When someone says something about “The War on Christmas,” it cracks me up for a variety of reasons. Particularly because there really isn’t one. But mostly because whatever we imagine that to be, it’s nothing compared to the “war” on Thanksgiving.  Which is actually more of an “Ignore” on Thanksgiving.

You remember Thanksgiving, don’t you? That American and Canadian holiday that is slowly disappearing as a unique holiday?

Maybe you know it best as “Turkey Day,” whatever that means. If it really is “Turkey Day,” I suppose in some ways, it might as well be Groundhog Day. Except we don’t eat the Groundhog. (But if the turkey sees his shadow, we will have six more weeks of Christmas…)

Yes, I’m talking about Thanksgiving, that poor little holiday that has sort of become an optional, “special feature” of Christmas. In and of itself, it is not flashy, sparkly, or commercially driven, which probably explains why it has also become more of a “Black Friday Eve,” than anything else. And “Black Friday,” a name once associated with the Stock Market Crash of 1869, has now become the “holiday” that ushers in the “middle” of the Christmas season.

But most snarkiness aside, I’m beginning to think that there really is no longer room or place in American culture, today, for a holiday like Thanksgiving.

Think about it. A time for family, gathered around a table to thank God for the blessings of the year? Not exactly common, these days. Sadly, this is a Norman Rockwell scene that is fast becoming a faded relic of the past in our world.

And that’s really a shame, because it’s the holiday that we need now more than ever.

Do we get presents? No.
Is there a Tree? No.
Are there sparkly decorations? No.

But there’s an even more revealing question:
Can we celebrate it without acknowledging God? No.

“…Happy Turkey, Gluttony, Football and Christmas Shopping Day, everybody!”

Oh. Well, yeah, I guess you can, now.

But not if you’re giving it any attention, because even the name and origin of the holiday points to something bigger.

Most major American holidays have some kind of origin or roots in pagan rituals or holidays:

Christmas – Winter Solstice and Yuletide.

HalloweenSamhain and Lord knows what.

Easter – Fertility festivals and the beginning of spring.

The church has rightfully redeemed these times with more meaningful reasons to celebrate, but the parallels are still there. You can celebrate most holidays these days without acknowledging God on any level.

Not so with Thanksgiving.

In the United States, it was originally for the giving of thanks for the bounty of the year’s harvest and God’s blessing, and in Canada, it was for the giving of thanks for the recovery of the Prince of Wales from a serious illness.

But no matter how you slice the turkey, it’s still about giving thanks.

But the idea of “giving thanks” begs the question: “Giving Thanks to Who?” or rather, “To Whom?” (Although “to Whom?” sure sounds “stuffy.” No need to “dress it up,” though.)

Thanks to each other? Sort of, I guess.

Thanks to the Earth?  Hmm, “Thanks, Earth.” Kind of misses something. Besides, Earth has it’s own day, now.

Thanks to nothing? If so, I guess we could just call it, “Happy Lucky For Us Day” (With apologies to St. Patrick).

It’s kind of hard to avoid God in Thanksgiving, if you truly celebrate it. But that’s one of the things that makes it so special.

But there’s also something else on display here:  our collective loss of patience and self control, as Thanksgiving falls by the wayside. The ability to wait for something. To pace ourselves.

By 8:15 p.m. on Halloween night this year, I drove past a house that had already put up its Christmas Decorations. Wow, in a hurry, much?

I think Christmas is a glorious holiday, but too much of a good thing is like too much dessert. Obviously, Christmas is not a dessert. I just mean that it has a “specialness” all it’s own that doesn’t need to be shared with a different holiday. …And it’s worth waiting for.

What if I told you that our church was going to be celebrating Mother’s Day, Father’s Day and Memorial Day at Easter this year, because they’re all part of the “Spring Holidays?” That would be goofy, because there is something distinctive about those observances that deserves individual attention.

