It’s possible to start a new church successfully with a completely unsupported bivocational planter, but usually the congregation needs additional support for a meeting place, program, or other costs. Also, many church plants sometimes require a special infusion of funds—launch activities, outreach projects, sound, and video equipment, gathering events, and the like.
To help you raise the financial support you need, here are eight church plant fundraising models you can use:
#1. Denominational support
Denominational entities, networks, congregations, and individuals have joined efforts and provided resources to underwrite new church starts across North America.
Many new church plants are dissimilar in worship style to the majority of churches in their denomination. However, if God has called you to be part of a denomination, then it’s your job to reach across that divide (and others). When denominations help fund church planters, cooperating with them is an integrity issue.
This does not necessarily mean the name of the denomination needs to be reflected in the name of the church, but the new church should have the denomination in their values.
Generally, denominations have policies regarding fund-raising that planters should get from their denominational leaders. If there are no restrictions, some of the ideas below may help.
#2. Build networks
Some church planters find themselves underfunded because they function as Lone Rangers. They refuse to take the time to build relationships and maintain strategic partnerships.
During my final year at Millcreek Community Church, we succeeded in gathering $200,000 for church planting and growth-money we couldn’t have generated by ourselves. By building various relationships and partnerships, we found resources to start two daughter churches on the same day with over two hundred at the first service for each new church. Our denomination helped, we were given an empty church building (which we sold), and we raised funds.
Church planting networks and associations, such as the Association of Related Churches (ARC), Acts 29, V3, Soma, Sojourn, Church Multiplication Network, Stadia, and Redeemer City to City are a healthy supplement to a church plant. In fact, networks are the new normal.
#3. Get others involved
Other persons and churches may become involved as contributors.
Many church planters find Christian businesspeople open to supporting a new church. If you approach businesspeople for funding, be sure to have your strategic and fund-raising ducks in a row.
Financially successful people like to see specifics in at least three categories:
How you’re stretching to meet those goals
How their money will be spent.
They also expect to be kept up-to-date on progress and results.
#4. Individual donors
Individuals also contribute financial resources for new churches.
The church planter may begin tapping such resources by developing a fund-raising brochure, a fund-raising letter, and a fund-raising conversation.
In this approach the planter should prepare the promotional letter and brochure, including a cover letter of commendation for the new church from a respected, well-known leader in the denomination. This brochure should be mailed to potential donors, especially to persons who have demonstrated interest in new work.
Before approaching individuals who are involved in local churches, it’s a good idea and a move of integrity to get permission from that potential donor’s pastor.
#5. Bivocational/Tent Making
A secular job can also supply funding for the church planter. Just because the denomination or a church can’t fund the planter’s church start doesn’t mean the planter can’t plant a church.
Congregations and individuals must remember that denominations don’t call church planters; God calls church planters. If God has called but finances don’t follow as expected, the planter can’t argue that God has closed the door. Finances are not the determining factor in God’s will; God is the determining factor in God’s will.
If God expresses a call, the planter must help make a way where there is no other way—by working at bivocational employment, at least for a period of time until the church has grown to support the pastor.
When I was unable to find adequate funding at my first church plant, I took a job insulating houses. I could start early in the morning and supervise several crews from my car and mobile phone. At the same time I could do visits on my own time if I was in the area. My employer was flexible and gave me the freedom to clock in and out as needed.
The job served as a good place for connections and ministry. It also helped pay the bills when the new church could not.
#6. Reversed tiered model
The traditional tiered model is where a planter is 100 percent funded in year one, then decreased to 66 percent in year two, 33 percent in year three, and then by year four the planter and plant should be self-funded.
With the reversed tiered model, instead of receiving 100 percent of the funding in year one, you receive 25 percent. After year one it would incrementally go up as your church grows; and as your church continues to grow, you will be forced to quit your part-time job.
One of the benefits of the Reversed Tiered Model is that it may alleviate a lot of the financial stress in the first couple of years of the plant and planter.
#7. Shared partnership funding model
This model focuses on the plant or planter’s funds coming from at least four main sources.
First, the planter should raise the first 25 percent of the entire budget from friends, relatives, and various churches. Although there are exceptions, if a church planter can’t raise funds, the planter probably can’t plant a church.
Second, the planter finds a sponsoring church to provide an additional 25 percent. Generally a sponsoring church that does not financially invest in the plant eventually becomes apathetic toward the plant and planter.
The third 25 percent could come from a region district, judicatory, church planting network, or association. Having involvement in one or more of the entities listed above is valuable to a planter, for these entities would be able to provide assessment, coaching, and training.
Finally, the last 25 percent should come from the denomination’s national fund.
#8 Crowdfunding model
The crowdfunding model is based on the concept of crowdfunding, which is where entrepreneurs use the networks of friends, family, and colleagues through social media outlets (such as Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn) to get the word out about a new business or to attract new investors.
Applied to the arena of church planting, the crowdfunding model is more of an experiential education model designed to integrate the classroom of church planting with the field experience of actually doing church planting.
Crowdfunding is a perfect way to mix classroom and field experience for a church planter, for it allows them to be part of a group of planters where they have real-life opportunity to innovate, collaborate, cast vision, create momentum, and raise funds. By crowdfunding an idea or an actual plant, a church planter would be cross-training in many of the same areas required to plant and lead a church.
Over to you
When you examine the financial picture, the real resources are already in the hands of God’s people—whether great foundations, wealthy donors, wealthy churches, or simply typical, individual believers who want to become involved in kingdom enterprises worthy of their gifts.