Meet the Pastor Turned CEO Who's Helped Thousands of Churches Raise Hundreds of Millions of Dollars
A personal introduction to the CEO and co-founder of the world's leading church technology company.
December 16, 2019
The freelance economy is the new normal. But should Christians have a side hustle?
July 18, 2018
I’m an author and a teaching pastor. I’m also the director of church multiplication for NewChurches.com. And in my spare time, I co-host three podcasts—two at work and one with my wife. My name is Daniel Im, I’m a millennial, and I have a side hustle—actually more than one.
Though half of all working millennials are side hustling—according to a multi-year study on freelancing in the U.S.—this isn’t just a millennial thing. Approximately a third of both Gen Xers and boomers are also hustling on the side.
Just think about the people you know. How many of your friends drive for Uber or Lyft? Rent out their place on Airbnb when going on a vacation? Or have ever sold something on Etsy or eBay?
They’re a part of the growing freelance or gig economy that 57.3 million Americans were a part of in 2017—that’s more people than the total combined population of Canada, Liberia, and Puerto Rico! In fact, based on trends, by 2027, more than half of all working Americans will be a part of the freelance economy.
Though there’s no consensus on what to call this new normal—freelancing, gigging, contracting, side hustling, consulting, sharing, or moonlighting—the important thing is to know what it is, and whether it’s okay to have one as a Christian since it’s here to stay.
This past year, when I was invited to speak on one of my books to a group of pastors in the San Francisco Bay Area, I ubered over to see one of my friends in the city. When a mid-50s Mexican mother picked me up, I knew I was in for a treat.
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“How long have you been driving for Uber? Why Uber and not another job? Do you feel safe? What about your children? And do you have any crazy stories?” were the kind of questions she graciously answered for me during the ride.
Although she had been working full-time for the last 30 years taking care of her family, she had never brought home a paycheck she could deposit at the bank. While she was competent to work outside the home, adhering to a strict part-time work schedule simply wasn’t manageable due to her family life.
Since she could drive whenever she wanted to, Uber was a perfect fit for her. So for the last year, this mother of teenagers had been driving from 9 pm-1 am, since, by that time, everything had settled down at home.
When I asked her whether or not she enjoyed driving, her response was eye-opening, as it precisely illustrated this new economy we’re living in:
“I love it. I’ve been ubering for the last year, and for the first time in my life, I have spending money!”
This new normal—for the sake of simplicity let’s call it the freelance economy—revolves around self-employed individuals getting paid for their time, skills, possessions, or expertise.
Now, a side hustle isn’t the same thing as working a part-time job. Based upon the definition above, as a freelancer, you work on a contract basis—not as a part-time employee of a company.
So if you have a car, you can either drive people or deliver packages. If you are a graphic designer, you can side hustle from the comfort of your home. If you love dogs and like exercise, you can be a dog walker. And if you want to rent out the spare room in your house, there’s an app for that too.
Here’s the central premise of the freelance economy—you have unlimited earning potential.
Want to pay off your credit card debt? Side hustle.
Want to save money? Side hustle.
Want the latest gadget? Side hustle.
"You are it. You have no more excuses. Want something? Just grind it out and get it done."
These are the messages that the freelance economy is feeding us—for better or for worse. And unfortunately, for many Christians, we’re just taking them at face value. Is this okay?
Recently, one of the largest online marketplaces for freelancers ran an ad campaign in New York subways plastering up headshots of doers and excerpts from their interviews. They called this campaign, “The Year of Do,” with the catchy tagline, “In Doers We Trust.”
Here’s an excerpt from one of the ads:
“You eat a coffee for lunch. You follow through on your follow through. Sleep deprivation is your drug of choice. You might be a doer.”
Is this for real? Have we really come to the point where doing is a badge of honor? A status symbol? And the way to define ourselves? Is this what the freelance economy is doing to us?
Why not? What’s wrong with making some extra cash?
There’s nothing wrong with money. In fact, if it weren’t for my side hustles, I wouldn’t have been able to pay off my car, put my kids in extracurricular activities, or fly to visit my extended family over the holidays.
So I’m all for it, in fact, that’s why I’m writing a book on this topic!
After all, if it’s “the love of money” (1 Tim. 6:10) that is a root of all kinds of evils and not money in and of itself, shouldn’t we rejoice that we now have more ways to make money?
Yes and no.
