that it wasn't going to work at present for several reasons. Firstly I study a day a week at bible college (just 1 year to go now!), secondly I work for Living Room a couple of days a week and thirdly warehouse work is slowly killing my back, knees, neck, sinuses, feet...etc.

However its got me thinking about where I'm headed 'career wise'. In 12 months I'll have a bachelor of Theology and at the end of next year the grant that funds the Living Room runs out. I'll have time on my hands and will be looking for a way to earn a living that has the potential to keep a family going.

So how does an emerging church planter make a living? I'm not expecting or even wanting to be rolling in cash - but one has to live somehow. I can't see how the model of church we're developing is going to fund a full time minister (and I'm not sure I'd want it to). I wonder if there will even be a place for paid 'ministers' (I don't like that word so much these days) in emerging churches?

I'm a little confused - thinking on my feet here - do I take on a warehouse job or something in a local cafe or bookshop - do I find a position with a para-church organization - do I keep trying to pick up speaking engagements and weddings where I can - do I go to university or tafe and get another qualification. (or do I start charging my blog readers big bucks to log onto this site and read my ramblings!)

I'm not really asking for advice (although if you've got some feel free to comment) - just thinking out loud - wondering - dreaming - stressing - hmmmm.



Hi Daz - been asking some similar qns lately! I want to make sure I am well connected with reality - not church culture - which might necessitate real work... But what - where - how??

hamo » 28 July, 2003 10:25 PM

Yes - my questions exactly. I feel it might be good to connect in the 'real world' work wise. But as a 31 year old with no qualifications outside of church - how?

I'd love to do something creative....hmmm....

Darren Rowse » 28 July, 2003 10:36 PM

Hey guys. This is extremely relevant stuff. That question comes up more and more as we all move more radically into emerging forms of church. I think it's a good thing. There are several redefinitions going on at once here - "what does it mean to be the church?" "what, then, does it mean to lead in the church?" In this new emerging arena, I think we're finding it's a more relational and organic world - how the church operates, how leaders operate. The business models of old are quickly passing away and therefore, the business-like ways in which we conducted our "leadership duties" are also passing.

I think this is good. It's fairly traumatic to some of us who are "trained only to do ministry" and "aren't qualified to do anything else." These phrases will go down in church history. I would encourage us all to push through these questions and not fall back on easy answers - meaning: don't necessarily fall back on the "paid position" track just because it seems impossible to do it another way. Go back to school for a practical degree. Get a job waiting tables. Open a coffee shop or pub. There are 100 choices. I know, easier said than done. But it is done. I'm a graphic designer myself - went back to school for it when I had 2 children - had been on staff at a church before this. My role in our community will almost assuredly never support me "full-time" in "ministry." Then again, the way we are being church does not warrant such a position, so no problem. Just sharing. Every time I hear this subject come up, I feel like chiming in - important stuff - sorry for the long post. Pax vobiscum.

+ Alan » 28 July, 2003 11:25 PM

When Josh and I moved bank to Ky after pastoring I thought it was a "step down" for him to get a job outside of the church, but I learned from it, that he has more of and opportunity to reach people then working in the church. He comes in contact with sinners everyday. I will be praying for you for direction.

Beth Sargent » 28 July, 2003 11:33 PM


My hubby's facing a similar question, but it's the reverse of yours. He's an electrician studying for ministry. He's getting to where people have started making him ministry offers. But he won't commit to anymore than filling in for pastors on vacation. He doesn't want to give up his job, with all the contacts he makes. That and he makes the bulk of the income supporting our family.

I don't recall where you and your wife are family-wise. Jeff and I have five kids, so that limits how much full-time "secular" work + part-time "church" work we can do.

Even "part-time" church work isn't part-time. I put in anywhere from 25-35 hours a week at my part-time postion. A 40 hr. a week job added to that--well, do the math--65-75 hrs. a week. Not much time for family there, is there?

There are lots of things to consider. What kind of cash flow do you need to make it? Don't forget you'll have to pay any college loans... And then there's insurance to consider. I'm not sure how you Aussie's do things, but in the States, only full-time employees need to be covered by their company--and then only at certain sized companies. You'll want flexibility, too. My husband's job has limited flexibility, so that can be an issue. Sometimes he has to just send me to ministry things, or ask off at work.

Oh man, just e-mail me. Or maybe I'll put this as a post on my blog...hmm...

Missy » 29 July, 2003 12:28 AM

hey bud,
when you find the answer let me know. I was in "full-time" paid ministry for 3 years. Then steped aside to rethink "church", plus I got married. Now I work @ a car dealership. It pays the bills, and I've made some good contacts. But as far as fulfilling it is not. I'd rather do almost anything creative. ie photography, graphic design, ? But I am not "qualified" just love to do it, and learned it by doing. When you find out please let me know asap.thanx

craig littlejohn » 29 July, 2003 2:40 AM

Having a low income job as a teacher, loans to repay from 7 years of schooling, owning a house, and the many other expenses that come with life, I can relate to the desire to wonder about how it will all get paid. But regardless of the decisions we end up making, we should keep at the forefront that God is the great provider and Jesus urges us in the gospel not to worry... "Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life?" (matthew 6:27) Certainly, this does not mean we go ahead without plans, but rather this knowledge should give us peace.

Jennifer » 29 July, 2003 3:11 AM

this discussion is so close to home for me that it is painful for me to consider. i'll just keep praying for God to show me the way. ugh.

Theo » 29 July, 2003 3:31 AM

I left my work-universe four years ago with the intention of getting some training and spending the rest of my life in some sort of "ministry" position. As I read, and thought, and prayed and talked to people and got sucked into this weird emerging church universe, it began to seem that maybe the best way to "lead", would be to live the same sort of life as those who I am called to serve.

