Rob Merrill

I remember leaving my church in February of 2009 for this new adventure of church planting. The unknown of what I would do for financial support was paramount among the long list of unknowns as we began this venture. I was in the unique position of being in an agreement with the church that I left that while I had their blessing to leave, I would not have any financial support.  They had several building projects going and, in their words, every dollar that their people gave to our church would be a dollar they didn’t get.

So that meant that we went fresh out the door with nothing. But when you are 11 people in a living room, you don’t need much at all anyways. However, I still had rent, groceries, insurance, and entertainment expenses that I was used to, and my means of affording those things dissipated as I left my job with my former paycheck that was my sole means of income.

In looking for a bi-vocational job I had two things in mind. One, what do I need to financially survive? Two, what will give me flexibility to be able to focus on this newly forming community and not worry about work stuff when I am away from work?

In answer to the first question, I was 29 and single at the time of the church plant and had a friend offer to give me a very low rent, which meant that the amount of income I needed to generate wasn’t that high. That is fortunate because it is hard to get a nice paying job when you are only offering part time and don’t have a very specific skill set. In answer to the second question, I found a job that could actually be a fun distraction to the daily grind of church planting and also connect me to the neighborhood community for several hours a day. So I found a job doing after school teaching for 3-4 hours a day that put me in contact with an underprivileged school in our church neighborhood; this allowed for a lot of relational connections. It gave me a lot of time early in the day to do church planting business and enough time in the evening for any meetings necessary with others if they had normal 9-5 jobs.

Part of me finds a freelancing job very appealing, which might allow me to set the hours and use a unique skill set that might pay higher. In my current occupation, my hours are always set and I do not get to do some of the things I most enjoy doing, such as planning and creating and recruiting.  However, on the positive side the job I have currently allows me to “plug in” for a few hours to make some money, and I can save the majority of creating, recruiting, and problem-solving for our community.  And there is always plenty of that to do!

Rob is a bi-vocational church planter in Stockton, California.  The church community he serves is called Ecclesia Stockton, and you can check out the church’s site here.