While the freelance economy looks like a blessing since we apparently now have unlimited earning potential, it’s also subtly affecting the way that we view the world, ourselves, and God. And if you’re not careful, you’ll end up believing the myths and lies that it’s propagating to our broader culture.
Here’s one of them—you are what you do. This is the first myth I articulate in my upcoming book about side hustling and the freelance economy.
It’s a lie because it never ends—there’s no end to a life of doing. In fact, it’s pretty much impossible to do enough. Even when you feel like you’ve accomplished all that you set your heart out to do, you will inevitably come across someone who has done more than you.
So then what? Do you just do more by picking up a gig here, or a side hustle there? And if so, for how long?
The myth that you are what you do is a lie. Doing does not result in done. It only leads to more doing. In fact, there is no badge of honor in doing—only a symbol of despair.
Remember King Solomon from the Bible?
He had everything anyone could ever hope for, yet when reflecting on his life, he soon realized it was all meaningless and futile, “‘Absolute futility. Everything is futile.’ What does a person gain for all his efforts that he labors at under the sun?” (Eccl. 1:2-3).
So, if this is the result of a life of doing—and of a life that believes the myth that you are what you do—is it worth it? If we can only partially and temporarily enjoy the benefits of all we’ve done, is it worth living for? Is it worth building our lives upon?
…as long as it doesn’t become your be-all-and-end-all.
When you define your identity in what you do, you’re setting yourself up for failure. This is because doing does not result in done. It only leads to more doing.
I recently spoke to a group of pastors and church leaders on this topic, and I ended my talk with this challenge:
Imagine what would happen if you began driving Uber for at least 10 hours a week? Or rented out a room in your house on Airbnb?
Not only would these side hustles provide an additional source of income, but more importantly, it would offer you an opportunity to pray for your city as you’re driving through it, as well as opportunities for evangelism and spiritual conversations!
So that’s my challenge to you too.
Friends, the freelance economy has arrived. What are you going to do about it?
Editor’s note: This is a guest post by Daniel Im. Daniel is the Founder of NewChurches.com and the Director of Church Multiplication for LifeWay Christian Resources. He is a Teaching Pastor at The Fellowship, an author, and the co-host of the New Churches Q&A Podcast, the 5 Leadership Questions Podcast, and a brand new podcast with his wife on marriage and parenting called the IMbetween Podcast.
In a previous blog post, I shared the different ways your church can thank donors—from automated emails to year-end giving reports. Printed donation letters also play an essential role in your church’s stewardship efforts.
Donation letters are the Swiss Army knife of your church’s gratitude arsenal. It may not be the most powerful—but it’s versatile, handy, and gets used often.
Your basic church donation letter can serve many different purposes, including:
A single, well-crafted donation letter can pull together several of these things simultaneously. Better donation letters lead to more giving, which leads to more donation letters—thus creating a cycle of on-going church generosity.
Here’s the good news—you don’t have to write an individualized letter for every person who gives to your church. That would be tough to do for even smaller churches. And most donors don’t expect you to. They’d rather you be putting their gift to better use in the community, instead of ceaselessly writing thank you notes.
With the possible exception of some unique circumstances, your church can use template language for the majority of your church donation letters. You’ll have to add in custom details like the donor’s name and gift amount, but you can write everything else in advance.
To make this even easier on you, here are a few basic church donation letter templates you can copy and paste. Keep in mind that not all of these have to be in print—you could just as easily turn some of these samples into email appeals.
The Donation Acknowledgement Letter is a basic way you can confirm and affirm a monetary gift to your church. Sending these is standard practice in church and nonprofit culture.
Dear [first name],
I want to personally thank you for your donation of [gift amount] to [church name]. We’re honored you would bless us with your generosity. Donations like yours make a big difference in the work our church is doing in the community.
Without givers like you, our church can’t have an impact or influence in our community. With your support, we’re partnering with local nonprofits, sending out global mission trips, and hosting small groups on topics that help real people like you. Together, we can make a difference.
Because we’re a tax-exempt nonprofit, you also get to write this donation off on your taxes. This letter serves as official proof of your donation, so keep it in your records come tax season. At the end of the year, we’ll also send you an annual recap with how much you’ve given to the church.
Thank you for supporting [church name]!
Not every church member realizes the importance of giving, or understand Bible verses about tithing and giving. So a Donation Request Letter helps to spread that awareness and encourage a spirit of generosity.
Dear [first name],
How are the finances in your household? That was a rhetorical question, so you don’t have to answer—besides, this is a letter so we wouldn’t hear you anyway. But we still want you to think about that question.
