Founder and Writer
The Traditional Model
Fundraising for missionaries is an age old method for financially sustaining missions. The traditional process looks something like this. A missionary has a yearly budget filled with ministry needs he must meet. Every year he spends several months going around from church to church asking for funds. He shares emotional, tear-inducing stories. He sells those churches on the need, and hopefully he raises enough money. In the process, he finds that it can be hard to put into words what he is doing and why he needs the help. Some people understand and give him what he needs. Sometimes, he raises enough funds, but other times he doesn’t. Some guys are really good at fundraising, and others really struggle.
I don’t have a problem with this model at all. In fact, it’s the same model we used to launch Redemption Church several years ago. I will forever be incredibly thankful for the generous gifts of those people who saw the vision and wanted to help us see our dream become reality. I also believe that traditional fundraising models will still be viable for many years to come. My main contention is that there is not enough money in this model to support the amount of missionaries we need.
Higher Cost of Living in America’s Largest Cities
If you live in San Francisco and make $117,000, you are considered low income! Can you believe that? Imagine a church planter in the Bay Area trying to tell a supporting church in rural Mississippi that they need $117,000 just to make the poverty line! Where I live in Salt Lake City, there’s a housing shortage. Housing prices are soaring. In my particular locale, houses are going under contract the day that the houses are listed. It’s not uncommon to hear of rental properties that have 30 applications on the waiting list within the week of posting the rental. As cost of living increases, so does the amount of money that needs to be raised by church planters every year.
Multiplication Requires Way More Dollars Than Addition
The real numbers of funding comes down to sheer need. I remember reading an article by Jimmy Scroggins, pastor of Family Church making a compelling case for bivocational church planting. In the article, he says that an average church plant needs about $200,000 a year. Here in Utah, we have noticed that it is taking around seven years for churches to be sustainable. Let’s assume 5 years of funding is necessary. That’s $1 million per church plant! Now, multiply that by the need for churches in Utah. If we averaged 50 people per church to reach 10% of the population, we would need over 4000 churches. That’s $4 billion we would need for church planting in Utah.
Take that number and add in New York City, Los Angeles, Chicago, San Francisco, Denver, Philadelphia, Phoenix, and every other NAMB Send City, and those number become astronomical!
I believe that if God wants to provide all that money through traditional fundraising models, he will. However, typically, God chooses to use little to make much. He takes the weak things of the world to shame the strong. Just like the five loaves and two fish, God multiplies where others see impossibility.
Open the floodgates
Some are looking into church planting models that rely on little to no funds, and research through these models should be encouraged. We need to open up the floodgates for the Gospel allowing for many types of models to exist. Bivocational ministry is coming back in vogue. The problem is that those who have been vocationally trained as pastors don’t know how to transition into new vocational fields. Church planters are told to get a job somewhere, but what would they do? How does a church planter go to San Francisco with a Bible degree and zero vocational experience and earn $120k a year? Indigenous church planters seem like that would be the answer, but many of our cities are still pre-Christian.
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