How Do We Fund House Church Planters?

Indisputable facts:

  • Seminary trained pastors are expensive.
  • Seminary trained pastors lead churches that are often slow to plant other churches.
  • House church planters are inexpensive.
  • House church planters lead churches that are often fast multiplying.

Question to begin the week:
How do we fund house church planters?


25 thoughts on “How Do We Fund House Church Planters?

  1. Iv’e got a list of ways. but let me prime the pump by just mentioning two:
    1. Self Support — the planter raises support from outside the community he lives in to teach the community in which he resides.
    2. Bi-vocational — the planterworks bi-vacationally in some capacity in order to fund his ministry activity.

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  2. The following came in Through Facebook:

    Lara Krupicka We’ve been discovering that the church we’re attending right now has a huge heart for church planting (current pastor was big church planter in FL). The bulk of their church missionaries are church planters, so the church’s missions budget largely goes toward funding that. Not a new concept, but shouldn’t that be a piece of the funding pie?

    Neal Patel I still think seminary training is valuable, and is not a barrier to church planting.

    Marty Schoenleber Jr
    Neal: Having taught at three seminaries, and observed the church planting scene for 28 years, I think seminary is hugely valuable. At the same time, study after study, (See Thom Rainer, Ed Stetzer, the four square movement, the SBC experience, Dave Olson’s research on the American Church, etc) says that an unfortunate bi-product of seminary training is slow multiplication rates.

    Lara: …
    Absolutley. But missions budget’s (with exceptions) largely are “whimsical and foreign”. That is, they are not strategically driven but opportunity and network driven. Missions dollars go overseas for planting, but very few go to North American church planting, (with some exceptions). I will blog and explore this at a later time. For now I want to keep this question focused on the funding piece for house church planters in western industrialized nations.

    All: Could you move these comments to the blog at Chosenrebel.wordpress.com and become a part of the larger conversation?

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    1. More Comments from Facebook

      Neal Patel:
      I’ve been thinking about this some more. I think speed of growth is only part of the equation – an important part, of course. But what about the quality of the growth? What about the doctrinal integrity of the house church – just because something is growing fast doesn’t mean that it is growing well – growing in sound doctrine – the good deposit…

      Of course, slow growth doesn’t automatically mean quality growth either. But let’s not go for “shoddy” church-planting in the interest of planting more churches faster. By all means, let’s plant lots of churches! But let’s make sure that they are sound and solid churches, and that is where seminary (theological education) can play a vital role.

      Somewhere in the mix, you need to have some “quality control guys” who are skilled practitioners. Maybe they went to seminary, maybe they didn’t. But wherever you have rapid growth, I think you are going to have a burning need for those seminary-trainied types… skilled builders to make sure the DIY church movement is up to code so that it doesn’t collapse prematurely.

      A house-church movement may be big, and it may grow fast, but it is only as good as its ministry training scheme – to develop leaders in sound doctrine. Seminary is one way to train leaders. It isn’t the only way, but its a pretty good way.

      Rusty Wimberly :
      seminaries aren’t found anywhere in the Bible. Its the local churches responsiblity to raise up disciples of Christ who have a good grasp on sound doctrine. And guess what….do it for FREE! Unfortunatly, this is not and has not been happening for thousands of years. So understandably, institutions like this have arisen but have only produced a “clergy” class system that have seperated God’s people from the work of the ministry scripture calls them to.

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        • Neal:

        These are some great thoughtful comments and ones with which I mostly agree. I am going to come back to these issues in later posts and tackle some of the issues that you raise. They are important.

        And I appreciate your acknowledging that “seminary is one way” but not the only way to accomplish this.

          Rusty:

        Remember you are talking to brothers, brother. This last post is more like a incindiary bomb. Don’t you think it is a bit overstated to say that seminaries have “only produced”? Come on now brother, not only reality but brotherly generosity should grant more than that. Love ya bro.

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  3. I’m a fan of bi vocational ministry. Not only does it free the church planter from becoming a burden on people, it also provides opportunities for evangelism in the community he is trying to reach.

    you really have to start with definitions. What IS a church planter? Most people we perceive as church planters are not church planters at all. They are administrators or professional motivational speakers. This method of church planting is largely centered around a “celebrity gift” and usually steals sheep from smaller, less dynamic local churches because they have better marketing, administration and presentation. If we remember that churches are people, we will define a church planter as someone that spends time with people organically. Paying someone to spend time with people seems more like a business transaction to me.

