Side Hustles

I once knew a pastor who had a side job as a public school bus driver – unbeknownst to the congregation he served.  One of the elders from his church was sitting at an intersection waiting for the red light to change, when she glanced at the bus to her left and saw that the driver was her pastor.  That’s why he was never available for early morning or afternoon meetings.  That’s why he complained about having to work Holy Week or around Christmastime.  We also learned later that he’d been renting out his own study at the church building to another pastor and keeping the rent money.

This is not what I’m talking about when I refer to pastors with side hustles.

A financial mentor HH and I are reading believes that every person needs three streams of income.  Whether you are a teacher or a barber or a pastor, she suggests three streams of income for all.

For pastors, this is called Tentmaking and it usually refers to pastors whose churches do not or cannot pay the pastor a living wage.  The Apostle Paul was literally a tentmaker on the side, and I’ve known part-time preachers who also work as web designers, therapists, jewelry makers, and bakers.  Usually these additional jobs are known to the congregations served by those pastors (unlike the bus driver-pastor.)

I once made a comment about getting a second job when I was serving as a pastor, paid the minimum salary and having a hard time covering our family expenses.  The parishioner was clearly horrified:

Why would you do that?  It would bring embarrassment to our church because people would think we don’t pay you enough.  And besides you already work for us 24-7.

Seriously, that’s what she said.

So, what about “appropriate” side hustles?  Having three streams of income could mean that two adults both have salaries and you also have investments.  Or you could have a single income but on the side you sell stuff on eBay and do calligraphy for weddings.  Or maybe you get paid well but you rent out your guest room via AirBNB and you make face masks at home to sell on Etsy for “vacation money.”

Pastors do a lot of things for free:

  • Weddings and funerals for friends and even strangers (even though people should offer an honorarium.)
  • Preach for churches that can’t afford a pastor (although – again – they should be paid for their services plus mileage.)
  • Write articles for journals.
  • Speak at conferences.
  • Lead workshops.

My new financial mentor friend says that we should never offer our expertise for free, even for church leaders.  Pastors tend to be generous with our time and we often perceive that faith organizations cannot afford to pay us.  We didn’t choose professional ministry for the money.

And yet . . .

Everyone reading this post has something valuable to offer.  Intellectual property. Time. Creative ideas. Tangible artistry.

We’ve been saying this for a long time in Church World, but side hustles are going to become more and more essential as fewer and fewer congregations can afford full time pastoral leadership.  I like thinking of side hustles as a creative outlet rather than a burdensome requirement for supporting ourselves and our families.

So, I ask you faithful readers:

  • If you have a full-time pastor, how would you feel about your pastor earning extra income on the side?
  • If you are a professional pastor, have you ever picked up extra work either because you wanted to or you had to?

Please share.

Image of retired Presbyterian pastor Grant Gillard who – even while serving congregations – raised bees.  He continues to sell honey in his retirement.

7 responses to “Side Hustles

  1. I’ve been contemplating a side hustle for a while now: Marking Moments. For those folks who want a spiritual component to rituals/celebrations, but who aren’t part of a religious community and who have no intention of being part of one. Such as baby blessings, marriages and end of life rituals. Where I live, marriage commissioners are not allowed to include anything spiritual at all.


  2. I had a job organizing a Farmers Market while I pastored my first church. It was hard because sometimes pastoral emergencies happen while you’re “on the clock” at your other job. It made me a better pastor though, because it connected me to a wider community outside of the little church bubble. Plus, I had no idea how deep Jesus’ agricultural metaphors and parables are until I started hanging out with some small, organic farmers every week.
    My church was really understanding and supportive of this, because my “market sermons” were often the best ones, not to mention the fresh peaches that would show up at potlucks. It helped that I shared this idea with them during the call process too.


  3. Sharon O'Rand Hasenjaeger

    Or maybe the pastor is actually called to bi-vocational ministry and just maybe the church benefits from their pastor(s) being bi-vocational.


  4. Sharon O'Rand Hasenjaeger

    and just maybe the church benefits from their pastor(s) being bi-vocational.


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