As a youth pastor, I never made a lot of money.
I was not poor, nor was I broke, but I saved very little for retirement and never seemed to get ahead. Later, as a church planter, money was even tighter.
Reflecting on nearly 20 years in working for local churches, I’ve been underpaid at times and fairly compensated at others. But a lot of my friends in ministry seemed to struggle even more. I know a lot of pastors who struggle to make ends meet and never seem to get ahead.
I’m not a prosperity preacher kind of person, nor do I think that being in ministry automatically means you can’t have financial stability. I recognize the Bible presents a holistic, tension-filled view of money. Proverbs 14:24 and 13:11 indicates that wealth-building can be wise. Matthew 6:28-29 teaches that money will never satisfy.
But for pastors who would like to be able to take their families on a nice vacation, save for retirement, or build some financial margin so you could better respond to God when he calls, I humbly offer this list of suggestions.
How to generate extra income:
As a pastor, you’re probably used to speaking in front of people. This is actually a marketable skill – one that most people in the country do not possess.
There are a lot of schools, companies, and organizations that need speakers and you could use your speaking ability to earn extra money. You could speak at other churches. You could speak at weddings or funerals. You could submit your session idea to conference organizers. You could speak at business events.
Let your friends in ministry know how often you’re available. Create a speaking page on your website and promote it throughout your network.
If you’re just starting out, get some experience before setting a fee. But if you’re a seasoned speaker, it’s fair for you to charge for your services.
2. Affiliate Marketing.
Take a look around and you will find that many products and services offer affiliate programs. That means you can earn extra money by recommending things you already use.
You can link to nearly every product on Amazon and earn a small commission.
You should NEVER promote something just for the money, but if it’s a product you use and recommend anyway, why not earn extra money on the side?
Your personal blog (with posts promoted on Facebook and Twitter) is a great place to talk about and recommend useful products.
3. Write a printed book or an eBook.
If you’re a good writer, consider writing a book. You could write a devotional book or a book based on some of your sermons. You could write a ‘how-to' book on a particular ministry area. It will take some time, but if you worked on this for 30 minutes a day for six months, you’ll write a lot of words.
You can put eBooks on Amazon or sell them on your own website.
4. Start a side business
You could start a small business on the side. If you have an idea and a niche, you could devote a few hours a week to working on your idea.
I know a pastor who runs a social media company and another who specializes in advertising. One pastor friend helps his wife run a business – it’s a joint effort. If you’re not the one to start something, maybe you could consider partnering with someone in a business venture.
If you want to start thinking about this, listen to Pat Flynn's podcast called Smart Passive Income.
5. Coach or Consult
Many of the resources on my site are coaching resources, and I’ve also worked with individuals and small groups of people. It’s not unreasonable to charge a fair amount for these services. If people are always coming to you for advice, you could consider formalizing a program and test the waters. If your church does something really well, you might be able to help other people.
One word of caution – the church world is flooded with people who lack real experience. If you want to coach or consult, make sure you've truly learned, executed and understand your field. Reading three books doesn't make you an expert.
Is earning money on the side a conflict of interest for pastors?
Should a pastor charge people for counseling? Is it okay to write a book and sell it to church members? What’s the rule on taking time off and speaking at other churches? These are great questions. They do (and should) create tension.
Read this post from Carey Nieuwhof about pursuing outside ministry opportunities, check your heart, and communicate clearly. If your primary calling is the local church, don’t let outside opportunities take you off mission. If you’re in a church where these types of things are not allowed, don’t go behind anyone’s back.
As with most things, good things can become bad things if your heart is in the wrong place. Money isn’t a financial issue, it’s a spiritual issue. Jesus said so.
Should pastors set up a separate business?
I’m not a lawyer and I am not an accountant, but if you’re going to do something like this, do it correctly. There are tax ramifications. There are intellectual property issues for selling your sermons. You might need to form an LLC. Don’t try to do it fast – do it right.
Finally, finance teams and boards should do a good job taking care of all pastors and church leaders. Too many pastors are underpaid for their experience and area. It’s good to consider comparative compensation data (check out the National Association of Church Business Administrators) and the median household income for your area. Most pastors do not go into the ministry for the money – they do so because they are called, but a board that thinks it’s their job to keep the pastor broke are humbly misguided.
Hopefully, you hear my heart in this post. I love pastors. I want to see pastors succeed. These are just a few ways that may help.
So What's Next?
Feel like your church should be growing, but it's not? From someone who used to be a pastor and church planter, I know it can be frustrating.
Ultimately, church growth is up to God. But are we doing everything we can to ensure our church is healthy? How do we overcome the barriers we feel are in front of us?
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