Rethinking Funding for Church Planting

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I was in a recent meeting pertaining to higher education. In the midst of our time together someone made the comment, "no money, no mission." That comment elicited nods and "yes" statements. The premise was that without money there is no mission. While this was related to academic institutions this same notion is not only prevalent in church planting, but more than likely at the forefront of the thinking of church planters as well as network and denominational leaders.

Should it be? Yes and no.

Obviously on one level we all need money to live on and sustain ourselves. That's why we go to university, get certificates and training, and so on. We need to exist and live life providing for ourselves and our families. However, strictly on the church planting level it doesn't take a penny to plant and grow churches. Again, I'm separating out the actual church planting process from making a living. They are separate. We know from the vantage point of 2,000 years of church history it doesn't take any money to see explosive church planting movements. Even today where we see such occurrences we also note that church planters themselves don't earn their living from church planting. Instead, they work everyday jobs.

However, for most church planters it is more than simply planting a church (which doesn't take any money) but making a living (which does take money). Towards that end planters spend months ... even years ... before the church planting journey raising funds. The goal is to raise enough support to (a) move to a new location, (b) begin the church planting process, and (c) have enough funds to sustain themselves until this new fledgling church can in a sense "take over" their financial support. Sometimes that works, but often times it doesn't. Ultimately that means church planters (a) get jobs while planting or (b) leave planting altogether for a paying job.

And yet we continue to do this same pattern over and over. The notion is that with enough mass there will certainly be some church plants that "stick" while many others fall by the wayside where planters (a) still integrate into their new home cities by getting jobs or (b) go back home wherever they came from. Again, the more churches we attempt to plant this way then at least a few will take root (while whatever happens to those church planters who don't make it is not really our concern). And so we beat the drum of more church planters all the while seeing diminishing available funds for this key and important endeavor.

The point is not that the people planting churches don't need to earn a living. We all do. That's why we grind away at school. The point is, what if we rethought how or what we're raising money for? Meaning, what if instead of raising money strictly for church planting we also did so for a new business start-up or non-profit? That while we plant we're also creating and building a financial platform that will carry us as our church plants slowly develop?

Here's the truth that no one really wants to talk about. Rarely do church plants truly emerge out of the harvest. Instead, most gather other Christians whether they are from area local churches or happened to be disengaged from church. Why? Because to truly plant a church from the harvest will take a lot longer than funding will allow for. So we take short-cuts (I know I did). But what if we don't have to? What if we had a financial base that is not predicated on how fast your church grows?