3 Great Side Hustles for Church Planters

By Clint Clifton

These days it seems every church planter has a "side hustle." The increasingly expensive cities we are working to reach have created a need for a marketable skill or trade that will provide a missiological and financial foothold in the community. So what side hustles are most compatible with church planting?

They say “Necessity is the mother of invention” and most church planters I know have plenty of needs. When I started church planting in the early 2000s I found myself, like a lot of planters, in need of a little extra income to help supplement what I was earning from my miniature ministry. So I started looking for a “side hustle.” I noticed a lot of my neighbors had stumps in their yards. On a bit of a whim, I went to Home Depot, rented a stump grinder and started knocking on doors. To my surprise, the first day I earned about $400. I was in business!

My side hustle story was pretty rare 20 years ago, but these days it seems everyone has a side hustle. I’ve been thrilled to see how dramatically the side hustle and the “Gig Economy” has changed church planting for the better. Now, virtually every church planter I work with has multiple streams of income. Brad Brisco already has told us what he thinks is so great about this trend in his article, “3 Benefits of Bivocational Church Planting,” so I won’t dig into that.

I do want to say that church planting and entrepreneurship are close cousins. We see examples of bivocational church planting from the very beginning of the churches story. Paul and his friends Priscilla and Aquila were partners in both the marketplace and the mission field.

There is a delicate balance between our responsibility to care for our family (1 Tim. 5:8) and the call to “pour ourselves out” for the sake of Christ (Phil. 2:17). Yet, in the increasingly expensive cities we are working to reach, many of us resonate with Paul’s desire not to be a financial burden on the congregations we lead (2 Cor. 11:9).  So many church planters are working to develop a side hustle – a marketable skill or trade that will give them a missiological and financial foothold in their community.

Daniel Im has written about it, Ed Stetzer has talked about it on the New Churches Podcast and at least two books have been written on the subject: Myron Pierce’s book, The Side Hustle Pastor: How to Put Food on the Table and Fund Your Ministry and Sean Benesh’s book, Intrepid: Navigating the Intersection of Church Planting + Social Entrepreneurship.

So if the Gig Economy and the expense of city life is creating a less-vocational future for tomorrow’s missionary-pastor, what side hustles are most compatible with church planting? Here are three great options:

  • Real estate: Working as a real estate agent is a great side hustle for church planters. In most states, getting a real estate license takes between four and six months and costs less than $500. Realtors set their own hours, work from home a lot and, with average home prices approaching the $400,000 mark, a 3% realtor commission. A real estate side hustle also has missiological advantages: Realtors are in the people business, interreacting with investors, civic leaders and new residents to your community!
  • Reselling: Online retailers like eBay, Esty, Amazon and Facebook Marketplace are making it possible for anyone to own an online store with a built-in customer base. Just an hour or two each day can provide the supplementary income and schedule flexibility a church planter needs in those early days of planting. I know one church planter who earns enough to support his family simply by reselling used books on Amazon.
  • Driving: Uber, Lyft, Postmates, Instacart, Door Dash – the list is endless when it comes to tech-based driving for hire. The bar for entry on this is low and the flexibility high. These options also allow you to calibrate your work hours to suit your financial need. For example, if you need to earn more per hour, you can drive during peak hours and earn more. Driving also is a great way to get to know your community and the people who live there.

The list could go on and on. Substitute teaching, property management, copy editing, graphic design and bookkeeping also offer popular side hustles for planters. The key is to find something you enjoy doing that provides both missiological and financial advantages. If you want to explore a variety of side hustle options, check out upwork.com or fiverr.com for inspiration.

Published March 21, 2022

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Clint Clifton

Clint Clifton is the founding pastor of Pillar, a multiplying church in the suburbs of Washington, D.C., and the senior director of resource and research strategy at the North American Mission Board. He is the author of several books and periodicals on the subject of church planting, including Church Planting Thresholds: A Gospel Centered Church Planting Guide and Church Planting Primer and is the host of the Church Planting podcast.