The Double-Edge Sword of Raising Support as a Church Planter

A few days ago I posted an idea to help fund church planting and transitions into ministry.  Since then I've been thinking a bit more about a 'tentmaker' organization that would create sustainable church planting movements.  The concept comes from the apostle Paul who worked as a tentmaker in Thessalonica, Corinth, and Ephesus (cf. Acts 18:3, 1 Thess. 2:9) in order to plant these churches.  The goal is to create an organization to equip church planters so that they can provide for their families and transition with income into the ministry as their church develops.  The church planter could even seek to start a tentmaker organization in their city to provide ongoing support for their first and hopefully future church plants.  It is like Agathos' plan of One Church One Village, who instead of asking for continual support to fund their ministry to the orphans of aids victims in Africa, seeks to buy farms to create ongoing support.

By focusing on self-sustenance, and requiring that each village be self-sustaining, costs to each participating church are limited to a specific amount – capital costs. No further funding will be needed for each village. 

Do traditional methods of raising funds to plant a church impair the mission of the church?   Is there a connection between typical funding that requires church planters to put on a more 'event-driven' church in order to attract Christians who attend other churches and tithe?  Does the church focus more on Sunday's service than the very life of the people living on mission throughout the week?  Does it re-define what is a successful plant?  Can a church never 'break-even' and still be seen as successful?  Are there areas (inner-city, small towns) where it is impractical for a church to support itself through the congregation? 

How might church plants supported by accompanying resources from a tentmaker organization re-define success?  Could it change unspoken priorities and challenges of money to allow for intensely missional living with a longer-term view of 'success'?   There is still a lot to think through…

UPDATE: The Tentmaker Group has launched to help church planters raise funding.

19 Comments
  • Eug

    June 20, 2007, 12:01 am

    I’ve been giving this A LOT of thought since we spoke and I read your corresponding blog. I think its a great idea, especially if coupled with a live-in seminary program aimed specifically at raising church planters to reach the city. I still additionally like the idea of more traditional support raising for 3-4 reasons.
    1. As an exercise in faith to see God provide an amount you’d normally think was impossible to raise.
    2. To raise awareness within the existing church to see that America is a legitimate (and perhaps the most strategic) mission field, calling them to pray.
    3. To receive affirmation from the body of Christ and God himself that you are actually called to be a church planter. And the negative possibility….
    4. If the church planter lacks the ability to raise money to possibly be a final determiner whether or not the candidate is called to be a church planter.

    I think a combination of the 2 would be useful, at least to get a network of prayer behind the church planter, people who are emotionally, spiritually, and financially committed to support. (Especially in Urban plants where financial self sufficiency is less likely.)

  • Mick Porter

    June 20, 2007, 1:17 am

    I appreciate the way you are thinking-out-loud through this issue – it’s a big issue.

    We’re essentially trying to re-plant a church (over in Australia) with a gospel-centered/missional paradigm (which is somewhat different to the previous paradigm!!!) and so far we have no alternative but “tentmaking” – and it’s hard, hard work!

    But there’s also a huge up-side to tentmaking, in that nobody has any financial control over your ministry, which enables great freedom to follow your convictions on doctrine and practice.

    In Christ who had no place to lay his head,

    Mick

  • Pastor Chris

    June 20, 2007, 4:40 am

    Drew:

    I’ll simply tell you what I’m doing. I’ve started a business that, in theory, will sustain me as a mission worker overseas. What I see some of my missionary friends doing is developing a business in their country to sustain the work of their ministry. I run a real estate company, my friends run a restaurant. We dream of owning a bed and breakfast that would provide jobs for local people as well as a sustainable income for us.

    Not everyone has a knack for starting and running a business, but perhaps some kind of development can tackle this line of thinking.

    I have friends that have not been able to return to the US to rebuild their funding base. They have been gone for 10 years and few people in their original supporting churches even know who they are. Due to visa issues, they cannot leave the country they are working in, so their support has dropped to near zero.

    Instead, they have run a business in their country, where the husband charges to provide translation services. He charges a premium because he can, and because he’s good. He’s developed a national reputation and has translated for folks like John Maxwell and Niel Anderson and conferences with thousands of pastors attending.

    Pastor Chris
    EvangelismCoach.org

  • D. Goodmanson

    June 20, 2007, 7:23 am

    Eugene – Good points. I thought about those reasons for traditional funding as well and do see a benefit for church planters to have these. Paul was supported on trips by churches throughout his ministry. For some churches, traditional funding is the only way they can get started and certainly there are churches who don’t fall into the traps mentioned. These are both ‘methods’ (traditional/tentmaking) so as long as the gospel is preached and mission isn’t compromised a church has the freedom to pursue multiple routes of funding.

  • Bill

    June 20, 2007, 9:10 am

    Sorry to leave this question in the comments section, but I couldn’t find an email address.

    I need you help and opinion.

    Ever since I arrived to our church, I haven’t been happy with our Database software and management system.