Consider the satisfying sequence of the American Fall Holidays, if they occurred in a more perfect world:

Halloween – Fall is in full swing, the stresses, frustrations, and fears that have built up over the summer are released with outlandish costumes, parties and “boo’s!” We laugh in the face of evil, death and the things that scare us.

Thanksgiving – As the year is approaching its end and the fall harvest time has arrived, we enjoy a time of reflection. We acknowledge God’s blessings from the whole year and enjoy food and laughter with family. We take and release a deep breath of gratitude to our Maker and Provider.

Christmas – Winter is on it’s way; wonder is in the air. Candles, lights, songs, ornaments, decorations, trees, presents and joy receive full focus, now, celebrating the birth of the Savior of the World.

New Year’s Eve & Day – We celebrate life with friends, reflect on lessons learned, set new goals, and dedicate a new year to God.

Now consider the way things are today:

Halloween – The nightmare before Christmas and the weird beginning of the Christmas Season.

Thanksgiving Dinner/Black Friday – Nice supper and shopping in in the middle of more Christmas shopping.

Christmas – Starts at Halloween and is really the only holiday we’re talking about here. Tinsle, trees and lights for two and a half months.

The pace is off. The hurry is on. And the ability to savor and enjoy each celebration has gotten a little muddy.

I don’t know. These are just holidays we’re talking about here, not the Bible or doctrine, but I think we’re beginning to lose something special as Thanksgiving begins to fade. Something important. Something we need.

But I’m really not a Scrooge. If you have your Christmas Tree up before Thanksgiving, I’m not mad at you or judging you.  If you break out the Christmas cups before you’ve eaten the Thanksgiving Turkey, it’s not the end of the world. Heck, I listen to Christmas music at various times during the year, myself.

I’m just encouraging you to focus on Thanksgiving as Thanksgiving. A holiday with it’s own focus and meaning. A holiday of Thanksgiving to God for His blessings in our life.  (Psalm 106:1)

I love Christmas.

But I love Christmas more, when it actually follows Thanksgiving.

Until then, Happy “HalloThanksMas,” every one. Happy HalloThanksMas.

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 Johnny Leckie is a Christ Follower, Husband to Leona, and Father to Matthew, Melissa & Michael. He is also a Church Planting Pastor, Musician, Artist, & Blogger. He’s a big fan of Coffee & Bacon and is currently planting a Church in Aurora, Colorado called Compass Church.  He is the founder of MinistryBackpack.com.

If you are a Christian leader,  you serve at the pleasure of the King.  Not to get ahead, not to be honored, not to be famous, not to have power, not to plaster your face and name on everything you do.*  You are under the authority of the King, and you serve at His pleasure.

This is the essence of Jesus’ prayer, “Your Kingdom come, Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”  (Matthew 6:10)

It’s also the understanding of  the Roman officer who came to Jesus requesting healing for his servant in Matthew 8:8-9:

8 But the centurion replied, “Lord, I am not worthy to have you come under my roof, but only say the word, and my servant will be healed.
9 For I too am a man under authority, with soldiers under me.  And I say to one, ‘Go,’ and he goes, and to another, ‘Come,’ and he comes, and to my servant, ‘Do this,’ and he does it.” – ESV

Humility in leadership helps us to avoid the foolish mistakes that arise from arrogance.  It’s the attitude behind James 4:6 and many other verses of Scripture: “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.”  If you are leading on behalf of Christ, you definitely don’t want Him to be against you as you go.

Christian Leaders must have humility if they are to truly be effective.  They must understand that they are under authority and represent the King.  Sometimes that means serving in a place of honor, as a paid, full time Pastor or Staff Member.  Sometimes that means serving in a place that does not have the same visibility or recognition.  Sometimes it means picking up and moving across the country.

