The Fundraising Chronicles: Tentmaking (The Art of the Side Hustle)
Thank you again for joining me on this journey of examination as I look at Funding God’s Ministry Worldwide through this Blog series!
In the last post, I covered what it looks like to become fully-funded through donor income and in this post, I’d like to look at a few other innovative funding models I’ve seen over the years. The general term that is often used for a ‘not funding through donors’ type of ministry model is called ‘Tentmaking.’ This term comes from the Apostle Paul, who through the Book of Acts and his New Testament letters repeated talks about his making of tents and his continual hard work and labor making tents for the money he needed for his ministry. In Acts 18, we see that he met Aquila and his wife Priscilla and ‘because he was of the same trade he stayed with them and worked, for they were tentmakers by trade.’ I have heard a number of Bible teachers mention that in Acts 18 as Paul meets Aquila and Priscilla and is helping them with their tent-making, but is simply waiting until Timothy and Silas arrived from Philippi with money, but throughout his letters, he is working with his hands and continues his making of tents. From Ephesus while on his Third Missionary Journey, Paul writes that at ‘the present hour we hunger and thirst, we are poorly dressed and buffeted and homeless, and we labor, working with our own hands.’ And in Acts 20, while writing his farewell instructions to the elders of the Ephesian church he writes, ‘I coveted no one’s silver or gold or apparel. You yourselves know that these hands ministered to my necessities and to those who were with me. In all things I have shown you that by working hard in this way we must help the weak and remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he himself said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’
So what are some key ways ‘tentmaking’ can be beneficial for one who feels called into intentional ministry? There are so many great ways I’ve seen God work through this avenue that I wouldn’t be able to mention all of them, but here’s some great ones for you to consider if you feel God leading you in this direction:
- Operate your ministry and a ‘side hustle’ that compliments your ministry
I have a ministry friend that has a travel agency that enables her to organize travel for others, and uses those skills to organize trips for her own ministry. In addition, because she is paying for airline tickets, hotel stays, etc for the travel company, she earns a lot of free travel that she can use for the ministry. I think also of my friend overseas who does social media and advertising for a printing company that prints Bibles and other tracts that he can use for his ministry in unreached people group areas. At one time, I was looking at helping a company that had a factory in China and was looking for someone to go and check in with the factory several times a year. At the time, I was traveling to China anyway so for them to pay for my travel would have been great.
- Teach English at an International School or at a University
This has been a real ‘go to’ type of work because if you are a native English speaker, there is a need for English teachers in almost every country on Earth. If you work for a University, many times they will pay for your room and board, and give you a travel allowance to be able to return back to your home country every Summer. In this scenario, the amount that you need to raise is lower since the University is paying for some of your expenses. In addition to taking care of the Visa requirements you may have in your country, this also gives you an automatic ‘in’ with people you want to be ministering to anyway. I know from my experience in China, Chinese students place their teachers in a place of honor, which then gives you an automatic platform for the Gospel.
- Full-time work for a local company in the country you are serving
I have several good friends who made the most of this opportunity. In one case, a friend of mine got a job in Singapore with Hewlett Packard and as a manager, oversaw and had daily contact with 50 Singaporean employees. This led to a lot of significant conversations with these workmates, which led to a Bible Study and a lot of opportunities to have dinners with these new friends. His comment to me when I came to visit he and his family was that ‘I believe I have more opportunities to share Christ with those in this country than any of the full-time missionaries I know.’
One Final Big Takeaway: If you have trouble raising your support for missionary or ministry service, don’t let that discourage you. God can use you in multiple ways, and tentmaking may be just how He wants to give you automatic contacts and opportunity in ministry. As my travel agent/ministry leader friend wrote me recently, ‘I think our calling requires us to do the job He called us to do whether or not we need an extra job or not. And I don’t think we need to wait to get started on the mission until we are fully funded.’ Amen!
 1 Corinthians 4:11-12