Fund Your New Church: 6 Questions For Church Planters

As we head to Exponential 2010 this week, I asked Brad Leeper of our GENERIS team to help me take on 6 key questions for church planters as they look to fund their new church plant. Here is our dialogue.

1.    How much money could we possibly need to simply launch a church?

Brad: Depends upon how much leadership want to align the launch with the mission. Financial resources must align with the vision in the context of the community. Otherwise, you as a leader are creating a very steep climb for yourself to most likely not break the 200 barrier.

Jim: Launching a church is more expensive than you think. Raising the initial funding entails a lot more than just the initial gatherings. There are salaries to pay and expenses for weekly services. Many church plants grow quickly and the growth puts a lot of pressure on the church to keep up. It is best to have an upfront strategy that raises not only the launch funding, but also some measure of support over the first 1-2 years.

2.    Are there outside sources besides friends and family to support my church plant?

Jim: Yes. Many church planters find financial support from people other than friends and family. You have to be intentional about finding these people. They probably won’t just land in your lap.

Brad: Financial resources are available from many surprising sources.  It is important to tell your story in a compelling way to these different kinds of potential financial partners so that they are inclined to give to their greatest capacity.  You can raise significant financial resources from more than just your friends.  You will need to do so if want to abundantly fund your new church.  Or even more practically, if you want some level of income while you work to build the church plant.  Having a conversation with a close friend for a $100 investment is much different from the conversation with the person who could invest thousands.   Learn how to have those different conversations that will catapult your new church to abundant funding.

3.    Don’t we just send out letters to our friends?

Brad: This practice is the default standard and what most will do without a formal connection to a church.  The letter strategy will work because people love you.  The letter strategy tends to be minimally effective in the results based on a realistic budget of what it takes to launch a new church. You can learn the number of options for developing financial resources from a number of sources.

Jim: That is one part of a funding strategy, but not the only part. The most strategic gifts will likely come from a relatively few persons with above average capacity. You will need to cultivate the relationships and make the ask in person.

4.    Will we have the money we need when we need it?

Many church planters spend a lot of time worrying about this very question. It is a natural part of our human nature. There is a God-inspired shaping and pruning that takes place as the church plant is launched. The reality is that most church planters have the money they need when they need it, even if it was not the same amount they were originally thinking.

Brad: Most new churches start with some funds, but can run out quickly.  The lack of adequate can be the largest obstacle to launching the new church with passion, excellence, and effectiveness.  Many effective church plants can plan for and have adequate cash flow for the length of time to plan and to launch the church. Perhaps the biggest winner in this process?  Your spouse.  Often, it is the spouse who bears the brunt of inadequate funding creating emotional turmoil and long term baggage from the launch season. The leader is out having all the fun in leadership while the spouse is left with minimal funding to handle the household.  Is the lack of funding worth the unnecessary wear on the marriage?

5.    Can’t I as the Senior Leader delegate the fund raising role to someone else?

Brad: The senior leader sets the tone for the generosity culture of the church from the very beginning of this process.  Understanding your leadership in generosity will make a huge difference in the quality of the new church plant process and will free you emotionally to invest in the actual execution of the ministry plan.  You can delegate the expression of the church core value of generosity.  You cannot delegate the passion and align of financial resources and the new church.

Jim: You could, but that is probably not the wisest choice. Some things should be delegated and some should not. Several factors are important to consider:

  • If it is not a high priority to the Senior Leader, it will probably not be a high priority to everyone else.
  • The launch team and key supporters have to know the Senior Leader is on board with his support.
  • The initial funding effort will set the tone for the generosity culture in the church. Rarely does a leader have a second chance to shape this culture so it is important to get it right on the front end.

6.    How do I ask people to give to my church plant when they already give to another church?

Jim: From the start, the church planter has to be prepared for the reality that not everyone will say yes. It may take a number of asks to get one supporter. The role of the Senior Leader in the church plant is to find enough opportunities to make the ask. Do not worry about the response, just make the ask.

Brad: Raising financial resources is so much more and more fun than asking for funding.  It is a rare privilege when you as a new church leader can align a donor’s vision and passion with the mission and vision of the new church.  There is more money available for new churches than you can imagine.  Learning how to align those funds with the new church vision will make a huge difference in the long-term health and vibrancy of the new church.

You will find a brief video and other resources at the web site we have set up for our time at Exponential 2010: www.FundYourNewChurch.com

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