    Within a organic church context, the demand for such a leader should never require him to quit his job, because of a few reasons. First, there should only be a small group of people. No need to go “full time” for a group of only 8-12. Second, the care, counsel, discipleship etc is done by everyone. I’m not suggesting we don’t support mission minded people AT ALL. We SHOULD throw money at these folks like no tomorrow. But I think paid salaries are different than the occasional funding for gospel missions.

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    1. “Paying someone to spend time with people seems more like a business transaction to me.”

      Well, .. only if you narrow the task to that definition. Having trained church planters for over two decades, I can tell you that church planters comiing out of seminary are not trained to steal sheep, or to be merely motivational speakers.

      And the ones who do the task well the Scriptures say are worthy of “double honor” which almost all comentators describe as some form of support at some level so that more time can be devoted to teaching and equipping others for the work of the ministry.

      Agreed, that there is no need to go full time for a house church of 8-12, but if a house church is being faithful it won’t remain that size. It will reach people, it will have babies, it will adopt babies and children. Those children will age, become adults, they will have friends that will be reached.

      As a church grows, the house church planter has more people to build into, to equip for ministry. This takes time. It is interesting to me that many of the most idealistic and anti-etablished-church people tend to fall into one of two categories (not all, but most).

      They are single or couples without children, or they are empty nesters. At the same time, I know of some who 3-5 years ago were idealogues for the house church movement, who one or two babies later find that their idealistic picture of a house church has taken a swift kick from reality.

      I will take this up in the future: How do house churches handle the discipleship of chilren. Some, by the way, are doing a far better job than the traditional church, but many have not even gegun to think through the issues at any significant level. Enough for now.

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  4. Sounds like we need to find seminary-trained house church pastors who are willing to work cheap…

    These three facts may be “indisputable,” based on description–but, I would argue, not on prescription. In other words, I don’t believe you could state (as an indisputable fact) that “Seminary training conditions students to be anti-church planting.” And it’s important to avoid that kind of mischaracterization. What we could really use are seminary-trained pastors who have a firm grip on sound, Biblical theology, who have a heart for church planting and are willing to endure its hardship.

    Sounds like it may be a heart issue, not a seminary issue.

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    1. Torry, I agree. See my comment to Neal and Lara in comment string 2.

      I don’t think seminary conditions students to be anti church planting. But there is a pattern. The higher the educational level of the pastor, the less likely the church is to plant other churches. Sad, but inescapable from the research.

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    1. No, I think you are thinking too narrowly.

      What about catylitic (sp?) house church planters, who start a church and turn it over to others? What about guys who are planting a cluster of house churches that will be overseen by a him and a larger leadership team? What about house church planters who train indigenous leadership in other cultures. Those are just three examples.

      Some of these may be bi-vocational. Some may be partially supported and bi-vocational. But let’s brainstorm on this.

      Rules of brainstorming:
      1. Try to generate many ideas.
      2. Don’t criticize ideas too early.
      3. Don’t be afraid of wild ideas?

      Come on people. You can do it. Turn your black hat thinking off for a bit and put on your blue-sky, creativity hat.

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  5. You’re right, I was thinking of the house church pastor himself.

    Honestly, I think Paul is our best example for “apostolic” church planters. He made tents as needed, but wasn’t afraid to let the local churches know of their responsibilities toward him: “a workman deserves his wages.” To me, house churches and their pastors should be giving a reasonable portion of their “tithes and offerings” to the planter/overseer who is functioning as their equipper and (in a sense) spiritual father. But look at the output Paul had, the number of churches he planted. They could support him… at least those of means (and there were enough of those).

    I’m not sure creativity is as critical as faithfulness when it comes to figuring out how to fund the mission. If Christians would just give… end of story. Now convincing them that you’re worthy of giving to… that’s your part as a planter. Paul put a lot of effort into convincing the churches of his “calledness” and worthiness of their trust and support. Modern day planters should make this a priority as well.

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  6. Let me ask everyone to stay on topic.

    There are some great issues being raise by all, especially Matt, Neal and Rusty but the topic is not house church vs traditional church, or
    paid pastors vs non-paid pastors, or
    doctrinally sound vs doctrinally loose, or
    the benefits of seminary over an uneducated leadership.

