I love talking to church planters. Their dreams are big, their commitment is unwavering, and their courage is remarkable. I’m not sure there is anything harder to do than start a church. I admire church planters for so many reasons.
Any yet, I’m also consistently surprised that few have a comprehensive funding plan or even financial projections. You wouldn’t build a house without first talking to an architect, builder, and banker. You wouldn’t start a business without a clear path to break-even and eventually profitability. And you wouldn’t invest in a company that didn’t have a strategy, action plan, and financial models to ensure your capital is multiplied many times overs.
Why do we think it should be any different when it comes to planting churches?
Endurance in ministry requires more than grit and personal resolve. It must be supported by a documented plan (which includes financial projections).
“Living On a Prayer” might be a hit song for the great philosopher Bon Jovi, but it is in no way a sustainable or viable option for church planters. I’m certainly not downplaying the role of faith in the process of planting a church, but a “preach good, pray hard” ministry plan isn’t good enough.
If you really want to actualize the vision God has given you, then you need to make sure you can “stay in the game” long enough to achieve the change you set out to create. After all, we are talking about spiritual formation, discipleship, and eternity. That’s a high-stakes game.
Here are 10 practical tips for church planters about funding ministry:
Whatever you think it's going to cost to plant the church ... double it.
However long you think it's going to take to achieve consistency in your congregation's giving habits ... triple it.
Develop three financial plans. One is consistent with your current cash flow and expenses. The other plan is be your "dream plan." The third and final is a master plan that outlines how to get from where you are today to your dream plan.
Evaluate and adjust your budget every 90 days based on your actual giving and expenses.
Find a way to relieve the income pressure at home. It may make sense to have some source of personal income outside the church itself until the giving history produces a level of confidence that you can consistently meet payroll.
Read every book, article, etc. you can about fund-raising. It is most likely an unfamiliar concept to you but is also the very function that will make or break your ability to survive long enough to achieve any measurable impact.
Find people in your core launch group or in the community who have experience with growing businesses, raising capital, etc. This will probably never be your strong suit and offers the perfect opportunity for another to offer their time and talent in a unique and substantive way.
(This is more personal than organizational.) Find a CPA who will help you navigate personal tax issues. You don't want to waste your time in court, pay obscene penalties, or demonstrate a lack of integrity or intentionality when it comes to personal money management.
Your core leadership team should be giving generously. If they aren't, find some new leaders.
Pastors who are generous can and do lead their churches to be generous. It never works the other way around.
I want you to succeed.
I’m your biggest fan. And that mean I want to equip you for long-term ministry engagement. To ensure your effort becomes a legacy that lives on for generations, you’re going to have to think differently. The rules of funding ministry have changed. If you’re not prepared, you could get unexpectedly sidelined in your efforts.
You’ve already done the hard part. You’ve accepted the call from God to plant a church. Now it’s time to prepare in every way possible to make that vision in your heart reality.
What other practical tips would you include?