Increase ministry income: Turn your hobby into money

Posted on Sep 7, 2011 in Finances

Turn your hobby into moneyThis is part 2 in an ongoing series about how ministry families can increase their income while focusing on ministry.

Catch up on previous posts here:

  1. Introduction: 4 ways to increase your income while serving in ministry
  2. Part 2Make your money behave!

My story

In 2005 I was bored one evening. Instead of playing video games like normal, I noticed that was available, so I snagged it and and setup a blog. I had no idea what to write about really, so I just wrote about whatever was going on in my life — mostly the kind of stuff only your mom would care about. But as I continued to write, I naturally started writing what I was most passionate about: youth ministry. Over a few years it developed into Life In Student Ministry and became one of the main hobbies for my free time.

For years it earned a passive income through advertising and last January it became my primary source of income. It’s also led to other sources of income, like publishing books, consulting, speaking, and more.

A little over a year ago I started engaging pretty heavily in the YouTube community. My interest in creating written content for Life In Student Ministry was expanding into online video content, as well. Before long, I was cranking out several videos a week and YouTube became another hobby, something I did for fun in my free time.

Fast forward about a year later and now, between video production I do for other organizations and what YouTube pays me for my videos, this hobby is also now a significant source of income for me and my family.

There are other stories I could share, but the point is this: if you’re spending your spare time doing something you enjoy anyway, you might as well find a way to make it financially profitable.

Other pastors’ stories

Obviously, you’re most passionate about ministry, but what do you do for a hobby outside of ministry?

One youth pastor I know loves fishing. Most of his free time is spent out in his boat with his son and teaching others how to fish, so he set up some classes for the community and charges a fee for on-going lessons. The cool part is that the classes have also provided him with ministry opportunities and connections he otherwise would not have made with unbelievers.

Another pastor loves to read. He used to write a brief review of each book part of his own reflection process and post it on Amazon, but he decided to try making some contacts and, to make a long story short, now another site pays him a decent amount of money to post his short self-reflective reviews on their site instead.

A friend of mine decided to record himself as he read out loud. Now he sells his audio book recordings to publishers and even sells recordings of books that public domain from his website.

These are not unique stories. Do you enjoy gardening? Grow your home garden a bit larger and sell the excess at a local county market. Enjoy working on cars? Establish come clientele and go to their houses every 3 months to changes their oil. Are you a sports fanatic? Sit down with your computer’s webcam after every game and briefly record your commentary as a video. Post it on YouTube and, after you build a consistent audience, start getting paid for them.

Possible concerns

The ideas and possibilites are endless. If I had read this a few years ago, a couple excuses and concerns would have come to mind.

1. If I start a side-project, it might offend people in the church. That may be part of the politics you have to carefully navigate with people in your congregation depending on if you really need the extra income or not and how it may or may not reflect on the ministry. Generally speaking, though, I’m pretty sure none of their employers would get upset if they turned their free time into an income.

2. There’s no way to make money doing what I do for fun. And that mentality is exactly why you don’t make any money from it. Be creative. Be different. Think outside the box.

3. The tax implications are complicated. Nah, they’re not too bad. Basically, keep track of how much you make and how much you spend and report it in your normal taxes. If you make a lot, you may need to make quarterly tax payments, but a brief conversation with an accountant can help you figure all that out pretty easily (at least that’s what I did).

4. I feel like I should do things for free. You can obviously do that for friends and family if you’d like, but there’s absolutely nothing wrong with charging money for products or services to others in your community or online. Just because you serve in ministry doesn’t mean you can’t offer monetary value to someone.

Some advice

As you get started, you should know this: making money from your hobby does require some up-front initiative. Like I said in the previous post, money is illusive and will not show up in your bank account without some effort. With some time, hard work, and dedication, you can train money to show up on it’s own, but nothing comes for free at first. You’ll have to work for it, but you’ll love it!

Recommended reading

A book that was extremely helpful to me in learning how I can use the unique skill sets and abilities God’s given me is Dan Miller’s book, “No More Mondays: Fire Yourself–and Other Revolutionary Ways to Discover Your True Calling at Work.” The book really helped me learn how I can “turn my play into my work so I never have to work another day of my life.”

If you’re looking for ideas and inspiration, or just have some questions about how your play time can turn into an income, this book is excellent. It’s part of what helped me be confident in what God’s been doing with our own financial future lately. It also helped me fine-tune all the ministry ideas I have and how to think in ways that make them support me and my family while blessing others. Love it!

QUESTION: What do you do for fun in your free time? What ideas do you have for turning that into a side income?

About the author,

Tim is a dad who is imperfectly pursuing his wife and children while ultimately trying to pursue the Lord's vision for his family. He's written a few books and dabbles in online video, mostly to support his primary ministry at home.

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