Humility is not a word that means “weakness” or “lack of confidence” or “low self-esteem.” It is a word that conveys the idea that we understand that we are under the authority of One who is greater than us.  We go at His pleasure; we serve at His pleasure; we do whatever He calls us to do.  Our responsibility is to see His will done rather than our will done on earth as it is in heaven.

I had a Professor in Seminary who told us about his first, official, paid position in ministry.  He had just graduated with a Master’s degree, and was excited to start serving on a Church staff.  The Monday of his first week at the Church, he was given his first assignment:  Clean up the vomit of a kid who had thrown up in the Church van the night before.

Welcome to ministry.  If our King grabs a towel and tells us, “This is how to lead,” then we join Him and start washing feet.  If a task is given to us by the King, no matter how menial or grandiose, it is an honorable thing for us to be doing. The honor is in the fact that we are doing something on behalf of and in the name of the One who is worthy of all honor.

Humility is a “Backpack Essential” for Christian Leaders.  We are not the King. We serve at the pleasure of the King.

* (I’m not talking about your name and face on promotional materials or websites.  I’m talking about an ongoing need for recognition.)

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 Johnny Leckie is a Christ Follower, Husband to Leona, and Father to MatthewMelissa & Michael. He is also a Church Planting Pastor, Musician, Artist, & Blogger. He’s a big fan of Coffee & Bacon and is currently planting a Church in Aurora, Colorado called Compass Church.  He is the founder of MinistryBackpack.com.

Preachers are sometimes a funny lot.

We work like crazy to deliver messages that are accurate, biblically sound, powerful, moving, God honoring, timely, and memorable for our churches and all who hear them.

But we often hate to listen to recordings of ourselves speaking.

This could be for a number of reasons:

    • Lack of Confidence – Maybe we really can’t bear to hear how we actually sound.
    • Arrogance – Maybe we don’t feel we need to improve in our preaching.
    • Ignorance – Maybe we just don’t see the need and advantages of listening to our sermons.

I had a pastor friend who used to refuse to listen to recordings of his sermons. “I preached it,” he would ask me, “so why should I have to listen to it?”  With a good-natured laugh, my answer to him was always: “Well, we had to listen to it! Why shouldn’t you?”

Preachers should listen to recordings of their own sermons.

Not for self-focused or arrogant reasons, but for the purpose of constantly improving and getting better at communicating the truth of the message to the people in our churches.

Side note:  If you listen to your own sermons because you think you’re brilliant and you just love the melodious sound of your voice, you have other issues to deal with…

The truth is, if you preached it, you haven’t really heard it. And there’s a lot that can be learned from hearing it.

Here are a few things I’ve learned from listening to my own sermons/talks/messages:

  • Some messages were not as good as I thought they were.
  • Some messages were better than I thought they were.
  • I have annoying habits that I need to work on.
  • I sometimes use repetitive phrases like, “you know,” and “and ah..”
  • I sometimes have a nervous laugh.
  • Sometimes I talk too fast
  • My introduction was too long.
  • My timing was off.
  • My energy level was not what I thought it was.
  • I can see through the “baloney.”
  • I was trying too hard.
  • I was not trying hard enough.
  • The joke was lame.
  • The message was too long.
  • The message was not long enough.
  • I hear what really worked and connected.
  • The application wasn’t clear.
  • I didn’t explain the theological concept clearly enough.
  • There’s more, but I think you get the idea.

Hearing these things the way others heard them when I preached them helps me to avoid those things the next time. I get better, my people understand and engage with the message better and God and His Word are better honored in the process.

I know you can obsess over this process, but the point is not to beat yourself up every week. The idea here is to sharpen and hone your ability to communicate the Word of God in a creative and compelling way.

James 1:19-20 says:
“19 Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; 20 for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God. – ESV”

So a word to my preaching pals:

Be quick to hear (Listen to your sermons).

Be careful (slow) about what and how you preach (speak).