Fortunately, I do have a marketable skill, so it wasn't hard (except emotionally) to find work. Now I have a job, which I can tolerate and which pays the bills, and I struggle mightily to have enough energy to think about community and faith and justice and stuff.

Here's my thinking about all of this, based on my "journey":

1) I instantly know why people pay someone: staff people actually have time and energy to do things. If your highest goals as a community is to accomplish things, you need staff. Giving up paid staff is an investment of the missing tangible into the intagibles.

2) I still think there is a place for "priesthood", for people the community chooses to support, for the good of the community. I think maybe priest/leader might be a bad combination, because we all end up feeling like second class christians, wishing we could have meaningful lives live the leader instead of dull lives like ours. I've been wondering though, about supporting artists, healers, teachers ...

Michael Toy » 29 July, 2003 3:35 AM

Same boat. Planted a church with denom funds three years ago. It is going well but not well enough. Funds are getting low... I (and my wife) had marketable skills but when employers see you haven't used them in 10 years, they don't seem to count. We'll see what happens.

A part-time pastor could be great for a community or it could be the wrecker. We are trying to simply trust God for opportunity and direction.

Brian Miller » 29 July, 2003 6:23 AM

I've been fulltime on both sides and many different combinations.( I hate that dualism, but you know what I mean.) Most pastors underestimate the transferable skills they have that are in demand in the marketplace. They just require some interpretation and a little creative marketing.

I think the isolated-from-the-world, paid-to-do-ministry-so-we-don't-have-to, fount-of-all-knowledge paid professional has little place in the emerging church. At the same time, true leaders and pastors are important as are artists, healers, teachers, etc.

As the number of conversations I'm having with people increases, how do I fit them around my 9-5, 40 hour work week? Where do I get the time for extended periods of reflection, solitude and meditation? Simply take it our of my evenings, weekends or vacation? Many of us have or will have young families. While I'm not saying we focus on the family, my family is a big part of the ministry I'm called to.

Energy is big too. Working a demanding job is draining emotionally and mentally.

I�m intrigued at the glimpses of how St Paul moved from one source of financial support to the other. I�m not sure that it was always motivated by need.

ronz » 29 July, 2003 7:39 AM

It is interesting for me to be finishing study and us finally looking forward to the prospect of two incomes - but all the alarm bells ring about the insatiable 'always wanting more' aspect of wealth that is never satisfied by actually having more. I am aware at times that I have bought into 'climbing ladders' a bit too much.

I personally would be sad to see you lose your space to reflect, think and write...just need to think of a way that it can support you, like speaking, writing, life coach, counselling, photography... Granted all those things are probably hard to get started in, but they would add your experience, they would remain life giving, rather than simply sapping all your energy relocating boxes.

I'll still let you have a floor of my warehouse!

Luke » 29 July, 2003 11:20 AM

such a timely conversation.

meg » 29 July, 2003 1:40 PM

If anyone figures it out, let me know. I would love to have the time available to spend my days studying, writing, and visiting. But I'm not sure it's worth the extra baggage of putting myself back in a traditional church pastorate.

Training for other jobs is more than just the words on your degree. "I'm not qualified for anything else." is often a cop-out, in my experience. My degree is in pastoral ministry. But, I have a great job doing customer service for a web hosting company. Communication skills are needed somewhere in any industry.

kevin » 30 July, 2003 3:45 AM

I'm coming at the question from the opposite side, and I'm just now starting to understand it. My wife and I have been working for a year now (teaching) since we graduated from college. We moved here (Seattle) to plant a church, and we're starting with that in October. Up to this point, we haven't spent all that much time on church stuff - just as much as you'd spend going to any church, maybe even less.

Now, we're realizing that starting a church will require a lot more than we've been giving. Just doing basic things like meeting people and hanging out with friends and serving others have been squeezed out of our lives by work. We need to set limits, I suppose. I want to be a good teacher (which often requires lots of take-home work), but I want to leave that in balance to the rest of my life as well, and the church is a huge priority.

I feel your dilemma.

Justin Baeder » 30 July, 2003 7:37 AM

This is yet another reason why the so called 'emerging church' is never going to really make a difference in our world. You are always on about small churches being the answer, yet you then complain when you reap the consequences of that decision. This is why I attend a large church. It means we can afford to pay our ministers to concentrate upon real ministry.

Greg » 30 July, 2003 5:21 PM

Man, that comment could really bum your trip.

Remember, Jesus said, "With man this is impossible, but with God, all things are possible." He didn't say it would be easy, mind you, just possible. Hang in there. Maybe we'll all discover the answer together.

Missy » 30 July, 2003 11:28 PM

I am dealing with right now. I recently left a paid ministry position with a church I worked with for almost eight years. I had been trying to work out a proposal that allowed me to start an emerging church supported by the larger church but my numbers were too low and my philosophy was not compatible. I am looking at alternative ways of employment and seriously considering if a paid position is even the way to go.

Mark Humphries » 31 July, 2003 10:29 AM

Greg forgot to leave his email or blog address. If anyone has it, send it on, I'd like to discover all the wonderful insight he has to share.

Luke » 31 July, 2003 4:39 PM

Just reading your blogs and looking at your site...have you ever thought about being a self-employed life coach? I obviously don't know you or your gifts but you could consider it. You could do it from your home and work with "clients" all over the world. You could work as little or as much as you wanted. And, I think there would be a hugh "market" for a life coach who is a Christian.

Kelly » 15 January, 2004 3:48 AM

Hey, I feel your pain. Having been a "full-time" traveling evangelist for around 17 years. )Read that no work experience). I am now looking at starting a church and trying to figure out the way to handle the financial end of things.

Mark » 6 February, 2005 7:43 PM

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