    It is called PowerChurch and it is cumbersome, it has a difficult interface, it is only on our network (so there is no web access to the information), it tries to do everything (membership, database, financial) and it does nothing well.

    We are finally ready to jettison this software and I need your opinion of what you have used, what you like, why you are using it. I would rather have real life recommendations rather than just go to software companies who are going to give me the sales spin.

    We are looking for a powerful, yet flexible database, membership management application. Web based would be nice and preferred, but willing to flex on that if I need to. User-friendly interface and does it play well with other software programs, MS office, Quicken etc…

    If you have any opinions or thoughts on this, I would greatly appreciate it!


    Bill Reichart
    Pastor of “Doing Life Together”
    http://www.BigCreekChurch.com

    Visit my Blog at:
    http://www.provocativechurch.blogspot.com

  • Jed

    June 20, 2007, 3:36 pm

    Drew, I have been following your thoughts on a tentmaker organization and I think they are very exciting. I talked with my friend Dave over at the Praxis church-plant out in the Phoenix, and in the conversation we hit on a possible idea related to what you are contemplating – it might be very helpful for a tentmaker organization to offer medical benefits and related services to church-planters that only businesses/organizations can access at a reasonable price. Sometimes the benefits themselves can cost in excess of 1/3 of a wage earners monthly income, and for planters who have young families that might prove to be an incredible strain for such a necessary service.

    I’d love to talk with you more about this, let’s get in touch sometime before the summer is out and I’d love to help in any way I can.

  • Adam J.

    June 21, 2007, 4:45 am

    Good thoughts Drew, and good timing, I resigned from my church last night in order to step out and plant a church. Fortunately I have gotten together with another guy that left his church a year ago and will be doing a lot of work as a web designer to supplement most of my income and rely minimally (if at all) on support, which I’m excited about.

    I’m sorry we were never to catch up on the phone by the way, I tried to call a number of times but couldn’t get through. If you are still willing to talk about planting sometime give me a call. Thanks, I appreciate your blog and your ministry.

  • Steve

    June 21, 2007, 6:49 am

    After talking about this a few times with various individuals at our church, I think a combined effort and both “methods” are the way to go. As you said Drew, “as long as the gospel is preached and mission isn‚Äôt compromised a church has the freedom to pursue multiple routes of funding.”

    Take a look at this company; http://www.edun-live.com what a great business model.

    Create businesses in local communities that support the local communities. We could do this and the planters would work right along side the people they are there to serve. Supports the people in the local communities and the church plant.

    If edun LIVE can demonstrate that you can do business (and do it very well) with developing countries like those in sub-Saharan Africa, why can’t we do it here in the US with all the resources we have available!?

    One additional thought that has been on my mind lately;
    Imagine if we sold our homes, second homes, and stopped trying to buy them‚Ķ learned to live with less, we could fund more a whole lot more church plants every month! How about just supporting our own church… Just think instead of paying a $3000 mortgage, rent a place for $1500, and give the other half towards church plants. Isn’t that what we just learned in Acts? Sorry about the minor tangent.

    Just my 2cents.

  • Keith Watson

    June 22, 2007, 4:23 am

    Drew,
    Great questions! Particularly in the paragraph on whether or not the money issue drives plants to be “event driven.” As I evaluated my life and what I felt to be a draw toward planting, the 1 question that ultimately pushed me to say, “I’m planting a church,” was this: If money were not an issue (that is providing for my family) what would I do? The answer – Plant a church… so off we go!

  • ruel

    July 5, 2007, 4:28 pm

    excellent ideas and thoughts, drew! paul worked together with his team to provide for himself and his team. he actually practiced what he preached that a man should work not only for himself but so that he could help others. and he thought his church planters to do the same.

    but, may i add that he never really stayed too long in one locality to be like the church planters that we know of today. in some cases, he planted churches within just 6-8 weeks. came back after a few months to appoint/install elders. left for 2 years or more coaching from hundreds of miles away using only “express mail”. that was his example of church planting.

    if we followed that example, we would never stay in any one city to be supported by the growing church there. instead, we would keep on moving from one city to another taking our trade/business with us.

    if ever i get anywhere near san diego on this trip to the USA, i would love to talk over coffee with you. 🙂

  • Adrian

    July 25, 2007, 1:29 am

    I used to be in ministry and church planting but I found the demands of family, job and no support too much to handle and got burned out. Now I am focused on my job and am seeking a place to volunteer (assist) and to give $$ to help church planting. You would think that this would not be a hard thing but I am having a hard time. Maybe becuase I am a professional b2b sales rep and former planter?
    Anyhow, my dream is to create a fund to pay for planters so they do not have to be bi-vocational and they do not have to fall into the political traps of money or becoming an fund raising event every Sunday.

