I can remember sitting with my parents 15 years ago when I told them I wanted to graduate college and go into ministry. It wasn't an easy conversation because I knew they would be parents, they would have more concerns than excitement. The centerpiece of the conversation for them was, "Are you okay being poor?" I don't have negative feelings as I think back about the conversation, they were being supportive and asking good questions parents should ask.
"Are you okay being poor?"
Sure enough, they were right. It's not a luxurious feeling when your own kids could actually qualify for free and reduced lunch at their school. And so many of us in the non-profit (In ministry and non-ministry) world have salaries set to the level of our organizations fundraising ability. In some communities this equals a great salary but in most communities it means having a salary that's "just enough" not for the benefit of the employee but for the survival of the organization.
However, the day of setting your salary based upon what can be fundraised in a community is coming to an end but the answer isn't found in more fundraising.
A global economy is here. What I mean by this is the internet has truly flattened the world and a person in Missouri can by a product from a person in the Netherlands without a business purchasing and re-selling the product. We see this happening across E-Bay, Etsy, and personal websites. Not only are we able to purchase products across this market but we are able to purchase talents as well. If you need coaching in a particular area from an expert, you can find them online and hire them to teach you. Whatever your best talent is, more than likely there's a market for it online.
Simply put, we have re-entered a modern realm of "tent-making" as the Apostle Paul describes in Acts 18:3. However, Paul couldn't imagine building a tent in his backyard in Corinth, selling it online, having UPS pick it up on his doorstep, and ship across the world to Kansas City, Missouri. Even more, Paul couldn't imagine offering a four week webinar on "Tent Construction" and charging $100 a person for it.
But you and I can.
So let me ask you,
Are you okay being poor?
I don't think "ministry" and "barely making it" are synonymous anymore. I even believe in a global economy your ministry has an increase in reach and sustainability with a profitable idea to fuel it. Opponents to this idea would suggest God does not have a scarcity issue in regards to fundraising. But I agree with them, it would appear God rewards great service and good ideas with more than enough.
So, if you find yourself struggling to make it in ministry let's have an honest conversation around "being poor."
I think there's four things you can do to enter in this new global market and get past "being poor" and serving in ministry.
1. Stop accepting your poor - Your only as poor as you think you are. If you choose to be defeated financially then you will stay that way. Next to people, I'm not sure there is another resource that we can be more creative with than money. A copier is a copier. An office is an office. A computer is a computer. But a dollar...well that can become a whole lot of things. And the more you become personally disciplined with your finances the more financially successful you will become. Before anything else, figure out how to be more creative with the money you have.
2. Ask the question "What else?" - I think this is the number one reason people in ministry barely make it is because they don't ask themselves, "What else? What other talents do I have? What other gifts do I have to offer? What else am I passionate about?" We make the mistake that God's call is like a tunnel we funnel every bit of ourselves and our abilities down instead of recognizing we operate within the parameters of a Kingdom. And in this Kingdom there are a bunch of needs and these needs have funds behind them; after all, this is the make up of an economy - needs have value.
3. Create a platform - If you have a talent or ability to serve a need in the Kingdom but no one knows you can serve than no wonder you're barely making it. It's time to get past the thought that anything we put online about ourselves is self-promotion. Do you know the difference between what's self-promoting and what's a blessing online? Service. If you are offering a service to someone else in the Kingdom you have surpassed self-promotion. If your best gift or talent could serve someone else than I suggest you have an online home. Like my friend Kelsey who is a super gifted encourager and she uses speaking and humor to encourage others in the Kingdom, she needed a platform to share the way she could serve. So we cranked up The Factory and built her a online platform - not so she could be better known, but so she could serve more people! Click here to check out Kelsey's new site.
4. Serve really well - Here is where the wheels fall off in this new economic age of ministry. If your service sucks than it's a reflection on the Kingdom. If you interviewed a business owner they would tell you that their business hasn't been a 100% in client satisfaction. This is a reality that shouldn't shock those of us in ministry because we don't experience 100% satisfaction with people expectations either. But, if our best isn't good enough than we should offer a connection to someone who can hit the mark, this is the way we serve without creating division in the Kingdom.
We cannot afford to be confused, the world is not out in front of the Kingdom as if those of us in ministry are trying to catch up. No, indeed the Kingdom is leading the world in this new, more generous economy where mission matters and the value of a product is as much about doing good as being a good product. This means for those of us who feel called into full time ministry we can lead the entire world by being innovators or we can sit idly by and watch the world take principals from this new economy and twist them in attempt to make even more revenue.
This is my final thought: This is NOT about getting rich. Attaining money is not the goal in mind, having a lasting calling is. Financial independence offers freedom. This is why we find Paul making tents instead of sitting around waiting for a financial gift, there was Kingdom work that needed to be done. Paul didn't question the generosity of people but he felt called to go where asking for a collection would be distracting. His TALENT was exactly what he needed to SERVE the community he was CALLED to.
What about you?