"Talk to Me When You've Run Out of Funding"
In the university classroom this semester I’ve done something I hadn’t previously done before. I begin every class with a quote pertinent to the subject I’m teaching on. If it’s on bicycles, equity, and race then all quotes pertain to those subjects. If it’s on calling, vocation, spirituality, and character then most quotes explore the parameters of what kind of life we’re to live, adventure, and leaning into how we’re wired and gifted. I’m always on the hunt for a good quote and I regularly search for them. Sometimes they come from books, other times I find them online, and other times they originate from movies. I display them on the screen and we talk.
One of my favorite quotes is the well-known Mike Tyson one that goes, “Everyone has a plan ‘till they get punched in the mouth.” That is applicable in more areas of life than we’d like to admit. Not too long ago I was at a church planting event, a roundtable of sorts. Featured were not only church planters, but those who’ve done well at raising funds to focus exclusively on planting. It’s church planting bliss. I applaud them for their ability to raise funds. It means they’re good fundraisers.
I couldn’t help but sit there, listen, and think of all of the other planters in the room. I thought, “Talk to me when you’ve run out of funding.” For those with ample funding it means they’re going all-out on church planting until their funding runs out. Then, in a moment of panic they come to a crossroads. I’ve seen many church planters reach this crossroads. I hit it too. It’s at that crossroads where you decide … (a) keep going in planting in spite of running out of funding which means getting a job, (b) keep trying like mad to raise more funds by convincing old and new supporters alike that we’re almost ready to “pop” and take off, (c) start sending my resume out to other churches and ministries, or (d) start a business or non-profit to keep this going.
Very few church planters avoid that crossroads. No one anticipates it. We all assume that we’ll be the ones to actually “make it” in church planting which is code for “the church grows large enough to pay my salary.” One of my pleas through Intrepid is for church planters to begin this conversation even before you begin planting. That it is part of your strategy from the outset rather than hitting the panic button when your plans didn’t work out. However, most of us are stubborn and naive. I know I am. That’s actually a great combination of traits to take into church planting. Otherwise if we look at planting rationally and realistically very few of us would venture into it because of all the risks and uncertainties.
I’m not trying to be critical of planting. I just know planters. Would I have ever considered something like Intrepid when I first ventured into planting? No way. I was convinced I would be the anomaly that would actually succeed in planting. I was wrong so I got a job and worked bivocationally. And I LOVED it. It changed my life. I jokingly tell people that if I was a good fundraiser and successful church planter there’d be no Intrepid. It was born out of my own failures and shortcomings. My hope is to help you avoid some of the same.
The bottom line is there are a lot of ways to fund church planting, missionary endeavors, and community development initiatives. Starting a new venture, whether a business or non-profit, is simply one way.
Written by Sean Benesh
Director of Intrepid