And don’t get offended (angry) that I’m suggesting that you should listen to your own words. 🙂

He who has ears to hear, let him hear…

Image credit: Wodonga Australia 
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 Johnny Leckie is a Christ Follower, Husband to Leona, and Father to MatthewMelissa & Michael. He is also a Church Planting Pastor, Musician, Artist, & Blogger. He’s a big fan of Coffee & Bacon and is currently planting a Church in Aurora, Colorado called Compass Church.  He is the founder of MinistryBackpack.com.

If you’re anything like me, you are committed to being in ministry for the long haul. You want to be serving God and people through your ministry for the rest of  your life.

Sadly, this is not always the case, as people are dropping out of ministry in record numbers, these days. The reasons why can certainly be discussed and debated (and have been), but I believe that at least one of those reasons has to do with a lack of joy in the journey.

Everyone in ministry, at every level, has times of discouragement, disillusionment, disappointment and …other “disses.”  Ministry can often be tough and unrewarding. It requires our best efforts, our best energy and a constant reliance on God’s power to sustain us as we go.

And although it can also be the most rewarding, exhilarating and fulfilling experience of our lives, sometimes we can lose our joy along the way.

Have you lost your joy in ministry? Here are a few suggestions for sparking the embers of joy back into a warm, glowing and attractive flame in your life:

1. Remember your calling.

Go back to the beginning.  Reflect on when you said, “Yes” to God and went into ministry. Remember the way you felt, the setting, the people who were around you and the joy and honor of being called into ministry. “Raise your Ebenezer” with some kind of “touch stone” to remind you of those moments, and consider how “hither by His help you’ve come.” (1 Samuel 7:12)

2. Spend some time “officing” in your community.

There’s something about changing your setting, getting out of your office and getting into your community that helps rekindle your vision and remind you of why you’re in ministry.

Every time I “office” out of a coffee shop or a park, I see people wandering around, like “sheep without a shepherd,” and I begin to get refocused.  Just being in these kinds of places opens up opportunities for connecting with people who need Jesus, keeps my priorities in order and lessens the weight of the stresses of ministry.

Compassion for others can stir up joy and get our minds off of our ministry “pains” and back onto our purpose and mission. (Matthew 9:36-38)

3. Share Jesus with someone.

Very few things can bring back the joy in ministry like leading someone to place their faith in Jesus and seeing them become a Christ Follower.  Pray for the opportunity, and share the Gospel with someone.  You may go out with weeping, but you’ll return with shouts of joy. Oh, and there’ll be some joy in heaven, also… (Psalm 126:6,  Luke 15:7)

4. Connect with other ministers.

Find other ministers in your area who have the same ministry focus as you do and meet regularly for coffee or breakfast.  Share stories and struggles and encourage each other.  Sometimes in ministry, only other ministers can really understand what you’re experiencing and can encourage you properly.

It’s also great to know that you’re not the only one who faces these challenges.  Let “iron sharpen iron.”  Laugh with, pray for, and encourage each other. (Proverbs 27:17, 1 Thessalonians 5:11  and Hebrews 3:13)

5. Find somewhere you can pray/shout/talk out loud with God.

When you’re frustrated, it’s always a good idea to “ventilate vertically,” (to God) rather than “horizontally” (at others). Find a place where no one else can hear you and audibly voice your frustrations to God.

I remember doing this in a big, open field once, during a difficult time when I was planting a church in Texas. I prayed, shouted and talked with God until I was completely spent. I left no frustration in my ministry “un-dealt-with.”  I then walked home from that experience with a renewed faith, a sense of peace, and the emotional release that I hadn’t even realized that I had needed.

God is a big God.  Purge your anxieties by tossing them up to Him, ….and do so loudly if necessary. He can handle it.  (Psalm 13, 1 Peter 5:7)

6. Fill a page with things you are thankful for.

Take a few minutes and write down or type up everything that you have to be thankful for. Give thanks for answered prayer, blessings you have, your family, and for the privilege of serving in your ministry.

