The Sydney Morning Herald recently ran this story. It lists a wide variety of occupations that are under threat and a host that are relativity secure. The article cites Professor Roy Green, Dean of the University of Technology Sydney business school, who says many Australian jobs are being off-shored, automated and devalued by low-cost competition.
"We are going to see some very big changes," Green says. "Obviously, as jobs get destroyed, others get created."
We have all seen this process in place for some years and it is getting more pronounced.
The question for the Christian church relates to what of ministry. Money is a real issue, perhaps the central issue relating to the employment of a minister, in a smaller congregation, or multiple ministers (many specialist area) in a larger congregation.
From New Testament times the instruction followed the lines that a man is worthy of his employment (the idea followed the example that an oxen must needs grass) where the congregation pitched in (tithes and offering) to meet those essential expenses.
The tithe was a basic giving tennant which matched the Old Testament instruction which kept the entire mechanism of the Tabernacle, later the Temple, the Levites and the administration of the religious order of the day. In our terminology, these pay for the electricity, the photocopier, the printer, the ink cartridges, the paper and the paid personnel. Business 101.
The offerings were something additional by the giver. These were monies given in addition to the tithe as a love offering expressing one's heart felt desire to serve the Lord in such a manner. This too tried and tested, it is to do with the heart. In today's terminology we might consider missionaries, school ministry, a range of community and youth projects, perhaps a building fund and such like. Ministry 101.
But these methods in today's economic climate are being tested to the limit in many situations and so the response has been to check out some more 'interesting' and 'lateral thinking' options to meet all these types of costs and expenses as listed above.
This is a list (not exhaustive) of mechanism that are being utilised already
The tent making idea comes from the New Testament where Paul worked in his trade as a tent making while ministering as he went. There was not a congregation established that might pay for ministry, and so he worked to earn his keep (as it were) and also ministered.
I know of one person in ministry working in a shoe shop three days a week. Another who works in the mines. Another in a factory. Another in a store. Smaller congregations are unable to pay for a minister the full stipend and entitlements and work themselves to meet the short fall.
Many of the larger Pentecostal congregations have ministers who have private income such as book sales, DVD sales, speakers income and this is their income and have no need to charge the church for an income.
Many (ministers or those in ministry) today are entering seminary (theological colleges) much later in life. They have judiciously saved and invested their wealth wisely and these divested investments are providing their income, again so as not to charge the church itself for any income monies.
This is another of those New Testament examples of taking nothing with you, the those who you serve provide your where-with-all. Missionaries and their mission societies have been functioning in this way since time immemorial where regular literature is sent out and people on their mailing (Email) lists give regularly. My wife Delma and I have been in this situation for 38 years, we are the tip of an iceberg. It is astonishing how many Christians serve in this – home and abroad.
Many congregations have built up nice little earners in Trust Funds and if you and your mission or church welfare agency can identify them, fit into the criteria set when the Trust Fund was established, then be approved, this becomes a regular income source. I know a number of mission people recipients of Trust Fund monies.
Foundations are quite specific and yet, I am aware of a number of mission societies and missionaries who are receiving Foundation monies and to have secured such funding means that they met these very strict conditions of ministry.
Some ministry is funded by art. I am aware of two such situations where the ministry or mission is funded in part or large part by the art works of the missionary / minister's art creations. This has a particularly creative wing and requires a steady number of commissions or good sales outlets. Art galleries often have motel chaplains and businesses under contract where a steady flow of art is required.
Increasingly the corporate sector is partnering Christian agencies in community welfare projects. Once past the board of management, these funds have a degree of entrenchment as the projects grow and become identified with the corporate logo or name tag.
Even today much ministry is funded by wealthy benefactors, old family money, whereby set funds for missions are given without fanfare and often quietly behind the scenes not wanting publicity.
Selling - Internet
I know of a number of ministers / people in mission – rather than having car boot sales or church fetes, gather from the congregation items and sell those items on E-Bay and any number of such sites and make quite a reasonable living. I recall way back in 1971 an older church member asked me to put an advert in the local newspaper for his piano accordion. Anything over $400 I could keep. It was sold for $650. The idea is not old, rather a change in the mechanism – now on-line.
These are a few of the ways in which all the variants of ministry today is being funded. To this we we give Glory to the Lord Jesus! Perhaps you have other functioning mechanisms that are at play today.
Dr Mark Tronson is a Baptist minister (retired) who served as the Australian cricket team chaplain for 17 years (2000 ret) and established Life After Cricket in 2001. He was recognised by the Olympic Ministry Medal in 2009 presented by Carl Lewis Olympian of the Century. He mentors young writers and has written 24 books, and enjoys writing. He is married to Delma, with four adult children and grand-children.
Mark Tronson's archive of articles can be viewed at http://www.pressserviceinternational.org/mark-tronson.html