Tentmaking Ministry Sucks Sometimes!
Doug Mawer and I, good friends and co-partners in ministry, have been tentmaking in ministry now for quite a while. (Tentmaking is a term adopted from St. Paul, who made tents while he served churches, at least for a time. See Acts 18:3). We co-pastor the same church for a half-time salary, and we make up the other half with other income. Mainly because the church can t afford to pay both of us full time, and we had decided to try to do this together. I paint and sell my art in a local gallery as well as on eBay. Doug does construction work. The Vineyard movement, which we are a part of, encourages it, especially in church-planting situations. I just want to write about it from a different angle: mine. I would contend that it would depend on what type of tentmaking you do. For instance, Doug and I agree that it is easier for me to do tentmaking ministry with my kind of job than it is for him. I can paint in the comfort of my studio, listen to music, write when the mood hits, think about my sermon, talk on the phone if necessary, hurry off see someone if they need me, quickly change into more decent clothing to go to the church, and go to evening meetings in fairly good form. I can do this half days each or day on day off. I still find it challenging to juggle the two jobs, but it is manageable. But for Doug it is more difficult. He has to get up early to load up his vehicle with all the tools and ladders, get to the job site, price the job, go to the supply store for materials, measure, calculate, get dirty, sweaty, sometimes wet, ocassionally hurt, always exhausted. People want their decks built NOW, not half day here, half day there, maybe see you next week. So with Doug s kind of tentmaking, it requires full-time full-on thought, effort, time, commitment, and sweat. Doug finds it too stressful for him and unfair to the church to juggle these two kinds of jobs. There are some jobs that are more suitable for tentmaking. For instance, I ve heard of some pastors who land-lord a few buildings. That wouldn t be so bad if the buildings are in fairly good shape and your tenants are decent. But if not, you could catch yourself having to dash off at inappropriate moments to stop a leak. I ve heard of others investing money in properties and reselling. That would be pretty good too if you have money upfront and the smarts to flip property wisely. Others I know are professors at universities. That would be cool provided your congregation was fairly settled and manageable, meaning you could predict when you would be free for the congregation. That way you could sit at one desk and just change hats, so to speak, as the need arose. Anyway, it s gotten to the point where Doug s decided to find a construction job full time. At least for a while. The stress of trying to support a family on only one reliable half-income has taken its toll. We are both frustrated and disappointed, but there seems to be no other option. We don't think his tentmaking experience is conducive to pastoral ministry. Now, I know much depends on our definition of "pastoral ministry" as well as the needs and expectations of the congregation. Agreed. Any thoughts?