    The topic is IDEAS FOR HOW TO FUND HOUSE CHURCH PLANTERS.

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  7. Seems to me that we “fund” house church planters around the world. They are called missionaries. Their job is not to be the house church pastor, but to raise up house church pastors.

    Just my humble two cents.

    Love the topic, Marty!

    Ed

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  8. Thanks for dropping in Ed. I know you have had a busy weekend. Welcome back to Nashville.

    Ed’s got a good point. Why is there a difference in our minds between supportintg a missionary to do what he does “overseas” and supporting someone else to do the same thing “stateside”.

    But it still isn’t exactly on point. Ideas, ideas, what are ways to actually do it.

    I have mentioned two.
    1. Support
    2. Bivocational

    Here’s a few more:
    3. Some combination of 1 and 2.
    4. Grant money.
    5. Spouse employment

    I’ve got some other ideas, but let me hear from you.

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  9. Not sure how my comment was even slightly off topic, but OK.

    Spouse employment for people with kids is a necessary evil at best. I couldn’t care less about planting churches or evangelism or any kind of ministry if kids are being deprived of parents who are actively involved in their lives and providing a stable home. Now, maybe 10 or 15 hrs/wk, if your spouse can earn a high wage, is not a bad idea. But I’m always very skeptical of plans that include robbing children of those to whom God has entrusted their care.

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  10. Marty, I have some thoughts about bi-vocational planting, but I want to stay on topic…

    In my dreams, I see the church I am now pastoring intentionally developing leaders to start something akin to house churches (perhaps out of a small group ministry), and funding them out of our church budget. We’re small enough now that we can begin to incorporate that kind of vision without having to overturn too many institutional barriers.

    By developing leaders from within, I’d like to avoid our support being “whimsical”; by funding church planting, I’d like to free proven leaders up from the constraints of bi-vocational CP.

    My two cents, for what it’s worth…

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    1. One further comment, thereby raising the value from two cents to three 🙂

      I’ve taken a bite out of the seminary apple not once, but twice. Perhaps seminary-training has meant slower multiplication. Perhaps I will end up following that same trend. But I have also worked as a business analyst, and so it seems to me that the dynamics of why people go to seminary and what kind of situations seminary-trained leaders step into are much more complicated than a straightforward correlation between seminary-training and multiplication.

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  11. some supplemental ideas are: sales of books, cd’s, teaching invitations. I myself have taken a step of faith starting my own design business. (not sure if it free’s me up for ministry or actually takes up more of my time.)

    i would agree with Matt…we need to teach people to give to the work of God. Local churches also need to return to becoming “sending churches”. (see my blog post on “mis-identification of apostles”) When one is sent out to do a “work” they should also be sent out with the resources to do so.

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  12. Matt’s is a good warning. We want church planters with balanced lives. We aren’t interested in planting churches that destroy families.

    Rusty’s and Matt’s addition to the list:

    6. Start a new business to fund the ministry.
    7. Spouse support as a supplement, perhaps in combination with one or more elements of 1-6.

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  13. For clarification, is there a difference between planting house churches and planting Small Christian Communities, which some define as:
    Small Chrisitan Communities appeal to those who are zealous for evangelization, love the Church, and have “gone through the mill” in church renewal. They flourish by God’s grace.
    Life in a small Christian community is simply our baptismal brotherhood and sisterhood lived out practically with a few people. We share God’s word, the Eucharist, prayer, our possessions, our gifts, time, and meals. We share daily life.
    These communities are:
    approved and encouraged by the universal Church.
    Biblically based.
    historically proven to be a leaven for world evangelization and Church renewal.
    These communities are basic Christianity. We can devote our lives to forming them and know that we are building something that will last.

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  14. Charlie Worley commented on your post on Facebook:

    “Here’s an idea or 2:

    1. Provide support team building training and a sponsoring church that will provide the structure for the finances.
    2. Identify a set of marketable and transferable business/work skills that will provide a stream of income, then recruit people in those areas to apprentice or train church planters while they are studying.
    3. Find businesses that provide a percentage of service or sales income for the cause of church planting.
    4. There are a few organizations that provide grants for church planting if the plant will scratch where they itch, e.g., urban/inner-city, ethnic focus…
    5. PRAY…PRAY…PRAY… and teach church planters to pray!
    6. Provide clear expectations that leading a house church will bring in no or little income. “

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