Making ends meet, side hustles, and second jobs—is making it work really working?
Challenge Four: When Funding Limitations and Outside Work Demands Restrict the Point Leader(s)
When I finished seminary outside of Amsterdam, I had a lead on my next vocational step. A pastor friend in the States invited me to join the pastoral staff of his church, which seemed like a great place to land after several years of cross-cultural ministry. And so, my loving spouse, two baby girls, and I prepared for the big move, even donating our car to a local ministry. And then...it all fell through. The elders of the church weren’t ready to hire me after all. Here we were, ready to jump with no landing place in view. This precipitated an unnerving “Oh no, God, how will we make it?!” kind of week.
Thank God, the Creator rose to the occasion and did some flash creating. With no knowledge of our latest news, the couple on the receiving end of our car donation suddenly called one evening with a surprising invitation: “Hey Dan, we’re moving to the UK! Would you and your wife please consider taking over as pastoral wardens of the Dovecote Hostel in The Hague?” With quite a bit of back-and-forth negotiating, my initial resistance to the idea finally melted when their board agreed to provide us with an apartment, a stipend, and the leeway to prioritize work I was doing at a new church in Amsterdam—work that I hoped would mature into a funded pastoral position.
Little did I know the hostel job would become a critical piece of a larger unfolding drama. As we cared for international students attending a local grad school, we began to meet all kinds of Dutch and expat folks who wanted to be involved. The work we were doing became an easy talking point in conversations with strangers. In contrast, I avoided mentioning my role in the Amsterdam church as that usually led to an abrupt end to any conversation.
WHEN MORE THAN ONE JOB MAKES SENSE…
Without planning, this “secondary job” became the chief avenue through which we were eventually able to start a church in The Hague. That role gave us credibility with unchurched folk in and around the school, who loved the idea that my wife and I were meeting practical social needs of visiting students. It provided us with income and housing, while also bolstering our reputation with local churches. It took about a year and a half of working this job to awaken us to the idea of church planting among our growing relational networks. Soon I resolved to get out of both my volunteer church job and my paid hostel job to attain the crowning role of “full-time church planter.” It took some effort and a lot of fundraising, but in time I managed to get what I wanted. A new international church eventually took root in the city, and it’s still thriving today.
In retrospect, I don’t think I ever gave due credit to that hostel job for helping me succeed in planting. I viewed it only as a stepping stone. Now I recognize that it was a relational stage-setter for starting a church, and it could well have become an ongoing complementary part-time job. But that never entered my mind, as in those days (when dinosaurs roamed the earth), full-time vocational ministry was the dominant paradigm. Today, that’s obviously not the case. Fewer and fewer church starters are able to find the funding needed to support a full-time startup role. And even if funding could be found, many don’t want to operate that way—and for legitimate strategic reasons!
Staying involved in more than one vocational trajectory can actually make good sense, even throughout the entire planting experience. For one, it can help team leaders move in greater financial freedom, as fundraising among friends and sponsoring churches generally requires time, travel, and a commitment to developing mutually-beneficial relationships. A second job can also provide the planter with relational bridges into culture, enabling a sense of solidarity with the average Jane or Joe who, in a like manner, have to juggle multiple jobs just to stay afloat (1). And, besides providing more latitude for the planter’s vocational satisfaction, bi-vocational arrangements can make room for other point leaders to step in and share the rigorous demands of a church startup. Two or three leaders running on point means everyone has more room to breathe and cultivate momentum.
Nowadays, being a lone point leader pouring out 60+ hours per week into church planting may not be the optimal way to lead a startup. Perhaps you’ve already decided that in your situation. I noticed recently that a friend who was doing a great job overseeing church starters in his denomination recently recast his role as “director of co-vocational church planting,” drawing attention to the reality that a mixed-role platform is increasingly the preferred option for lead planters in American contexts today (2). While this may be a trend, if you’re a church starter who wants to operate this way, you’ll need to take measures to ensure your outside work does not squelch the generative momentum needed to get a church started.
Corralling and synergizing the people and resources needed to plant a church that’s attentive to new discipleship and multiplication requires a great deal from leadership teams. There’s not much way around that reality. If you allow the demands of other jobs to siphon off too much time and energy without somehow complementing or fueling the planting process, you as a planter may struggle to deliver the leadership presence and intensity required to get a faith community established. This is likely even more true if your team is working in a disadvantaged neighborhood, where you regularly encounter radical brokenness and needs.
When choosing vocational roles to supplement the planting roles, I encourage starters to be shrewd in leadership focus. You as a team leader generally need to view your church startup role as the priority against other vocational roles. In other words, your heart must remain steadfastly committed to planting. If your passions lie elsewhere or get too dispersed, the project will most likely suffer (3). One starter I worked with in my city decided to take up a chaplaincy in addition to leading his church planting team. The people he served through that work had little natural interface with his neighborhood and the core group, and that was already a small red flag. It soon became apparent that his heart was really in the chaplaincy job and the planting initiative would have to play second fiddle. Within a year, he bailed on the project and it never reached viability. This is not an uncommon storyline, believe me.
If you’re underway with a planting initiative, creative vocational outlets may be a wise strategic alternative to intentional fundraising. Or you may be wise to factor in both, given that funding limitations do pose a real threat to church startups. Much depends on whether you have other seasoned leaders on your team to help lead the project forward. If you do, you’ll likely have more flexibility. If not, fundraising may be a worthwhile option for you to pursue.
Though many loathe the idea of support-raising, such partnerships can be vital to freeing up a leader’s time and energy for planting. And they also can be formative to those giving. Grants are out there for church planting too, and often these can be used as seed money that others can be challenged to match. As the project begins to get traction, your forming community may need to start supporting its leaders sooner rather than later (i.e. not simply relying on limited grant monies or what you as the leaders can provide). Keep in mind that this giving value is usually harder to instill in a community that is used to NOT bearing much financial burden to start their church. People need to own their faith community, and giving is part of fostering that ownership. Lastly, do remind yourself regularly that what you’re attempting to start is well worth supporting. You don’t have to apologize!
Some questions and suggestions:
How might you reorient your vocational platform so that as many aspects as possible might be congruent or complementary with your aims to plant?
If you’re working bi-vocationally as a team leader, what is your plan for sharing leadership and insuring that startup momentum, new discipleship, and needed rhythms/structures for growth are not compromised?
Consider personal support-raising and pursuing grants as ways to help undergird your availability to the planting initiative. If you have reservations about fundraising, please read Henri Nouwen’s little booklet The Spirituality of Fundraising available as a free pdf: https://www.perceptionfunding.org/uploads/1/6/8/9/16891606/spiritualityoffundraisingbyhenrinouwen_267.pdf
written by Dan Steigerwald
For more about Dan or to get in touch with him, visit https://artesiaresourcing.com/about/
According to a LinkedIn article released this past month, by 2020 50% of the American workforce will be working as independent contractors or freelancers (see https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/2020-50-americans-expected-working-independent-zubair-alexander/, accessed May 6, 2019).
A “covo” planter, according to Brad Briscoe, is “one who has a clear and definite calling in the marketplace that they never intend to leave. They know God has called them to be a teacher, mechanic or doctor and they desire to weave that calling into the plan to start a new church.” See Brad Briscoe’s free ebook available at www.namb.net: Covocational Church Planting: Aligning Your Marketplace Calling with the Mission of God (Alpharetta, GA: SEND Network, 2018), 25.
If two or more bi-vocational leaders join you in sharing the point leadership burden, I’d say at least one of your leaders needs to make the planting initiative their priority role.