Money is a uniquely human issue, one we all struggle with to one degree or another. Even if you’re financially blessed, you still have the burden of stewarding your money wisely. And we believe that one of the best ways to invest your money is into the local church.
Tithing (giving 10% of your income) on a regular basis not only supports the work we do at [church name]. It doesn’t just support local missions and community growth. It also shows an obedience to God by making his work a financial priority in your life.
So if you find yourself ready to put God first in both your heart and your wallet, we encourage you to make a one-time gift or sign up to make recurring donations. That way, you won’t have to ever wonder again about the financial status of your household.
Many church donations aren’t just one-time gifts. Plenty of givers contribute monthly—and that should be acknowledged.
Use this template to correspond with recurring givers.
Dear [first name],
Thank you for being an active and faithful member of our church community. By giving to our church on a monthly basis, you’re showing that our church has a meaningful place in your heart. We just wanted to write this to let you know that you’re in our heart, too.
Donating to the church monthly allows us to preach the gospel, make disciples, and support others in our community who need help. Others like the local food bank and the nearby homeless shelter. We’re answering the cry of the needy, and it’s all thanks to contributors like you.
We earnestly appreciate your ongoing support and want to let you know we’re here for you. If there’s ever anything we can do for you and your family, don’t hesitate to reach out. You are a valued member of our church family. And you’re financial support is making a difference.
At the end of each year, it’s customary to give your church supporters a summary of their gifts. The primary reason is for tax purposes, but it’s also a way to recap everything your church has done over the past year with their support.
Dear [first name],
You’re getting this letter because you gave to [church name] at some point during the past year. That might have been a one-time gift, or recurring donations. Either way, we want to thank you for your generous support. Every contribution helps.
One of the official reasons for this letter is for tax purposes. That’s right—you get to write these donations off on your taxes. Which is why we’ve included a summary of all the contributions you’ve made to our church this year.
But the other reason for this letter is to let you know what we’ve done with the money you gave. We take stewardship very seriously, which means we value spending our time and resources wisely.
During the year, our church supported local nonprofits, sent global missions teams, and baptised quite a few people. It was a great year for us—thanks in large part to donors like you.
So thank you for your support of our church, and we hope you’ll consider continuing to contribute to our mission in the coming year.
Sometimes you need to make a more significant financial push using tried and true church fundraising ideas. Some churches call this a Stewardship Campaign or a Church Capital Campaign. Either way, the goal is to raise a certain amount of money for a big project. And typically, a solid letter of appeal is an integral part of that.
Dear [first name],
God has a plan for everyone and everything. That includes you, and it includes [church name]. None of us can fully know God’s plan—the best we can do is pray and listen for clarity. Our church leadership has been doing just that and are excited to announce our latest church project.
[Detail the outline of the major church project—this could include a building campaign, or raising support for a global mission trip. Anything specific to your church that requires a fundraising letter. Be sure to include a fundraising goal so everyone knows what you’re shooting for.]
But we can’t pull this off without your support. Whether you give to the church on a regular basis, or just attend on occasion, we’re asking you to consider contributing to this massive undertaking prayerfully. It’s something we need our entire church community’s help with.
Even if you can’t make a large gift, know that every little bit helps. It’s more about coming together as a community united behind a common cause. We hope that you’ll consider making a donation towards this great step forward that we’re making together.
It’s not enough to just copy and paste this content and send away. The key to an effective church donation letter is a touch of personalization. Follow these tips to take your donation letters to the next level:
There’s no one right or wrong way to write a donation letter or request contributions. You’ve got to do what is right for your church and congregation. But if you stick to these general tips, you’ll probably start to see some traction when it comes to giving.
Most people don’t love talking about money in church. But it’s a necessary and vital part of your church. And maximizing your efforts when it comes to donation letters will help make those conversations more comfortable. So what do you do next to put this into effect?
And if you’re looking for ways to grow your church’s giving capacity, Tithely can help.
Tithely’s systems make it as easy as possible for people to give to your church. Now all you need to start doing is generating a culture of gratitude. There’s nothing standing in your way. Go unleash generosity in your church.
How does your church use donation letters to spread generosity? Share your thoughts in the comments below!
Editor's Note: This is a guest post from Robert Carnes. Robert is a writer and storyteller. He's the author of The Original Storyteller: Become a Better Storyteller in 30 Days. A former church communicator and nonprofit marketer, Robert works as a managing editor for Orange in Atlanta.