Pastor, You Have the Freedom to Create a Successful Life for Yourself (with Nathan Barber)

church planter pastor real estate streams of income

What happens when you’ve planted a church, but the money you raised begins to run out before the church is firmly established? Many pastors might see this as a sign to close things down and attempt to plant in a different location. But it doesn’t have to be that way! Nathan Barber turned to real estate as a vehicle to earn an income for his family and take pressure off of his young church plant at the same time. 

Nathan’s story is just one example of how pastors can and have created successful businesses in addition to their ministry. We want to share Nathan’s story with you so you can see that it CAN be done, and doing it can enrich your life and fuel your ministry. Taking some of the pressure off of you as the pastor financially can also help your church culture flourish and open up new opportunities for your community.

This Pastor Looked for Skills-Based Business Opportunities, Instead of Time-Based

Nathan is a pastor and a church planter in Illinois. He comes from a family of pastors, attended Bible college, and always knew he wanted to be in ministry. Planting a church is no small feat, as many of you may know, but Nathan put his nose to the grindstone and raised the funding and support necessary to launch his church. Once that was done, however, he ran into a second big hurdle: how to keep himself and his family afloat financially. 

As Nathan reminded us, a lot of pastors who are looking for second vocations turn to lower-skilled work like driving a bus. But because of where Nathan is located and the specifics of his ministry, that just wasn’t feasible for him. As his savings ran short and his options ran low, Nathan got creative. He started looking for options he called “skilled-based, not time-based.” 

The big reason Nathan was looking for skill-based over time-based work is because he didn’t want his other business ventures to detract from the time he needed to have to pour into his church. Church planting is not the path to riches and wealth, as pastors know that, but it is important work for spreading God’s message and expanding ministry. As Nathan told us on the podcast, providing for his family has to be his first priority but churches, especially new or smaller churches, aren’t always able to fully meet that need. Importantly, he said

“Just because the church can’t meet that need doesn’t necessarily mean I need to go.” 

The Finances of the Church Don't Have To Mean a Dead-End To Your Ministry

Did you catch that? Because that quote right there is so important, and it’s a big reason why Entre Pastors exists. Just because the finances of the church doesn’t meet your income needs, it doesn’t mean you have to leave the ministry or leave that church. It’s a pain point for many pastors, sure, but it doesn’t have to be a dead end on your important work in the ministry. 

In recounting his story, Nathan told us that “many good things take time to grow, and I wanted to give myself the time to let time do its perfect work.” That meant being patient as his newly-planted church came into its own. It also meant that Nathan needed the time to help it do that. That’s why real estate was a perfect opportunity for Nathan to be bi-vocational. 

Why Real Estate for This Pastor?

Real estate drew Nathan’s interest because he knew that it had the potential to scale quickly and sustainably and because it didn’t mean he would have to trade his time as a pastor for income to support his family. And Nathan was smart about how he did this, he decided to start by becoming a realtor with the eventual goal of becoming an investor. That path positioned him to learn the business from the ground up, and over time move his business into more passive income that will free up more and more of his time as it grows. Even better, this path allowed Nathan to utilize his relational skills that he’s developed as pastor.

If you want to learn more about the specifics of how Nathan started out in real estate and the path he would suggest to others who want to replicate his success, we highly recommend that you check out this episode of the podcast. But the big bottom-line takeaways from Nathan’s story are what we really want to call attention to here. 

Ministry Does Not Have To Be Your Only Source of Income

Many pastors set out into ministry not realizing that the position might not always fulfill their financial necessities. And many more pastors are under the impression that their ministry has to be their only source of income. As Nathan told us, and as we’ve told our audience many times, these are misconceptions that will not set you on a path to success in ministry. 

YOU, pastor, have the freedom to create a successful life for yourself. That act of creation does not have to be solely through the church, and it doesn’t have to take away from your calling in ministry. As we talked about with Nathan, being a pastor is all about serving people. But you cannot serve others if you are not fulfilled.

We used the analogy of when you’re on an airplane and the flight attendant tells you to put your own oxygen mask on first before helping others. If you can’t breathe, how are you going to be able to bring the fresh breath of God’s word to others? 

Many times the answer is that you can’t. You are not going to be able to show up in the way that you are called to be—the way you need to be—as a pastor if you are struggling personally and financially behind the scenes. With a church like Nathan’s, and many other churches, which rely heavily on his ability to be there and be fully present, if he’s not able to do that free from the preoccupation of money problems at home, the congregation will struggle. 

As a Pastor, You Do Have the Freedom To Create Other Streams of Income

As we talked about with Nathan, being a pastor is not like a regular nine-to-five. As a pastor, you do have the freedom to create other streams of income that can support you and your family. Often, the biggest hurdle to utilizing that freedom is stigma. We really want to challenge you to overcome that stigma and remember that the core of God’s call for you to be in ministry is to serve others. That does not have to be limited just to serving your church. Nathan serves others in his business by utilizing his relational skills, his care and concern for others, and his attention to detail to help ensure they are treated fairly and equitably in the real estate market. That frees up Nathan’s mind and time so that he can then better serve his church. You, pastor, can do that too. 

This Pastor's Advice For You

We closed out this episode by asking Nathan what he would go back and do differently if he could do it all over again. He told us that one of the key things that has facilitated his success as a bi-vocational pastor is the support he receives from his leadership team. As a church planter, Nathan was responsible for creating and fostering leadership and a volunteer culture that would help the church thrive—and that includes being clear about what he, as a pastor, needs in order to be successful. 

He also told us that he realized that he didn’t have to wear all of the different hats and tackle all of the tasks to run the church alone as the pastor. And that it might not always be good for the church if he did! Nathan realized that delegating tasks that he’s not well-suited for or skilled in, like bookkeeping or accounting, actually freed up a lot of his time as a pastor to pour into the areas he is well-suited for. 

Whether you’re a church planter like Nathan, a pastor of a smaller congregation, or just a pastor who is finding that the income from ministry is not meeting your needs, we want to leave you with these last three takeaways from our interview with Nathan: 

  1. You can’t serve others if you are struggling.
  2. Serving others doesn’t have to just be limited to your ministry. 
  3. You CAN, as a pastor, go into business in a way that frees up your mind and your time so that you can serve your congregation better. 

Pastor, YOU have the freedom to create a successful life for yourself!

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