Location independence is a growing trend for people working in the corporate world – especially millennials – who want to live and work from anywhere.
And thanks to the Coronavirus pandemic of 2020, and the fact that so many offices and workplaces have been shut down and more people are working from home, many are realizing that they can work from home…from anywhere at all.
But what about pastors – are there any pastor jobs that are location independent?
Welcome to episode 8 of the More Than a Pastor Show. On today’s show we’ll talk about location independence, and I’ll share seven pastor jobs that are location independent.
Plus I’ll share a quotation for the day from Dan Miller, a free resource to help you find the clarity and confidence you need to go after your greatest calling, and some Q&A. That’s all coming up on today’s episode of the More than a Pastor show.
Before we dive in..
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What is Location Independence?
Location independence is a lifestyle of not being tied to a particular geographical location. It’s having the freedom to live and work wherever you want.
Most people in the US – pastors included – find ourselves tied to a certain geographical location, don’t we?
I think there are basically two reasons for that:
1. Our Work
Probably the biggest reason people are tied to a certain geographical area is their job. That’s traditionally been true of most pastors, who minister in a particular community context.
But the church does have a history of circuit riding preachers like John Wesley, and missionaries like the Apostle Paul, who regularly ministered outside of their geographical community context.
2. Our Family
The second reason we’re often tied to a certain geographical area is our family. We want to stay close to our kids, parents, and extended family relationships.
That’s a value my wife certainly expresses whenever I dream of living somewhere else. But I say they can come and see us whenever they want…or maybe they’ll relocate too.
But what if your work wasn’t tied to where you lived? And your family situation doesn’t factor into where you live? Then maybe location independence is possible for you.
It’s definitely becoming more of a thing these days. And certain jobs or industries are more conducive to it than others.
For example, if you work in IT as a web designer or coder, like one of my sons does, it may not matter at all where you work. You can do it virtually from anywhere.
But be a location independent pastor? What does that even look like?
A Pastor's Dream of Location Independence
I’ve had a dream of being location independent for nearly 10 years. It probably goes back to when I first read the 4-Hour Workweek by Tim Ferriss.
I just love the idea of being able to live and work from anywhere. But it doesn’t seem very realistic for pastors, does it?
I live in Michigan where it’s lovely in the spring, summer, and fall, but brutally cold and snowy in the winter.
So I’ve thought it would be amazing if I could find a way to spend the winter somewhere warm – at one of my favorite places like San Diego or Miami Beach. Or even Mexico, India, Cambodia, or Argentina.
Sure, lots of people – including pastors – go somewhere warm for the winter in their retirement years. And many church denominations or associations have retirement communities in Florida or other warm places.
But what if I want to go somewhere warm in the winter now at age 50, well before my “retirement” years?
It definitely sounds doable if you own your own online business, or you work in IT or some field where you can work remotely.
But a location independent pastor? How would that work?
My church blessed me with a 4-week sabbatical, which I took in the spring of 2019. I was so glad we didn’t wait until 2020, because everything would have been canceled due to the pandemic.
My wife and I enjoyed a fabulous Caribbean cruise together out of Miami. Following the cruise, I stayed in Miami Beach for a week of personal R&R. Then I had a week at home with the family before we embarked on a family vacation to Washington, DC.
During my Sabbatical, as I reflected on my life, family, ministry, and dreams for the future, I began to think more about location independence. And I asked myself, “Rich, why wait until I’m retired to live where I’d love to live?
What if I could find a way to do pastoral ministry from wherever I wanted to live now? Like here in Miami Beach? Or San Diego…another place I’ve dreamed of living?
You’re probably thinking, “Well that’s easy enough, right? Just do a little online research for pastor jobs in Miami Beach or San Diego or wherever you want to live. Plenty of pastors do that.”
And that’s true. But that’s more like relocation than being location independent. And location independence is really what I’m after.
So what would a location independent pastor look like?
The Location Independent Pastor
Let me describe a Location Independent Pastor in two ways:
- First and most obvious, a location independent Pastor is someone whose ministry does not depend on a particular location. Such a person can serve almost anywhere they like.
- Second, a location independent Pastor can be someone who may have a fixed location for their ministry but the ministry can operate successfully without the person’s physical presence in the office.
Either way, the location independent pastor does not need to be physically tied to a particular location to work and earn a living. He or she is free to move from one place to another.
So do you think it’s possible for a pastor to be location independent? Or do pastors really need to minister in the community where we’re located?
7 Pastor Jobs That Are Location Independent
Well I believe it is possible for some pastors to become location independent. And I’ve come up with 7 location independent jobs for pastors.
1. Itinerant Speaking Ministry
Many pastors travel and speak at conferences, revivals, and other events, on the side, in addition to their regular ministry…that’s nothing new.
But can a pastor make a full-time living as a special speaker?
I think it’s possible. And the key is to develop a signature message that you can be known for, that people would be willing to pay you for.
Your signature message might be preaching, leadership, evangelism, small groups, marriage, missions…whatever your passion is.
Then you need to package your signature message into several different speaking formats:
- Sermon – For a church worship service
- Keynote address – For a conference or event
- Seminar – For a workshop
- Retreat – For an all-day or weekend event.
You could get paid to speak, plus you can earn additional income by selling books, videos, online courses, coaching programs, and other resources that people will want to buy.
So, do you have a keynote talk or message within you?
If you need help with that, check out my friend Jonathan Milligan’s new book Your Message Matters. For a limited time during the launch of the book, he’s giving away FREE copies – you just have to pay for shipping.
