6 Lessons on Fundraising for Your Church Plant

By Travis Cunningham

"Fundraising" doesn't have to be a bad word. Here are six lessons to keep in mind as you plant the church God has called you to and trust in His provision along the way.

Empowered in the Unfamiliar

In early 2018, I began the work of fundraising for what would become Story Church. It often felt like I was walking around a dark room with my hands out, trying to feel for objects I couldn’t see. I was moving slowly, trying not to stub a toe. It was unfamiliar territory, and I didn’t know what I didn’t know. Throughout my fundraising journey, I learned again and again that God will supply for us what He calls us into. My fumbling efforts were empowered by God, and our church would soon be fully funded from friends, family, and fellow church members.

Here are some key lessons I learned throughout that season of church planting, though this is certainly not an exhaustive list. (You know, with word limits and all!)

1. Pray without ceasing

Human efforts empowered by the Spirit of God are effective, surprising, and powerful. Fundraising is extremely hard, or at least it was for me. However, fundraising without the power of God is impossible. Cover your fundraising efforts in private, personal prayer. Involve your wife and children. Bring your close community and core team in to regularly pray for these fundraising efforts.

When someone decides to financially support your church plant, immediately put them on an email prayer list. Send weekly updates and ask for prayer. After all, the more people praying, the better.

2. Have a clear and compelling vision

In no way are we expected to know and predict the future. However, most church planters have a clear vision in their hearts for the places God is calling them to. Work extremely hard to simply, clarify, and communicate that vision when fundraising.

Some will give to your church plant because you are the one connected to it. Most will give because they want to get behind the vision that God has given you. Do you have a name? Mission statement? Vision statement? Core values? Target city? Outreach opportunities? Connect the dots for prospective donors as to how their giving will turn those aspirations into realities.

3. Don’t plant without a sending church

I understand that it is not always possible to have a sending church, but I do not think parachute planting works or creates healthy pastors or churches. Find a church that is passionate about church planting and submit to them for a long period of time. Involve yourself in the life of the church. Become a valuable member. Make friends and invite core team members.

There are two benefits to having a sending church: the immediate and long-range support. Our sending churches are The Village Church in Flower Mound, Texas, and Foothill Church in Glendora, California. These corporate churches and their individual members supported us with prayer, people, and finances in stunning ways when we launched. Both churches continue to regularly check in, pray, encourage, send, and support us to this day. We would not be healthy without them.

4. Garner denominational support

Denominations and networks do not plant churches, but there are mechanisms in place that alleviate some of the pressure regarding church planting. When it comes to fundraising, we received funds from a couple of different denominations and networks. We also received coaching, mentoring, and mechanisms for how to steward those finances.

Partnerships with these organizations also made way for more and more people to begin praying regularly for us. (See lesson 1!)

5. Stick with a plan

Prepare and stick to a holistic plan for how you will handle your givers and their giving. All too often, I see church planters receiving funds from givers and then proceeding to ignore them. This communicates to donors that we want something from you, not something for you. When someone is giving to church planting, they are blessed and are able to share in the fruit that is produced through your ministry (Philippians 4). Pray for, update, and check in on those giving to your church plant.

Additionally, prepare a plan for how you will steward the money given. As best you can, prepare a budget. Get your articles of incorporation. Have accountability structures and financial transparency. Find an organization that will help serve as HR and accounting for you.

6. Root yourself in the gospel

Regularly confront yourself with the question: “Is this my idea or God’s idea?” Church planting comes from the heart of God. Church planting is plan A for the expression of God’s mission. The gates of hell will not prevail against God’s church. God is for you, not against you.

Church planter, God will use you to plant the church He is calling you to, but remember that God does not need you. Success is not on you. Likewise, failure is not yours to carry. When finances are flowing, resist pride. When finances are tight, resist despair. Continue to go back to the well of the good news of Jesus, and there you will find Him delighting in you, caring for you, and drawing near to you. It’ll be okay. And even when it doesn’t seem okay, it’ll still be okay.

Blessings amidst the Lessons

These are just a few of the lessons I’ve learned throughout my journey as a church planter. (If you want to hear more, I’d be happy to connect. I can be reached through email here!)

In the next part of this series, we will consider how to move from being funded externally to being internally sustainable. I pray the Lord blesses you and your efforts, church planter.

Published April 10, 2024

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Travis Cunningham

Travis Cunningham serves as the Lead Pastor of Story Church in Rancho Cucamonga, CA. He is married to Katy and has two kids: Peyton and Owen. He earned a Master of Divinity from Western Seminary. Story Church was planted in 2019 and desires to see the Inland Empire region of Southern California transformed by the gospel of Jesus to the glory of God.