Tentmaking or bi-vocational ministers
Many ministers serve as pastors of congregations and derive income from other employment. The Apostle Paul made tents for a living so that he would not have to burden the small fellowships of believers during the first century A.D. From Saint Paul's example we have adopted the term "tentmaking" to describe this ministry model. Others refer to this as “bi-vocational ministry.” Others have coined terms such as: dual role ministry, non-stipendiary ministry, worker-priest, etc.
Tentmaking pastors serve as pastors and manage their own businesses, teach school, coach basketball, serve as emergency medical technicians, farmers, photographers, Starbucks baristas, bus drivers, doctors, lawyers, computer programmers, spiritual directors, realtors, and more. While usually the secular position is done for remuneration, there are a number of instances in which the secular position is a vocation for which a person does not receive monetary compensation. For example, both women and men have chosen to do child raising and home-making as their tentmaking vocation while serving part-time as pastor of a congregation.
Why Consider Tentmaking:
Tentmaking can be a very healthy and rewarding ministry for both pastor and congregation. Studies done by the Presbyterian Church (USA) and other groups have shown high levels of satisfaction among tentmaking ministers and the congregations they serve. It is important to remember that during the formation of the Christian Church in the Roman Empire, tentmaking was the norm rather than the exception.
Bi-vocational pastors have natural daily contact with persons who are unchurched and who would be hesitant to come to a church, but who are spiritually hungry. Many new worshiping communities are led by tentmaking pastors. Tentmakers find it easy to relate to spiritual seekers over the Starbucks counter or riding in an ambulance.
Congregations served by tentmakers spend more of their resources of money and energy outside of themselves. Ministry is truly shared as ruling elders share responsibility for church administration and member care.
While pastors are concerned about being able to support a family adequately on a typical pastor’s salary, many tentmaking pastors have a larger total income than those who serve as full time pastors.
Maintain or develop skills that are needed by local employers or are springboard to self-employment.
Consult a financial consultant knowledgeable about ministerial finances and tax law in order to plan your finances most advantageously. The Board of Pensions has information about tentmaking and their benefits.
Read an Article about Tentmaking pastor/coach Tasha Hicks
Essential tools for tentmaking:
This manual will assist in the understanding and guidance of how a tentmaker minister can work for a congregation.
PDS # 305-92-950
Tentmaking: Perspectives on Self-Supporting Ministry, Leominister, Francis and Francis, Gracewing Books, 1998 (Available from Morehouse Publishing, 1-800-877-0012).
New Times-New Call: A Manual of Pastoral Options for Small Churches, Evangelism and Church DevelopmentA resource for small church leaders and presbytery committees to use to guide a dialogue about meeting the pastoral leadership needs of small churches.
PDS # 7231203001
Part-Time Pastor, Full Time Church, by Robert LaRochelle, Pilgrim Press, 2010
Some guidance to churches from the Association of Presbyterian Tentmakers
Preparing a Church Information Form (CIF) for Tentmaking Positions
PNCs should address these questions as they prepare the CIF and prepare to interview potential tentmakers.