Funding for church planting is a subject that many church planters wrestle with as they are starting out with their new church plant.
Having successfully planted 2 churches in my life and resurrecting the 3rd church, I have a little experience on this subject.
Recently I read a question by a prospective church planter about how to juggle priorities when being a bi-vocational church planter. He was wondering how he could manage his job, family priorities, and a church plant.
My reaction to the question surprised even myself.
Here is what I said.
Derek, you bring up a great question. Personally, I am not a great fan of the bi-vocational model. I think we have taken Paul’s example of tentmaking and made it into a doctrine when it was never meant to be so. Paul had other avenues of support besides tentmaking.
The bi-vocational model caused great pain and lasting damage to me personally and my family. Now I totally understand that the choice was mine, thus the responsibility is mine. It is because of what I have learned through the pain that I would not do it over if given the chance to repeat my life nor would I recommend to anyone who is married with family responsibilities to do it. I also would not recommend it for a couple that already depends on 2 incomes to support one family. That model of family support has already brought pressures upon the family and the children that is having detrimental effects on the family unit as a whole.
The average American works 46 hours per week. 38% work more than 50. Couple that with spending a minimum of 20 hours per week planting a church and I ask the question; Where do you have time for your wife and her woman’s heart, you kids and their need just for time with dad, and time for your own personal rejuvenation? You are called to be the pastor to your family first.
I think that the church in America, not just the Vineyard, needs to have a serious discussion about our paradigm concerning how we fund church planting, how we view our mission field, and whether or not we have some assumptions that are not valid in today’s society.
The church plant will only be as healthy as the church planter.
That being said, I firmly believe that “Where God guides, God provides”. I just think that we as kingdom people need to open up and be open to, many different avenues for God to use to provide. We need to think beyond the box of “bi-vocationalism”
Starting The Conversation On Church Plant Funding
I think there are 3 major things that we have to look at if we are going to wrestle with the issue of funding for church planting.
I think we have to look at how we view church planting in America. Is it a mission field or is it just the expansion of ministry in an already Christian nation?
I think we have to look at the assumptions that we make about church planting and our nation in light of what seems to be the spiritual decline and descent into a post-Christian mentality culturally.
I then think we need to look at how we view and fund church planters and discern if there are other ways to promote and support church planting besides forcing people into the most popular method which is expecting church planters to be bi-vocational.
Is America A Mission Field Or A Christian Nation?
The widely discussed American Religious Identification Survey (ARIS), released in 2009, marked an alarming increase in “nones” – nearly doubling from 8 percent to 15 percent. This made those who claim no religion at all the third largest defined constituency in the United States, eclipsed only by Catholics and Baptists.
Further, “nones” were the only religious bloc to rise in percentage in every single state, thus constituting the only true national trend.
American church culture may be asleep in the light but the fact has become that America is now at the place where it is a mission field and not a Christian nation.
The rest of the world has seen this to be true and in 2010, 34,210 missionaries were sent to America from other nations.
So even though natural-born American citizens have the advantage of working in this country and supporting themselves, we still need to take a look at how committed we are to send out home missionaries to our own soil.
Would we use the strategies that we are currently using on our home front in supporting church planting in our overseas missionary efforts?
I believe not.
I do not believe that we would send out foreign missionaries with the majority of the responsibility and burden concerning funding placed upon the missionary.
Yet that is exactly what most churches and organizations do with church planters in America.
Do Natural Born Citizens Of America Have Time To Plant A Church?
Here is the assumption that used to be true 50 years ago but is no longer true.
Americans work a 40 hour a week job. This is not true.
As I stated above, “The average American works 46 hours per week. 38% work more than 50.”
I have heard so many people say they are hard-workers that do 60, 70, and even 80 hour weeks.
Given the fact that weeks have 168 hours, and humans normally need around 50 to sleep, 20 to eat, and probably 20 more to do necessities like bathe, clothe, and go to the bathroom, an 80-hour workweek should leave someone with around negative two (-2) hours to spare assuming a zero (0) time commute.
So let’s say that you work 50 hours a week on your job and a minimum of 20 hours per week planting the church. That leaves you 8 hours to be the husband to your wife, a good parent to your kids, and leisure time to rejuvenate.
If you continue this pace for any length of time at all you will burn out, you will become unhealthy, and you will lose the relationships with those that you love and care about the most.
Trust me, I know.
After 10 years of doing this, I suffered all 3.
With the American culture and financial condition forcing many parents to be 2 income households, I must ask the question.
Is it a reasonable expectation to ask people to plant churches on the backs of their children who will do without much parental interaction?
There is also an expectation that a church planter will only have to maintain this type of schedule for a limited amount of time.
Most church plants that I have seen and been a part of were not able to support a pastor full-time for many years.
Can we expect people to maintain a 70+ hour work week for years on end?
Is this right to do so?
Is it healthy?
Alternative Methods For Funding Church Planting
Here are just a few ideas for funding church planting that does not have to rest on the back of the church planter.
- Trust Funds Many denominations and church organizations use trust funds for funding other projects that they have going in their group. Why not establish a trust fund that is designated for church planters? Even in the group of churches that I am part of, if the churches were asked to give 1% of their general funds to a church planting trust fund, there would be a huge trust fund established that would generate income to fund church planting and support church planters.
- Partnerships Encourage and allow local churches to form partnerships that will support regional and local church planting efforts and church planters. In the group of churches I am part of we have partnerships that support foreign missions and missionaries. Why can’t we change our perspective about America being a mission field and do the same?
- Empower Church Planting Missionaries. One of the most successful models of missions work has been to empower foreign missionaries to raise support from home. How about we empower our home missionaries to be able to do the same thing. What is wrong with encouraging individuals and churches to support home missionaries with a monthly gift as well?
- Sending Out Teams. Instead of sending someone out with what I call the “parachute drop” style of church planting where you send out 1 church planter who has to do everything to start the church, how about sending out a team large enough that both the financial burden will be taken care of by the teams tithes and offerings but also the work load is lessened on the founding pastor.
- Funding The Church Plant With Product And Services Outside Of Work. One of the things I have done to supplement my income as a small church pastor is to start this website. It actually helps pay my bills. It really does not take much more work than I do for the church. I publish my messages and I use my ministry skills and knowledge to generate an income. Christian counseling, public speaking, and other things can be used to generate income that does not add to your workload as a church planter. Think outside the box of the traditional work mentality.
How Are You Rethinking Funding For Church Planting?
I hope that this article has caused you to step back and think.
It is not meant to be all-inclusive of how we should think today.
It is meant to get you thinking outside the “bi-vocational” box. I would love to hear your thoughts on this.