Ask yourself, “What do I even have to be thankful for?” then list every possible thing that comes to your mind. Gratitude plants seeds of joy as we reflect on our blessings.  (Here’s a list of verses of Scripture to chew on as you go.)

7. Tell someone your testimony.

Tell someone how you became a Christ Follower, how you were called into ministry or even something that God has done in your life or ministry, lately.  Sometimes just sharing these kinds of stories out loud with someone else can reignite a flame inside us that has begun to flicker out. Focus more on what God has done than the personal details of your story.

And of course, always explain the hope that you have to someone who asks, but don’t hesitate to share it even if they haven’t asked… (1 Peter 3:15)

8. Eat well, exercise and get some rest.

This isn’t very spiritual sounding, but it is often one of the best things you can do if you’ve begun to lose your joy in ministry. It’s amazing what eating right, adding some exercise and getting a good night’s rest can do to renew your spirit.

Doing these three things has not only renewed my coping abilities, perspective and energy, they have also restored my joy in ministry many times along the way. (1 Kings 19:4-7,  Daniel 1:12-16, Psalm 30:5, Lamentations 3:22-23,  Mark 2:27)

9. Laugh at the funny things that happen in ministry.

Seriously, some funny things happen in ministry. Stop and remember a few of them that have happened to you along the way. That baptism when the kid jumped in? That time somebody fell asleep and started snoring in the service?  That time you read 1 Samuel 25:22 in the King James Version out loud in your service because it was a cross referenced verse, but you hadn’t looked at it beforehand?

Yeah, laugh about those and many others that have happened and that will happen in your ministry.

Find and talk to someone who has been in ministry for over 40 years and ask them the same question that I ask ministers on The Ministry Backpack Podcast – “What’s one of the funniest things that’s happened to you in ministry?”  You won’t be disappointed. And a good laugh is a good doorway back to joy. (Psalm 118:24)

10. Spend some time with children.

Don’t be creepy, but find a safe place to watch and/or interact with small children. Notice how they play and are filled with wonder at the smallest of things.  Observe the simple and pure, unfiltered joy that kids display so much better than grownups do.

Remember a joyful moment at Christmas or some other time when you were a kid. Drop your guard and set aside the stresses of ministry while getting a lesson on joy from these little ones.  The kingdom of God belongs to such as these, after all. (Luke 18:16)

11. Ask God to fill you with His joy.

Could it really be this simple?  Maybe it’s not an immediate solution in every situation, but it’s certainly the best step in the right direction. And it could also be that, in relation to joy, we “have not because we ask not.”

If the joy in your ministry has started to melt away, maybe it’s time to simply, directly and clearly ask the Lord to first “restore unto you the joy of your salvation,” and then let your ministry flow out of that.

“…Ask and you will receive, so that your joy may be complete. ” (John 16:24; Psalm 51:12)

Image Credit: Ben White Photography

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 Johnny Leckie is a Christ Follower, Husband to Leona, and Father to MatthewMelissa & Michael. He is also a Church Planting Pastor, Musician, Artist, & Blogger. He’s a big fan of Coffee & Bacon and is currently planting a Church in Aurora, Colorado called Compass Church.  He is the founder of MinistryBackpack.com.

Wisdom Filter

Posted by Johnny Leckie | Blog, Trail Mix - Ministry

Scripture makes it clear that there is wisdom in seeking advice from a variety of counselors.

“Plans go wrong for lack of advice; many counselors bring success.” – Proverb 15:22 (NLT)

Scripture also makes it clear that some advice is to be avoided.

“In the mouth of a fool, a proverb becomes as limp as a paralyzed leg.” – Proverb 26:7 (NLT)

“A proverb in a fool’s mouth is as dangerous as a thornbush brandished by a drunkard.” – Proverb 26:9 (NLT)

“What a shame, what folly, to give advice before listening to the facts!” – Proverb 18:13 (NLT)

Who are you listening to?