2. Interim Pastor
Interim pastor jobs can be great opportunities for pastors to work location independent.
Often I think of retired pastors serving as an interim pastor, coming into a church to do pulpit supply while the church searches for their next pastor.
But there’s a growing movement of professional interim pastors who not only preach but also do leadership development with the staff, board development with the elder or deacon board, and help the church resolve issues that should be dealt with before the next pastor comes.
And sometimes, the interim pastor doesn’t have to relocate for this six month or one year assignment, but can travel back and forth a couple of weeks at a time between their home and the church.
3. Online Pastor
The coronavirus pandemic of 2020 opened up a whole new world online for churches.
A few weeks ago, I heard William Vanderbloemen on the Carey Niewhof podcast say that before the pandemic, 10% of churches were streaming online, and 90% weren’t. Today, 90% are streaming online, and 10% are not.
Our church has been streaming our services online for years. But we knew, a couple of weeks into our governor’s “stay at home” order last spring, that we need to re-imagine what our online church experience could be like – not just for our weekend services, but other ministries and programs as well.
I was asked to research churches who were “killing it” online, to see what we could learn from them, look for future trends we need to prepare for, and design a proposal for developing an “online campus” and hiring an online pastor for our church.
During my research, I noticed some churches had hired online pastors who do not live anywhere near the church. For them, it didn’t matter where the online pastor lived, because all of their work would be done online.
And it got me thinking…
Many local churches have built online communities made up of people who live outside the church’s geographical area. Is it also possible for a pastor to build an online community that does not have any physical location or ties to a particular geographical area?
I think so. Let’s see!
4. International Missions Leader
I’ve known several missions-minded pastors – both lead pastors and missions pastors – who ended up working for a missions organization or their denomination as a coach or mentor to missionaries or national leaders.
This is something I’ve considered for myself, too.
Some missions leadership roles may require relocation. But for others, it wouldn’t matter where you lived, because you’d be traveling frequently to many different countries, or you may go for a month or a couple of months at a time.
5. Online Educator
Most pastors are natural teachers, so it’s no surprise that pastors with advanced theological degrees could teach college or seminary level classes online to train and equip other pastors for ministry.
Today there are more online education options for pastors than ever before, and within a generation, I think online learning will go from being “an option” to being “the norm.” Meaning there will be lots of opportunities for pastors to live and teach from anywhere.
The explosion of the gig economy has made it easier than ever for anyone with skills and experience to get paid as a coach or consultant – even pastors!
If you have experience and success in navigating church turnarounds, staffing and HR, fundraising and stewardship, building campaigns, personal leadership development, etc., you could develop a coaching or consulting practice and offer those services to churches everywhere from anywhere you want to live.
7. Self-Funded Ministry
I thought of entitling this one, “Choose Your Own Adventure.”
What if you could create your own profitable online business that would self-fund your ministry, giving you the freedom to live and work from anywhere?
Maybe it’s selling online courses or coaching, or physical products, or other services, or even a brick and mortar business.
But you can run it online or remotely from anywhere. And this gives you the ability to do ministry wherever you want.
Is a Location Independence Right for You?
Some of these location independent ideas I’ve shared would have seemed pretty far-fetched, if not impossible, a couple of years ago.
But look at the new opportunities that have opened up in the last year thanks to Covid-19!
Things that were once unthinkable or impossible suddenly come into the realm of possibility.
That’s why I love this question from my friend Dan Miller, author of 48 Days to the Work You Love:
“What does this now make possible?”
I’ve shared before that I’m in Dan’s 48 Days Eagles community. It’s an incredible resource where we get coaching from Dan and tons of other great experts on all sorts of topics to help people create the work and life they’ll love.
In fact, that cruise my wife and I took in 2019 for my sabbatical…we were with Dan and Joanne Miller and several other members of the 48 Days community. I’ll share more about that amazing experience some time.
But I just love this quote from Dan, because it helps us to get on the solution side of any problem or challenge.
Because when bad things happen, our world gets turned upside down, people are told not to come to church, people are afraid to leave their homes, workplaces have to close, etc. etc., we can become fearful and worried about what we are losing when those things happen.
And sometimes we don’t realize that with every loss we experience, there’s something to be gained.
And we can now ask ourselves…what does this now make possible?
- People can’t come to church in our building…what does this now make possible?
- People can’t come to work in the our building…what does this now make possible?
- The giving of tithes and offerings are on the decline, what does this now make possible?
- I’m not sure if our church can continue to afford to pay me or some other staff…what does this now make possible?
Just asking this simple question can open ourselves up to creative thinking which can yield amazing possibilities.
And location independence is one of those possibilities which is becoming a reality for many people right now.
Maybe even for pastors!
It just takes a little creativity to reimagine our calling and be intentional about creating the kind of life we feel called to.
So what do you think? Is location independence right for you? What would you like or not like about working location independent?
I’d love to get your feedback on this, and hear your thoughts over in our private More Than a Pastor Facebook Group.
And if you have dreams of being location independent and you’d like help in figuring out how to do that. Or you’ve had other dreams and you’re just not sure if they’re still possible, or how you’d even get started?
I’d like to give you a free resource to help you create clarity about your most important values, dreams, and passions, and help you reimagine your calling so you can serve God in a more fulfilling way and create the life, impact, and income you were made for.
>>Click to Download Your Personal Clarity GPS
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And until next time, remember that you are more than a pastor. Saying yes to God’s call doesn’t mean you HAVE to say yes to feeling stuck, broke, and unfulfilled. Let’s work together to create the life, impact, and income you were made for!