Growing up, most of the pastors in my area, including my father, were bi-vocational. They would work through the week at a secular job and then pastor a church in the evenings and weekends. You may have a similar situation depending on your location and the church size.
But in today’s gig economy, the “side hustle” has become very prominent in our culture—and some pastors choose to participate for a variety of reasons.
Webster defines a side hustle as “work performed for income supplementary to one’s primary job.” Side hustles are different from a part-time job, since most side hustles are not tied to a schedule where you would clock in or out.
There are two primary reasons people choose to take on a side hustle:
- To monetize a hobby/passion
- To make ends meet financially
But what does a side hustle mean for a pastor? A side hustle could bring great opportunities, but there are several things pastors need to consider before jumping in.
The Potential Upsides of a Side Hustle for Pastors
A Means of Supplementing Their Income – As is the case with anyone who takes on a side hustle, it could provide him with extra income. Supplementing their income allows pastors to serve churches that struggle to pay a full-time salary for their minister.
A New Avenue for Sharing the Gospel – Depending on what the side hustle is focused on, a minister could expand the number of people he is coming into contact with and be able to share the gospel in new avenues. This could lead to new faces in the church pews because of the other work the pastor is doing.
A Means of Developing Their Abilities – Being a pastor requires a certain skill set. Having a side hustle that has no direct correlation to studying, writing, and preaching (i.e., beekeeping, repurposing furniture, etc.) may be a great way for a pastor to expand his interests and skills in other areas, which can help avoid burnout over time.
The Potential Downsides of a Side Hustle for Pastors
Time – Working the side hustle would take away time from family and the primary job.
Possible Negative Reflection on the Church – Depending on the side hustle and how well it is performed, it could cause issues with the community the church is trying to serve. As an example, a pastor has a side hustle of repairing cars, but he has a few customers who feel he doesn’t do quality work, which could, in turn, cause them to have a negative perception of the church he serves. Paul tells us, “Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men” (Colossians 3:23). So, if you decide to take on a side hustle, it’s important to remember that you are not just representing yourself, you could also be perceived as representing your church.
Your Church’s Opinion of Your Side Hustle – Another area of consideration for the pastor, which doesn’t typically happen for secular employees, is what the employer thinks about you having a side hustle. In corporate America, your time off the clock is yours and unless you are doing something that draws negative attention to your employer, you can spend that time off however you would like. (One notable exception was Goldman Sachs CEO David Solomon, who also was DJing, which had to stop because the attention created from it was unwanted to the Goldman Sachs board.) Pastors are the CEOs of the local church thus, are never really off the clock and are often, the face associated with their local church. Thus, the church may have grounds for a pastors side hustle if it starts causing unwanted attention to the church.
Your Availability – I know countless pastors who do church business, even on days off or on vacation, because it is the nature of caring for God’s people. Many churches only have a pastor on staff, so your side hustle would need to be flexible enough that your church can count on you to be available when needed. This is one of the biggest drawbacks of the bi-vocational pastor; they either have to use vacation or sick time to care for the members of their congregation, or do it after hours.
Other Important Considerations
Ultimately, deciding to have a side hustle or not falls to you. Before diving in, consider the pros and the cons, and take a clear look at how a side hustle will affect other aspects of your life, and your primary employment as a pastor. Communicate with your church leadership and your family before starting and growing a side hustle. While there are several compelling reasons to have a side hustle, don’t sacrifice the calling on your life or your family for it. Explaining your plan upfront or before you start will help smooth the waters so there are no issues later. If everyone is on board and willing to make the needed sacrifices, then follow that passion project to get your side hustle going!