Planting as a Vocation
To begin, here’s a basic breakdown for church planting. But remember: a lot of your vocational situation depends upon the call of God upon your life in this current season. Some church planters receive their full compensation or salary as full-time workers who plant churches. Next, there are bivocational or covocational church planters who receive part of their salary from work outside of the church, as well as part of their salary from working within the church.
The ideal is to be a full-time church planter because of its missiological advantages over being a bivocational, covocational, or even a volunteer church planter. However, today there is a good and rightful push towards bivocational or covocational planting. Regardless of if you’re a vocational or even a volunteer planter, you’re going to need money for renting a space, equipment, or for whatever else you may need.
Finding Your Side Hustle
It seems that most church planters have side hustles because we’re more entrepreneurial by nature and our work is often underfunded. A side hustle means finding some way outside of ministry to make money. Usually it’s not a job, but rather something you do in a freelance way. This could mean putting up signs in your community advertising something from powerwashing people’s houses to being a graphic designer.
Part of the challenge is finding that right side hustle. Many bivocational jobs may not be as entrepreneurial driven because this outside work can fill up so much of your time. The best case scenario is combining your mission with your moneymaking. If you find a job that allows you to accomplish the goals of a church planter while also earning money, that’s amazing. If you’re spending a lot of your time as a graphic designer behind a computer in your basement, the likelihood of you engaging your community while working and planting at the same time is pretty low. You have to balance how good you are at something versus how you can make money at the same time.
Uber and Lyft are popular options right now as easy, flexible ways to make money that allow you to connect with people as you drive them. Airbnb is another option. Some planters rent their basements as long-term apartments. Real estate ventures can be popular in places with a booming real estate market, though doing so requires some expertise.
Planting through Others’ Generosity
Many times, a sending church will begin the work of starting to build a church, and often, they will be raising a lot of money on the front end. Most church planters’ processes generally start with clarifying a vision. This might include creating a “sales pitch” of sorts and utilizing a church planting prospectus or video to share their vision with other churches or individuals to communicate a designated funding amount.
A lot of funding comes from outside the church plant. Denominational church planting is a common occurrence, but receiving funding from a denomination comes with strings attached. Remember, those who fund your church plant will have expectations of how you will use their funding. This means aligning with a code of conduct for yourself as an individual planter. Those who invest in your church want to see you aligning your life and ministry with Jesus and His teachings. But even beyond that, the group, denomination, or network will likely have behavioral expectations associated with their giving. Above that is the expectation that, in an ongoing way, your church will give back to their denomination through some predetermined amount.
Sometimes, there is an expectation of a certain percentage that you must give back as the church is being planted. The idea is that over time as your church makes it, they will be funding other church planting ventures in the future. It’s not a loan per se; they’re not going to ask for the money back from you, but there’s definitely a “pay it forward” mentality. While this may feel like a tax, almost every network or denomination has some sort of expectation. However, those expectations really do make sense. If a network is going to continue to exist in 10 years, it will be because churches are partnering together to plant other churches within their network. It’s not just about wanting their brand to continue, but for their mission to continue. So, practically speaking, don’t receive funds from a denomination if you don’t want to be part of it.
Planting for Self-Sustainability
The goal of a new church, financially speaking, is self-sustainability. We want the church to, as quickly as possible, be able to pay its own bills. Sometimes, this means running things inexpensively. Remember, a church’s budget will grow as its ministry grows. The sweet spot in self-sustainability is tethered to how much the church grows, though you can’t know that before you begin the church. You must anticipate how much you think your church will grow and then monetize that growth in terms of income for the church. From there, consider how money will must be raised within the first year of ministry to operate on the hope of soon becoming self-sustainable.
Simply put, outside funding goes down as internal funding goes up. Three years is generally the low end for receiving funding, while five years is the top end. If a planter receives funding after year five, something may be seriously wrong. On the other hand, if a planter can reach sustainability before year three, it’s very impressive.
Planting in Partnership
In all, church planting is hard work, and to do it well means partnering with others—whether that be through a sending church, a network or denomination, or the generosity of individuals. God is faithful to provide for the work of your ministry, no matter if you’re full-time, covocational, or a volunteer planter. Take some time to pray, seek guidance, and consider how He is guiding you on your church planting journey. Allow others to speak into this calling.
And remember: through a little creativity and a whole lot of dependence and prayer, He will continue to make a way for you to do the work He has called you to. May you simply continue to trust and obey.
Published September 20, 2023