Want to Plant a Church? Get a Job
In my first go-around and venture into church planting the very best thing that could've happened was that I had to get a job. You see, my go-to line was that "I was such a good fundraiser that I had to get a job." And I did.
Like many of you, my career trajectory at that point was all-in on ministry as my occupation (i.e. how I made a living). Previously I was on staff at two different churches as a youth pastor. When I set out to blaze a new trail and plant a church unlike anything anyone had ever seen before (or so I thought) I realized quickly I didn't have enough funds to meet the needs of my family.
With an undergrad degree in Pastoral Ministries and a Master's degree in Church Planting and Church Growth I was obviously qualified for a lot of jobs, right? (you can't detect my sarcasm). When I did land a paid gig part-time it was a transformative experience for me. Previously I realized I had been living too long in the church bubble and my life was consumed with what happens within the church. If I ever did connect with someone who was not part of the church it was either (a) by accident, (b) happenstance, or (c) because some student talked one of their friends into coming out for games and fun at the youth group.
My church bubble popped on that fateful day in May of 2003 when I became a professional mountain biking guide. I'm happy to say that since then I've never re-entered that bubble. More than earning (literally) a paycheck I grew to love what I was doing. Often times it was more invigorating and life-giving than church planting. In fact, at times it was my refuge from church planting. Most of my fellow guides did not identify with Christ. Many had negative experiences with Christians. My role was simply to love, be there, and work my tail off in my job to the best of my ability. I also was on the receiving end of God ministering to me though these friends and coworkers.
At one point, in the midst of the stress of church planting (and going through a difficult time as a result) I vividly remember a conversation at lunch in the employee cafeteria after a day out on the trail. As I was sharing some of these stressors over gourmet spa food, Roger, who was a fellow guide, leaned across the table and said, "Sean, don't you know that God loves and cares about you? You don't need to stress." Funny though, Roger did not follow Jesus. I was humbled. God did care and he used Roger to remind me.
I've been a church planter. Not a very good one, mind you. I also know that most church planters probably spend a good 20 hours a week doing stupid meaningless stuff. (listen, let's cut through the nonsense, we both know what that means). I found out that being bivocational meant that (a) I provided an additional income stream and insurance for my family, (b) I was a lot more efficient with my time, and (c) I was thrust into a world where people don't care about God or church but loved me for being me. Through that I could simply live out the gospel and leave the results to God. They weren't a project.
As I've written before on many occasions, the bottom line is for you to answer the question, "How will I be sustainable?" You see, if you are sustainable then your church plant will be. Maybe the best thing you could do is to get a job (or start a business or non-profit).