Why (and how) to supplement your ministry salary

diversify_incomeWhen I lost my youth ministry job a few years ago I was very glad I had this site. All the time and energy I had poured into Life In Student Ministry over the years suddenly made this blog become an asset I couldn’t afford to live without. I very quickly realized how important it was to have a diversified income. “Don’t put all your eggs in one basket” took on a whole new meaning for me because sometimes things happen that are outside your control.

Situations to Consider

Several times over the past couple months I’ve talked with youth workers who felt like they couldn’t make the decisions they needed to make concerning their ministry situation because of the financial implications it would have for their family. Other youth workers I know are just downright underpaid, but can’t move to a better paying position for legitimate reasons.

My advice to youth workers in both situations is this: start a side business.

In fact, it’s probably a good idea for most people in general because who knows what will happen five years from now. Since side-projects that generate an income can often take several years to build, five years from now you may wish you had started building a supplemental side income earlier.

Being in the position I’m in now, I’ve found that financial freedom outside the church gives me more freedom inside the church. It’s great! Now I get to serve for free at a new church plant because I get paid outside the church. The freedom that brings for me inside the church is amazing! I feel like I can be so much more effective in pretty much every way.

Common Objections

I realize as soon as I say, “Start your own side business,” most people think, “Yeah right, I can’t do that!” To be fair, some people can’t just because they’re personally not wired for it. But others don’t even consider it for the following reasons.

1. “I don’t have time to take on another project.” And that’s probably true. What I do (and many entrepreneurs I know) is just take whatever I do for fun and find a way to monetize it. Both blogging and spending time with my family was something I already did with my limited free time. Now they both provide a passive part-time income for my family. To quote Dan Miller, “Turn your play into your work so you never have to work another day in your life.”

2. “I know nothing about running a business.” Yeah, I didn’t either. Fortunately, it’s not nearly as hard as it sounds. With the exception of tax implications (depending on what you do), most of it is common sense. Find a good tax guy, read a few books (I’ll suggest a few in a second), and pursue your idea.

3. “I don’t want to take loans to launch my idea.” Most entrepreneurs I know who make seven figure incomes never took a loan. They started with an idea, took it as far as they could with the limited resources available to them, and slowly built it over time. For example, my first videos were created with nothing but the iSight webcam on my Macbook Pro. The money I made from those first videos I later reinvested into better equipment.

Turning Your Passion into Profit

You’re passionate about youth ministry, but what you’re truly passionate about is actually something much deeper inside you. Youth ministry is just how you express that passion. It’s the symptom of something else.

If you can identify that “something else,” chances are you’d be equally as excited about expressing that passion in other ways, too, ways you could monetize to provide a little income on the side and still be true to your passion. I can tell you personally that expressing that passion in multiple ways has certainly benefited my effectiveness in each of the other ways.

Books To Read

There a couple books that were helpful for me as I turned Life In Student Ministry and YouTube from my play into my work. I highly recommend these first two books whether you’re interested in starting something on the side or not.

No More Dreaded Mondays: Ignite Your Passion–and Other Revolutionary Ways to Discover Your True Calling at Work
This book asks good questions that, if you wrestle through them, will help you discover ideas you’re really passionate about and how to turn those ideas into an income. It’s written by a Christian guy, so he views work from a biblical perspective and talks a bit about what a biblical understanding of work really is and isn’t. This was probably the most helpful book for me out of all the bunch. I highly recommended it.

The 4-Hour Workweek: Escape 9-5, Live Anywhere, and Join the New Rich
This books discusses personal productivity whether you work for yourself, someone else, or at a church. The author tells some of his story of transitioning from jobs that sucked the life out of him to starting his own business. He shares a lot of valuable lessons that he learned along the way. Although his lessons can (and should) be easily implemented into both your youth ministry and business, it’s more about taking a different perspective on how you work and your productivity.

Guerrilla Marketing, 4th edition: Easy and Inexpensive Strategies for Making Big Profits from Your Small Business
This book gives you ideas for how to spread the message about your product or service in ways that don’t cost you a lot of money, which is perfect for us as youth workers, right? Marketings may sound technical and complicated to those who aren’t familiar with it, but it’s really just a lot of common sense. A lot of the principles in this book can also carry over to promoting your youth ministry.

The E-Myth Revisited: Why Most Small Businesses Don’t Work and What to Do About It
There are a lot of great lessons to learn about starting and running a business here. One of the big classics about being an entrepreneur, including what it means to be an entrepreneur, some of the big myths surrounding it, the kind of people you need to surround yourself with, and what you need to have in place for your efforts to be successful.

Posted on January 8, 2013

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