  • moses

    August 20, 2007, 1:29 pm

    I AM A CHURCH PLANTER IN SENEGAL-W.AFRICA IN THE PAST FEW MONTHS GOD HAS OPENED A DOOR FOR US TO REACH THIS NATION OF 98PERCENT MUSLIM THROUGH THE MINISTRATION OF HEALING AND DELIVERANCE POWER OF JESUS CHRIST TO THE SICK. WE NEED YOUR SUPPORT AND ENCOURAGEMENT.WE HAVE OTHER MINISTRY FOR RECOMANDATION IF YOU ASK FOR IT. CONTACT US at, jesusfriends107@hotmail.com

  • John

    August 22, 2007, 9:39 am

    To Adrian and others who have a passion for church planting. I am so weary right now of trying to raise funds from traditional sources just to secure a building and pay minimal support salaries. I keep meeting with mediocre responses as to why pastors can’t support new church starts.

    I welcome any and all suggestions as to how I might secure stronger support for a new work. I am currently in the developmental stages of starting a new church in the Pine Hills(Orlando), FL area. This is an inner city area with great evangelism needs as well as a venue for all kinds of holistic ministry, i.e., feeding ministry, drug/substance abuse, Bible-based childcare, tutorial, afterschool care, alternative ed programs and the lists goes on and on.

    I have a burning desire to be used of God but unfortunately fundraising is a vital part of any healthy ministry.

    If anyone is led of the Lord to invest in this kingdom project, my personal email for further info is
    jwesleymck63@aol.com

    Prayer is always appreciated.

    peace and blessings,

    John

  • Pastor Kota samuel

    August 25, 2007, 11:12 am

    Hello to all and Iam Pastor KOta Samuel, church Planter in Indian villeges.. I have been married and Blessed with 2 sons.. 7 & 3 years old. Me and My wife are seminary Graduates but working now independenlty for the Lord Jesus ‘s Kingdom.. india is not a easy country for ministry. I Covet your Prayers as we carry on Church Planting .. We did start Bible Training Theological School and train up some men and women and we saw the need among children and we started Free Tuition Home for poor Children in a slum.. PLease Pray that the Lord would provide for our ministry needs..
    PLease see our pictures here and reply me kindly.. If the Lord leads your heart, please reply me sothat I would be glad to have you as our blessed person in the ministry..
    http://samuelkota.tripod.com/pics
    Hoping your reply and support us to plant some more churches..
    yours Brother in the Lord
    Pastor KOta samuel
    # 7-6-1149/1, Sanjeevaiah nagar Extension
    Guntur- 522002
    Andhra Pradesh State
    India
    Cell Ph NO: 0091 9866277183
    Email.. kotasamuel@yahoo.co.in

  • N Thakor

    November 10, 2007, 3:35 am

    Hi all,
    Its good to read about each of you concerned about fundraising, jobs and Church planting.
    I have worked in both the situations- tent maker and church leader, and also, fulltime pastor.
    Though I found it most satisfying to serve God as a tent maker, yet the pressure was too much and the family was also under pressure.
    Now I believe God is asking me to start up Church planting in India. Since my wife is physicall ill, we are thinking of having the first Church in Bombay.
    Should any of you feel led by God to pray for us, write to us at mx2001@hotmail.com. We can share details later.

    God Bless and regards.

    N Thakor

  • Rick Redmond, Chicago

    August 3, 2008, 9:36 pm

    I have to tell you guys that all of your comments are very edifying and informative. I am currently in between deciding to go with a church plant here in the city of Chicago or a well established church out in the West suburbs. The church plant draws on every passion and calling I have for ministry. The subrban church, though it will provide a full-time income, draws on only a few of my deepest passions and calling for ministry.

    I am therefore struggling with how to make the urban church plant option work and I’ve never raised support before and quite honestly, it scares me to death…..especially in our current economy here in the US.

    I do however, have a tent-making option in the form of teaching private music. It’s something that has worked before but, like everything else, it has it’s cycles and its ups and downs. I’m that to many of you true Missionaries out there, my situation sounds like a comfy piece of cake compared to yours.

    I just want to do that right thing before the Lord and make it work.

  • JOEL

    May 22, 2009, 10:23 pm

    The idea of Bro. Drew makes a real sense on my part. I am now beginning to start a church planting because it has been my desire ever since. Yes, it is very hard to start church planting without financial support since we’re having a growing family. this is one of the challenging part that evryone who works as church planter could face. However, this could not hinder my desire to work for the Lord Jesus.. I ask your prayers that God will open opportunities for me to sustain the needs of my family…anyone who are willing to help/support me prayerfully and financially are very much welcome…God bless

  • pastor godwin

    November 9, 2011, 8:40 am

    I am a pastor who have a heart for the lose soul. I am now beginning to start a church planting because it has been my desire ever since. Yes, it is very hard to start church planting urban in senegal without financial support since we’re having a growing family. This is one of the challenging part that evryone who works as a church planter could face. However, this could not hinder my desire to work for the Lord Jesus who call me. I ask for your prayers that God will open doors opportunities for me to sustain the needs of my family and God’s peole…anyone who are willing to help/support me prayerfully,materially,food, colthes,bibles and financially are very much welcome…God bless