Fifteen years ago, I found myself unexpectedly let go from a full-time youth ministry role.
I didn’t see it coming, nor was I prepared for what to do to provide for my family. Typical of these sorts of traumas, I saw myself as the persecuted hero and my church as the insensitive villain.
Yet this season of uncertainty morphed into a gift that keeps on giving. Because of it, I know myself better (including my blind spots), and I’ve discovered the fragility of depending on one source of income. I was also challenged to see my staff role in a church as a blessing, not an entitlement. In our culture, the church is in decline—that means more and more well-trained and experience youth workers need to find additional sources of income so they can continue to pursue their calling.
Here are the the four questions that have helped me discover the “side hustle” that has broadened my financial foundation…
1. What will be my primary, full-time income stream?
For many of us, this is a full-time youth ministry role. Websites such as ChurchStaffing.com or the Slingshot Group (along with denominational websites) offer geographical, philosophical, and theological information to help you discover the right local-church fit for you. Or you might be wired to work in a parachurch organization that supports churches and those in ministry. Others may choose to work a “traditional” job for benefits or income so you have the freedom to serve as a volunteer youth worker. Every full-time job has perks and flaws—you want the best “primary stream” for your calling and lifestyle.
2. What extra work can I do to create additional income?
Think about what you can do to leverage your youth worker skills to create additional monthly income. For example, if you write well and can hit deadlines there are plenty of freelance or work-for-hire content-creation roles inside and outside of Christian circles. I’ve enjoyed opportunities to write curriculum, blog posts, and articles for organizations that have become long-term “clients” and friends. I’ve also worked for online websites looking for freelancers willing to cover an assignment. I even worked for a season as a freelancer for a local newspaper.
This mindset applies to all kinds of skills. Maybe you can become a certified personal trainer and work with students after school. Perhaps you’re skilled in music or food prep and can create a DJ or catering business on the side. One other angle is to leverage apps that pay you for simply scanning receipts when you buy groceries. I’ve made a few hundred dollars each year through FetchRewards and iBotta just by submitting a photo of my receipt. That can really add up the next time you buy cases of Mountain Dew for your next lock-in.
If you have a college degree and experience with kids (which we do as youth workers), try teaching for VIP Kid.
3. What quarterly/seasonal opportunities can I find?
Life is seasonal, and not just in terms of the weather. You’ll find side-hustle opportunities during the Christmas season, Easter season, graduation season, and back-to-school season—for example, you could leverage your skills in photography or video editing to serve others. I once had a woman at my church ask me to produce her son’s graduation slideshow because she liked the “eye” that I had for edits and storytelling. Another mom saw that and asked me to put together a family Christmas video for her to give to her kids. What could you try here?
4. What annual events or opportunities might offer extra income?
Over the last two summers I’ve enjoyed working at the State Fair with my son and his friends. It’s great bonding, and it only comes around once a year. It kind of feels like youth ministry, too. There are also plenty of churches out there looking for an annual camp speaker. What if it was you? Likewise, if you have the experience and ability, search for opportunities to lead breakout sessions at conferences or camps.
You’re looking for a side hustle that flows out of who you are, and allows you to honor your family time and Sabbath rest. Listen for the way Jesus is surfacing new passions and skills in you, then look for opportunities to support your family that He’s opening up for you.