Side Hustle: Supporting Missionaries in a Gig Economy
For hundreds of years, the standard practice for funding mission work (at least within non-denominational sending agencies) has been to have missionaries raise support from their home churches and individual supporters. For many, becoming an individual missionary supporter involves reviewing their household budget and then determining how much they can give from their discretionary spending (the amount left over after living expenses). But what if there is another way to support missionaries, not by giving out of what’s left over, but by using your time and talents to earn extra income that you can then invest in their ministry?
Over the last five years, Lorene and I have been experimenting with this idea and making extra money specifically to support our Sent Ones in their Great Commission work. This effort combines our deep desire to see the gospel proclaimed among the nations and a growing awareness of the many opportunities that we have to invest our time and resources to earn extra income. The result is a strategy we have developed to help us participate in our missionaries’ ministry objectives.
Alternative Revenue Streams
The first example of an alternative revenue stream is selling plasma. (If you are squeamish at the sight of blood, just keep reading–not all of our examples involve a needle in the arm!) By giving plasma for a couple of hours per week, you can earn $400-$500 a month. Not only did we provide someone with a life-saving gift (healthy plasma), but it also gave us a couple of hours every week with nothing better to do than pray for our Sent Ones. If you struggle with finding time to pray, this is a great solution. Also, while you are in the chair giving plasma out of one arm, your other arm is free to send encouraging prayer emails to missionaries from your phone. As we know, one of the best ways to support your global ambassadors is to communicate with them and let them know you are praying for them, and you can even share that you are sacrificing your blood for them . . . literally!
Another option we discovered years ago was searching for antiques at yard sales and thrift stores and then selling them on eBay, Amazon, and other online marketplaces. Our favorite story to tell is about when we started finding Tommy Bahamas silk shirts at a thrift store in Palm Springs. We went to that store once a month and bought all the shirts they had for less than $5 each. Then we would turn around and sell them online and get an average of $60 apiece. When we mailed the shirt, we would include a gospel tract with our contact information in case the buyer wanted to follow up with what they read. If you like to shop and resell, this is a great way to do so with a global purpose.
There are many other ways to create an alternative revenue stream: selling script, having a yard sale, writing a book or a blog article on Substack, selling antiques and other unique items online, etc.
The Side Gig
Moonlighting has been around for decades, and many people work a second job out of necessity to make ends meet; others may not need the money but work other jobs to stay busy and have fun during their free time. The “gig economy” is booming around the world, and it is becoming commonplace in how we engage with our community and transact business. Uber is one of many side gigs that allows average citizens to use their own vehicle to transport customers from place to place. People who live in larger cities will often forego the expenses of owning a car (parking, gas, insurance, taxes, etc.) and opt to have their transportation needs met by one of the many rideshare companies. If you have a car, then it can be put to work for the sake of the Great Commission.
Lorene and I both began experimenting with Uber and Lyft a few years ago. We had a seven-year-old Toyota Prius that we would each drive a few days a week. She drove during the day, and I would drive in the evening and on weekends. Factoring in all the promotions, we made about $25 per hour. I set a goal of driving just eight hours a week, which brought in $200 per week and $800 per month. And the additional income wasn’t the only benefit. This “side gig” makes you a Sole Proprietorship (an unincorporated business owned and run by one individual), so your car expenses and mileage are a tax deduction, which comes in very handy mid-April. On top of all that, it was just plain fun! We got to know our city, met interesting people, and had stimulating conversations that often led to the question, “So, why do you drive for Uber?” We had many opportunities to share with our riders that we were driving to support missionaries who were living in difficult parts of the world and trying to make them better places. These conversations often led into discussing spiritual issues like faith, life, family, community, and living a life with purpose. I have shared the gospel and/or prayed with more people in my car while driving for Uber than I ever have while sitting in my office at the church or the mission agency. Since rideshare is worldwide, I have recommended it to many overseas workers as a way to get to know more people and places in their communities. You might even consider buying your missionaries a vehicle with this venture in mind (in developing nations, many taxis have two or three wheels and are far less expensive than a car), but I will save this concept for part two of this series when we introduce the Two-Pocket Theory of missionary support.
I have shared the gospel and/or prayed with more people in my car while driving for Uber than I ever have while sitting in my office at the church or the mission agency.
Some other examples of the “side gig” include turning a hobby into a business and establishing a Sole Proprietor, LLC, or S Corporation. If you are a good photographer, you can set up a photo booth at local events or do wedding photos on the weekend. If you are good at setting up websites, you can do that as a side business with just a little marketing in your spare time. Social media and how-to videos bring in revenue through paid advertising on YouTube and Rumble. Whatever you can do well has the potential to become a small business with just a little entrepreneurial spirit. You will not only bring in revenue, but you will also find ways to reduce your taxes, which means you’ll have more money to invest in eternity.
How can you merge the work of your hands with the work of spreading the gospel message around the world?
Remember that your primary goal in starting a side gig is finding ways to participate in mission work, not just making extra money. How can you merge the work of your hands with the work of spreading the gospel message around the world?
Living More Simply
Even though we can afford some luxuries in our life, we have made the decision to live on less than what we earn. This practice helps us obey the command to store up treasures in heaven (Matt 6:19–21). We have never purchased a new vehicle, ever! We decide what the next vehicle needs to be, then we start shopping for something that is three to five years old and has less than 100,000 miles. At that point in the vehicle’s life, most of the depreciation has happened, but it is still in good condition. After we get it checked over by a trusted mechanic, we buy it with a plan to keep it for three to five years, at which point we sell it. Because we take good care of our cars (regular maintenance, keeping them clean inside and out, etc.), we can usually sell them for about the same price we paid for them.
The main idea here is to live more simply and thoughtfully so you can give more sacrificially. You’ve no doubt heard the advice to give up your daily Starbucks coffee as a way to save money (a $3 coffee per day adds up to over $1,100 per year!), but that is only one part of our lives to pay attention to as we seek to live more simply and intentionally. Here are a few other options to consider: drop your monthly cable/satellite service, buy an antennae, and get free TV—that’s another $1,000+ per year in savings; get rid of your home phone service; ride a bike to work—you’ll save money on gas while getting free exercise (which will eliminate the need to have a gym membership). Look around and ask yourself, Do I really need all these subscriptions and extra things in my life? We bet you’ll soon find ways to cut costs you had never thought about. Finally, although it may not save you any money, you could consider taking a trip to visit one of your missionaries instead of going on that expensive all-inclusive vacation. You will get a better understanding of how they live and minister, provide massive encouragement to them, and return more informed about how you can pray for them.
In part two of this series, we will introduce you to the Two-Pocket theory of Great Commission support. You are familiar with the one-pocket approach where money comes out as a “donation” to the cause; the second pocket is where you will find “investment” money that has the potential for returns, which will give you the capacity for even greater financial support of your missionaries.
David J. Wilson (DMin) and his wife, Lorene, have served together in the local church since 1996. David was a missions pastor for over twenty years. They currently live in Kansas City, MO, where David serves as the Director of Church Engagement at Avant Ministries. They have written three books together: Pipeline: Engaging the Church in Missionary Mobilization; Mind the Gaps: Engaging the Church in Missionary Care; and Transforming Missionaries: A Short-Term Mission Guide.