I’ve heard from plenty of people that church planting is tough. When Angie and I expressed a calling toward it, we were warned by quite a few ministry leaders to the effect of “Don’t do this unless God has definitely called you because it’s hard.” Church planters face isolation, criticism, and the constant pressure to become self-sustaining. But for me, none of these represent the toughest aspect of church planting. The toughest aspect so far has been fundraising!
One of my own pastors has well said that “He who casts the vision must fund the vision.” So I’ve spent plenty of time connecting with leaders who might be interested in becoming a strategic partner in Grace Hills Church. And I’ve noticed a variety of reactions. Some are eager to help, but aren’t sure how or where to begin. A few are honest and forthright that the funding simply isn’t available. And plenty of leaders choose, for whatever reason, not to respond to the initial contact at all.
I think for us, being one of the first Saddleback Network churches has helped to provide some legitimacy to our work. It has also given the impression that if Saddleback is involved, they must have plenty of resources (while reality is that Saddleback is only investing a portion of our initial startup funding). The economy has caused many leaders to have to be more conservative in spending, church structures often prevent leaders from making commitments, and some simply haven’t understood the dire need for more churches to be planted. I’ve had numerous conversations with other church planters via our Facebook learning lab and other places, and the fundraising struggle seems universal.
So I’m making an appeal to church leaders everywhere to consider some things with me. I wanted to throw out some reasons to get involved with a church plant as soon as possible…
FIVE REASONS TO PARTNER WITH A NEW CHURCH PLANT
Partnerships Work Both Ways
My wife and I have said over and over that we don’t really want partners to simply write a check and be done. What we would prefer is an ongoing, mutually beneficial relationship. An established church can often catch a bit of a vision for reaching new people as they celebrate the stories of life change that spring out of a new church plant’s journey. As I’ve connected with potential partners, we often wind up talking as much about the needs of their church as we do about the needs of Grace Hills. We have partners who will be sending teams and others for whom I’m going to do some coaching in the area of strategy and communications. Partnerships work both ways.
Church Planting Accelerates Our Fulfillment of the Great Commission
We’ve seen it confirmed time again that new church plants reach people faster than established ones. In northwest Arkansas, where we are planting, 1,000 new people move into the area every month. We aren’t competing with other local churches. We’re all cooperating together just to try to keep up with the growth around us. Every new church will reach circles of people not yet reached by existing churches.
Church Planters Have No Safety Net
We don’t have a building to mortgage, a pile of savings, a building fund, or closets full of kids’ craft supplies. Everything we need has to be purchased for the first time from funds that are constantly in jeopardy of dwindling quickly with few or no reserves. Planting a new church is a lot like starting a business, and wise church planters spend plenty of time planning and preparing. In our case, we have a Prospectus (something like a business plan) that we offer freely to the world that includes information about who we are, how we will handle money, and how we plan on launching a new church.
Church Plants Have Church Planting DNA
I’ve written before about the need to plant teaching hospitals rather than churches that merely exist for their own survival. We haven’t launched public worship services yet, but we’re already talking with people interested in planting churches out of Grace Hills. We’re eyeing surrounding communities where there aren’t enough churches. We’re thinking well beyond our borders in terms of global kingdom impact. And we’ll be taking these big steps and calculated risks very early, before many would consider us “ready” to do so. Why? Because we believe in church planting.
People Are Dying Without Jesus
We aren’t keeping up with population growth in America. Many churches aren’t reaching or baptizing anyone. And thousands of churches will be closing their doors over the next few years as one generation passes off the scene. This is creating a spiritual vacuum in a land that is becoming more pluralistic by the hour. Regardless of how you feel about the shifts taking place around us culturally, the fact is that God is bringing the mission field to our doorstep and we need thousands of new churches that will engage the change and take on the challenge of reaching people who will otherwise die without Jesus and spend eternity in hell.
If we had more funding, we could add a staff person, rent a nice meeting place, do more advertising and promotion, purchase initial office equipment, improve our use of technology, plan some really great community outreach events, and still work on a lean budget.
THE ONE REASON YOU MIGHT NOT WANT TO PARTNER WITH A NEW CHURCH PLANT
You’re already maxed out. Last week, I received a rejection email from a friend in ministry who let me know that the reason his church couldn’t adopt us is because the are already supporting as many plants as they can with what God has provided them. Amen! If you’re maxed out in the area of missions giving, good for you! But if you haven’t stretched your church’s faith in this area, then you need to consider the infusion of passion that comes from shorting ourselves of resources in an attempt to out-give a God who simply won’t be out-given.
If your church has room to partner with a new church plant, I would love to hear from you. And plenty of other church planters would love to hear from you as well. For over 2,000 years, the church has managed to survive and even thrive on the basis of churches multiplying to plant new churches. So consider this question: If your church closed today, what legacy would she leave behind?
Photo by Poofy.