This week in Questions and Answers, we’re tackling a question from Tim, a dad, web designer and former pastor in Nashville who has been through a tremendous medical emergency with one of his children, and is struggling to regain his financial footing with his work and family. We’ve included an abbreviated version of Tim’s question below; you can see the full text here.
After working with a marketing company for the last year (and being contractually obligated to not work and build my own company), I recently renegotiated my contract due to the fact that we have severely struggled financially since taking the job. The marketing firm I am with has not been as successful as they had originally hoped, and all my work for future great reward never paid off. The money I make from my day job is approximately $3,000 per month, which is about $1,000 short of what I need to provide for my wife and four kids.
I have since started working on trying to build websites again, but as it is not, my whole life is work. I work all day, come home, see my kids for a brief moment as I rush up stairs, and get back to work and work till 2am – 3am building websites and trying to find new website clients. This has “worked” for the last 4 months as I was able to pay all my bills on time (usually at the end of the month after incurring late fees). But this last month, I couldn’t get web jobs and I could not pay my mortgage (our church wound up helping us).
I am exhausted with life and don’t believe this is God’s will for me. I am supposed to be engaging my wife and kids and spending time with them, and raising them to love the Lord. But all I do is work, just to provide the basics. With my wife not being able to work I am not sure what my options are. If I re-entered ministry (which I love) I don’t think I could find a work that could provide what we need. Outside of church I have so few skills that no entry level job will provide.
— Tim, Nashville
Thanks for your question, Tim. First of all, praise God for the recovery that your son has experienced in the years since the accident. You have a lot to be thankful for in that situation.
The circumstances that you’ve outlined are difficult, and you’re correct in believing that this kind of struggle isn’t God’s will for you. I believe that He wants you to be engaged with your wife and kids, as well as to provide for them, and that there’s a balance between the two. But the way you’re working now is not sustainable, either in terms of your finances or your family relationships.
If we address your situation on a purely mathematical basis, it’s not too difficult to figure out. You’re struggling to provide for your family on $3,000 per month. And the truth is that this income would probably be too low for anyone trying to support a family of six in Nashville. Though your son’s accident was a defining moment in your life, at this point it’s not the driving factor in your finances. Your biggest problem, on paper at least, is your low income.
Your question doesn’t specify whether your $3,000 income is your gross pay or the amount that you actually take home after taxes and other withholding. If it’s gross, that means you’re earning about $36,000 in your day job; if it’s net, you may be earning around $45,000 or $50,000. Either way, you need to be earning more.
Having said that, I think that what you’re really up against is not just a mathematical situation, but an issue of emotional and spiritual exhaustion. Your family has been through an incredible ordeal in the last three years, and the heart-wrenching nature of the accident and the recovery has left you feeling completely spent and emotionally beaten down.
This overwhelming feeling of exhaustion is affecting the way that you think about your work and your income. It’s great that you learned web and graphic design, and have used that to make extra money. But you haven’t necessarily made great career moves. When you signed on to the marketing company and promised to give up doing your own side work, you severely restricted your earning potential. And it sounds like you made some sort of deal with them that was based on the overall success of that organization, which wasn’t the best idea for someone in your position.
What you really need is a stable, full-time job with a well-run organization that compensates you well based on your skills and experience. You say that you don’t think you can find that in ministry or in the secular job market, but I think that’s just the exhaustion talking. You’re so beat up emotionally that you don’t see hope in your circumstances. But I think there’s plenty to be hopeful about.
It’s not at all unthinkable that you could find a job that would pay the $60,000+ that your family needs. There are hundreds of churches in Nashville, and I’m sure there are a few that would value your decade of ministry experience and the wisdom and perspective that you could bring from your recent trials. And you do have marketable skills in the secular world, too — namely, graphic and web design. While the marketing firm was not the best place to use those, they are certainly valuable, and you shouldn’t have too much trouble finding companies in your area that would pay you well for work in those fields.
I think your biggest issue isn’t the lack of money, but the lack of hope. If you haven’t already done so, surround yourself with some people who can encourage you and speak some hope back into your life. And then begin looking for work — not side work for nights and weekends, but a full-time job that really makes the most of your skills and experiences. The right job is the key to feeding your family while also getting to enjoy them.
God bless you!
Photo by Chad Magiera. Used under Creative Commons License.