Multiplication Center

Should Full-Time Staff Take Outside Work for Extra Income?

October 8, 2018

The question came from one of our clients: What policies do churches put in place for staff wanting to take on “extra jobs?”

Brent Dolfo on our team began to poll a few clients to find their answers. The case Brent heard was specific and particularized to a few staff that had outside business endeavors and multiple speaking opportunities. We also began to curate thoughts from numerous conversations over the years with lead and executive pastors on this and similar topics.

This article serves to form a few generalizations for thinking about this issue. In the coming weeks we will turn this into a downloadable resource that leaders can use as a guide to develop their own policies for staff members. At the end of this post you can sign up to be notified when the resource is ready.

First, a few caveats: Leadership Network or the author is not providing any legal advice or counsel. All employment agreements and policies should be cleared with the church’s attorney. This post is merely descriptive based on a review of current churches policies and conversations with leaders. Every state/province could have rules that prohibit churches from interfering with an employee’s choice in these matters whereas other states/provinces could allow some restrictions.

Some Historical Context

It is only in the past 100 years we have seen the advent of multiplication of paid staff positions, even in larger churches. While large churches had 100 years ago had building personnel and administrative staff, key positions that are now full time pastoral or director staff, were once the province of volunteers.

Let’s remember that most churches in the U.S. and Canada have a long tradition of bi-vocational ministry. I these cases ministry leaders were expected to pay their primary bills from other work and ministry was a calling that received some remuneration but not really a “full-time” job. This paper does not address the thousands of pastors who serve in this way across God’s kingdom. We support their efforts. Even today many large churches have dozens of part-time staff that do the work with gladness while employed elsewhere to provide for their needs.

We are instead addressing those larger churches of scale which have dozens of full-time staff and have asked the above question.

Today we live in a different time. Many of the larger churches we serve have large full-time staffs. Some of those are provided for with adequate salary, benefits and working conditions.

Let us assume that all churches are paying adequate living compensations for staff in line with their role, workload and comparable pay. In other words, the “extra side gigs” are not done because the compensations are inadequate to provide for a typical family.

Note: If you need help there, go to our recently released Leadership Network Compensation survey products at

Let us also assume we are talking primarily about full time pastoral staff and key ministry directors who receive full time pay and benefits from the church. In some cases, the same standards apply to administrative assistant roles as well where a full-time agreement is in place.

Three Stances on Outside Work

In general, after reviewing the policies and from numerous conversations over the years with Lead and Executive pastors we see three basic stances:

Discouraged: This stance holds that being on the staff of this church is an honor and privilege. Because we expect pastors and key staff to be available almost 100% of the time to conduct ministry and key functions that cannot be covered by anyone else. In these cases, the church discourages any outside income producing activity.

Permitted: This stance holds that it is allowed with proper permission and guidelines. It becomes an issue between team member, their supervisor and the leadership of the church. The guidelines vary greatly among the churches. This will be discussed later but the issues do arise when there seems to be inconsistencies between what upper level staff are granted vs. other staff. In some cases, outside paid ministry is permitted but paid commercial activities are not.

Encouraged: This stance encourages full-time staff to also develop other streams of income generating activities. This stance recognizes that many of the skills that make solid staff team members are also desired by other organizations and companies. Those that have this stance believe that their team member interaction in these other fields helps the church’s overall ministry. It is also believed that this helps retain high performing staff by allowing this type of work.

Generally looking at the various policies, most churches limit the time commitment allowed for other work to leave time, vacation time and hours generally outside of normal work hours for that church. These time commitments flow into other questions.

Two Broad Types of “Outside” Work

What types of outside work do church staff tend to engage in? A comprehensive list would be long, but from our conversations we saw three broad categories:

Ministry-related work – This is a somewhat false distinctive as our faith needs to integrate us as whole persons, but the force of the emphasis is more on “does this involve other churches or compatible with our church’s primary mission” vs. “this is just an income producing gig for my family.”

Other work includes everything else such as real estate sales, retail stores or stalls in a flea market, shared ride services, financial product or insurance sales, carpentry or other building trade, computer code or design, consulting with businesses, writing outside of the ministry field and so on.

The special case of books, music publishing – This is where things get sticky. Who owns the rights to sermons, songs, and creative works while in the employ of the church?

Many new pastors will cover these items in separate legal contracts with the church. For staff that have not been covered by those pre-employment agreements, then care must be taken.

Three Principles to Consider

A few other things to keep in mind as your consider your own policies for outside work:

Approvals/Permissions/Agreements – Almost all written guidelines the church asks for team members to request permission and approvals before beginning another type of paid involvement. In a few cases, this is even required for significant unpaid involvements such as a non-profit board.

Most common is supervisor approved, executive level and board informed.

In the case of executive staff levels, these were thought through and subject to board approval.

Limited as to time – Is this a short season or a long exploration moving to a different direction in life?

Some staff need a short-term cash infusion to pay some bills or set aside income to help with a purchase. These tend to be short seasons of outside work. But others could desire to explore a new field as potential new career path in life.

These understandings should be made clear in conversations with supervisors so that good relational health is preserved.

Time agreements – Most of the policies reference using vacation and leave time to do any outside work. The second most common would be unpaid leave for special circumstances for more regular outside work. Both were limited as to time to a few weeks a year.

The least common scenario is establishment of a regular ongoing outside work/gig platform, etc. to conduct more regular business or other activities on a weekly basis. Again, all this would be understood through prior agreements and understandings on the front end of engaging in the work.

What the Resource Will Cover

In order to help leaders formulate a policy for their staff members, this resource will include a basic process to follow for thinking through this issue, as well as further commentary on:

  • Three basic stances on outside work
  • Two broad types of outside work
  • Three common principles to consider

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