Here’s the promised summary of our house church funding discussion. I am thrilled at the issues raised by this question and look forward to exploring some of them in the coming weeks. Thanks too to Ed Stetzer and Charlie Worley for dropping in and giving your input. [This whole discussion was stimulated by this post and a very simple question.]
- Pray, pray, pray — I know of one church planter who had a person he had never met, come into his office and say, “God has given me a burden for the planting of a church in _______ and I think you are the one to do it. The person wrote a check for $50,000 on the spot. God will fund what he calls us to do. Train all church planters to trust in the Lord, radically, deeply and continuously.
- Self Support — the planter raises support from outside the community he lives in so that he can devote full time to reaching the community in which he resides.
- Bi-vocational — the planter works bi-vocationally in some capacity in order to fund his ministry activity to reach the community. This option also has the advantage of giving the planter natural connections and relationships with people in the community.
- Find cheap labor — Younger men with no families to support might be the ticket for starting house churches.
- Grant money— This is a particular option for African-American church planters. I have seen a number of either denominations or private entities that are interested in funding either African Americans or ethnic church planters. If the planter will “scratch were they itch” (Thanks to Charlie Worley for the phrase.), e.g. urban / inner city, ethnic focus (Black, Hispanic, African émigrés, Muslim background etc.
- Spousal employment — This is an option for some. The caveat is that we want to be careful that the family is not sacrificed on the altar of ministry.
- Side businesses — Sale of books, cd’s, speaking opportunities, may only be a vehicle for very experienced planters. But I have heard of a number of house church planters who have started things like web design companies, window washing companies, painting companies, construction sub contracting companies, landscaping companies, etc.
- Be independently wealthy! — don’t really need to explain this one.
- Parent church supports or salaries — this is a great option and one which frees the house church planter to invest his full time effort in church planting and perhaps plant and train a cluster of house churches and house church planters so that over time, the cluster can support those of its pastors who emerge who fit the 1 Timothy 5:17-18 model.
- Partner with a business — Perhaps a businessman who loves Jesus could be persuaded to provide a percentage of services or sales for the mission of house church planter. I know of one business in Chicago, that caught the vision of a church and its leadership and funded jobs and ministry opportunities for over 15 years in a depressed area of the city, losing over $3 million dollars in the process, but today there is a transformative impact because of their investment in a local church and its ministries.
- Some combination of the above —the variations are only limited by our creativity. Some support, some spousal employment, some part-time vocational work, some support from the house church itself. All of these in an almost infinite array could be mightily used by the Spirit of God as He directs the house church planter.
Charlie Worley’s comments raise some other broader issues of wisdom, related to funding house church planters or traditional planters for that matter. The quotes are Charlie’s, the comments are mine.
- “Provide support team building training and a sponsoring church that will give structure for the finances.” Very wise. Most planters, maybe especially house church planters, have very little patience or skill for the minutia of finances. It is wise to provide this kind of support for their efforts.
- “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.” Wesley Pastor, and the New England Theological Seminary, do a great job of this. Many denominational structures should take note and learn from their experience.
- “Provide clear expectations that leading a house church will bring in no or little income.”I don’t know any church planters (traditional or house church) who are “in it for the money,” but it is wise to make sure that leadership doesn’t get broken on the reefs of high expectations.