When I first encountered the internet and the world wide web I had little plans of actually making a living off of it – I was more interested in kicking my brother off our shared AOL account so I could hear the sweet sound, “You Got Mail!”
Later I found an exciting full time career building online software for large and small businesses, so the internet became fully a part of my vocational DNA.
Although my passion for web and online technologies remained constant, the organizations for which I built the tools changed and eventually I was able to align my spiritual interests with my work and I went into vocational ministry as a programmer for a Church.
For those that are familiar with ministry and the range of available funds for financial compensation in such a context, there wouldn’t be much of a surprise to hear that I moonlighted to pay my bills and to provide for my family. I became, for all intents and purposes, bi-vocational, serving secular and non-religious organizations with their web strategy and technology needs. I also started blogging daily with an explicit intent on using it as a channel of income.
Just like Paul, one of the more well-known Biblical figures in the New Testament, who devoted himself to crafting tents and leatherworking to support himself while preaching and teaching (see Acts 18:3, 20:33-34) the Gospel message, I was building web apps and blogging (or as I call it, Tentblogging) so make up the financial difference.
Tentmaking, for those that may not be familiar, generally refers to the activities of any Christian who, while functioning as a minister or in vocational ministry, receives pay for his or her Church work (salary), but who may also support themselves by additional unrelated work.
A Tentmaker, then, supports themselves by working a part-time or even full-time job in the marketplace with their skills and education instead of receiving complete financial support from the local Church.
My journey and my decision to become a digital tentmaker wasn’t by choice but rather by necessity – I simply couldn’t afford to not do it and it wasn’t possible to request a larger salary from the non-profit.
One of the more fascinating and satisfying discoveries is that I wasn’t alone in my challenge and many of my friends and colleagues also were moonlighting (or daylighting, a growing trend in skilled freelancers) and were also “making digital tents” with their skills and available resources – some were writers, some were musical artists, some were graphic artists, some did business consulting, and many others did coaching and public speaking. All of these were to supplant and support their full time job and salary in their vocational ministry.
And like myself, they weren’t necessarily frustrated or upset that they had to become become bi-vocational – in fact, there was a sense of relief with their creative freedom to exercise their gifts and strengths in ways that may not often or all the time be used in their day job.
What happened over time was that I began to enjoy my digital tentmaking activities more than my particular vocational ministry responsibilities – and the new-ish opportunity to blog full time became of more and more interest to me, as well as building web apps for other businesses.
What has been personally satisfying to see is that there are more like me out there who are making a serious attempt at turning their personal blogs into ones that can provide for them financially, regardless of what vertical or market sector that they find themselves in.
They are not professional bloggers – bloggers who make a full time income writing blog posts (which is what I now do today) – but tentbloggers: Bloggers who aren’t simply blogging about what they ate for breakfast, but bloggers who have a level of intentionality that puts them in a different category altogether.
They leverage newer tools and blogging platforms and software, they care about search engine optimization, they strategize their content delivery to best position their posts in front of the most readers, and they leverage social networking and social media (like Twitter and Facebook) to promote, market, and expand their influence and traffic so that they can wisely profit from it.
I’m excited about this new age, an age of the digital tentmaking, and I’m glad to be a part of a growing trend of savvy internet entrepreneurs who are passionate about serving their local community, their local Church, and are aware of the many social issues that can be made better through their blog, one post at a time.