If you’re a church planter, chances are you’re wasting money.
The sales pitch
Let’s be honest: the U.S. is home of free-market capitalism [and Canada isn’t far behind]. There is money to be made from church planters. And so a whole church-planting industry is ready to tell you that if you’re going to do it right, you probably need:
- A club-ready sound-and-light system
- A few Macs with top-of-the-line video editing software (might as well throw in an iPhone so you can Twitter your sermon prep)
- A top-end website with content management
- A children’s ministry setup that rivals a corporate daycare
- A trade-show-style display booth for all your visitors’ information
- Industrial signage for both the inside and the outside of your venue
- A custom trailer to haul it all in
Many new church planters fall for this tantalizing sales pitch.
Don’t believe the hype
But in case you haven’t yet spent $100,000 on your “start-up costs,” let me suggest you hit the brakes and consider a crucial point: That’s God’s money you’re spending. You’re going to stand before Jesus and answer for every dime. When many church planters in Africa don’t even own a Bible dictionary, do you really want to argue that the lighting rack was a “must-have”?
Don’t believe the hype. You can plant a missional church with next to nothing. We forked out only $19,000 in start-up costs and got everything we needed. Sound system? We bought the most basic thing that would get the job done. Children’s ministry? We asked for donations from Christians and other churches in our city and got almost everything for free. Website? We bought a template for $50, tweaked it a little to make it our own, and hosted it with a local provider for a fraction of the cost of the turnkey church-planting web solutions. Computer and projector? We worked through the IT director at a local university who included our order in his volume purchase and passed the discount along to us.
Don’t be a statistic
Eighty percent of church plants fail. Of course, I hope your church isn’t one of them. But in your budgeting decisions, you should act as though it could be. If you had to shut things down, would you feel okay about how you’d spent the Lord’s money? Would any of your donors have reason to question your expenses as frivolous? Can you stand eye-to-eye with the family in your church who’s struggling financially and tell them with integrity that you’re spending only what’s necessary?
Don’t take the bait
A few months ago, a church planter I know had to close up shop. As I scrolled through his fire-sale ad on Craigslist, I couldn’t help but wonder: did he really need all this stuff? If he had allocated funds differently, could he have stayed in the game a little longer and reached a place of viability?
It’s not my place to question his decisions: “Who are you to judge someone else’s servant? To their own master, servants stand or fall” (Romans 14:4). But I’m concerned that lots of young, starry-eyed church planters are easy prey for the salesmen of church-plant capitalism. You don’t have to be. Stand firm, church planter, and don’t take the bait.
We’re four years in, and I just now ordered business cards. Letterhead? Maybe next year.
Reprinted with permission from theresurgence.com. Bob Thune is lead pastor of Coram Deo Church, Omaha, Neb., (which he planted), an Acts 29 Network coach, and public speaker.