Why You Need to Start a Business While Planting a Church


The title of this article is immediately fraught with tension. I've heard from countless pastors and church planters that it's difficult enough to plant a church, but to add a start-up on top of it? That's maddening!

I suppose it is or could be. I tend to agree. But what if some of our hang-ups had to do with what we mean by words like "start-up" and then what all that entails? Am I advocating a church planter / entrepreneur to work 70-80 hours a week? No, not at all. However, what I am saying is this ... could it possibly be that what will actually keep you anchored in your community long term is not your church plant but your start-up instead?

While it may sound like I'm picking fights that is certainly not my intention. Let's take the storyline of the "typical" church planter ... and yes, I mean typical. I've been around Portland long enough now to see how this plays out. Church planter moves to Portland from outside with high hopes and aspirations. Many (most?) parachute drop into a community and start from scratch. Maybe they had a couple people move with them or a few families. Armed with decent funding for the first couple of years they hit the ground running.

However, after 2-3 years when the funding begins dwindling their church of 15-30-50 isn't large enough to sustain them. Sure, there are some church plants that "pop" and are running 60-80-135 (or more if they start with a well-established relational network), but most are not in a place where their new church can begin to carry them over the next few years. The church planter is then left with a looming dilemma. Give it another year and hope something "pops" or (a) polish off their resume to begin searching for another ministry position or (b) polish off their resume and begin looking for a job locally hoping that it jives well with church planting.

Again, this is the typical church planting storyline. What needs to change?

While I don't have the time or space today in this article to jump into detail, what if instead the church planter spent the first couple of years of launching their start-up, solidifying their financial base, and then when year 3 hits and support begins declining they have a financial engine that is ramping up that can carry them? While historically that was supposed to happen with the new church that takes on more financial responsibility as outside funding decreases, we know more and more that is no longer the case.

So maybe we need to think about a different entry approach for church planters. Obviously more was unsaid than said and little to no details were given. My goal today was to simply broad the topic. What if?