Choose your counselors wisely.

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 Johnny Leckie is a Christ Follower, Husband to Leona, and Father to MatthewMelissa & Michael. He is also a Church Planting Pastor, Musician, Artist, & Blogger. He’s a big fan of Coffee & Bacon and is currently planting a Church in Aurora, Colorado called Compass Church.  He is the founder of MinistryBackpack.com.

There are several reasons you may have kids in your worship service:

  • You are a small church that doesn’t have the resources to provide a separate Kids’ Ministry
  • You are doing a special service that includes kids in the service for the day
  • It is part of your philosophy of ministry to include kids in the service with their parents

Whatever the reason, there are times when we have kids in our services.  This is a healthy thing, whether it is occasional or ongoing, but when they are included in attendance, we should strive to make them included in the service itself.

It’s easy to just give them headphones and an iPad, but it would be better to have them actively participating in some way.  I remember one Sunday when a little girl who was joining us for the Worship Service said to me, “I don’t mind being in here with you, but I don’t understand what you’re talking about!”

That was a good reminder to keep my communication and preaching clear for everyone in the room, regardless of age.  No small task, though, right?

That conversation inspired us to create a simple “Kids’ Worship Guide” for when school age kids are with us in the service. It’s very “general,” and is applicable for any service.  We provide them with crayons, and encourage them to actively engage in the service with us and the adults who brought them to church, today.

Feel free to download the FREE PDF here and use it whenever you need. (No opt in, necessary. Just click the link and download!)

You can also use it as an inspiration and simply create your own.  To create ours, we used free clip art and created the word search puzzle for free, here: “Discovery Education Free Puzzle Maker”

If this is useful, and you’d like to see more of these kinds of downloads on the site, please let me know in the comments below. Feel free to share the link, and thanks for stopping by!

From time to time someone will ask me something along the lines of: “How do you know when it’s time to move on to another Church, ministry or opportunity?” I’ve wrestled with this question a number of times along the way.

Here’s how I approach it.

Two quick “filters” before I share the indicators that it may be time to hit the road:

You shouldn’t leave just because things get tough. “Obstacles are not always indicators” that it is time to move on, because ministry is not always easy. In fact, it’s usually pretty tough. If you are involved in ministry of any kind, you can pretty much expect to encounter obstacles and challenges every week. That’s just how it goes. I will go so far as to say that obstacles are usually (though not always) terrible indicators of direction in this regard.

Also, you shouldn’t be in too big of a hurry to leave. I think many people hit the road way too soon in ministry. Usually it takes at least 2 to 3 years in one place just to deal with the “messes of our own making.”

But just as it is a mistake to leave a position too soon in ministry, it is also a mistake to stay too long.

Sometimes God makes it unmistakably clear that He is calling you to someplace new. Other times, …not so much.

In those “fuzzy” times, here are some possible indicators that God may use to inform you that it is time to transition to a new ministry. Keep in mind that this is not a formula, and your results may vary…

1. You have a growing passion and heart for a ministry or opportunity that can not or will not be realized in your current situation.

This is when that passion or heart just won’t go away. No matter how hard you try to envision or implement it where you are, it just doesn’t work, or is continually blocked for some reason. Like the Apostle Paul’s “Macedonian call, (Acts 16:9-10)” it can only be fulfilled in one way: Going to Macedonia.

2. You lack vision, passion and love for the people in your area for an extended period of time.

This is not just the “Monday blues,” but a difficulty seeing what God may want to accomplish in your current ministry. If all you can come up with are “canned” goals from someone else’s ministry, and you can’t love the people with a desire to see them become all that God wants them to be, it may be time to go.

Of course, you may just need a vacation. But if after prayer and rest, you can’t seem to muster up love and vision for the people and place of ministry where you are, the “time to go” light may be flashing.

3. Your family begins to suffer beyond the normal risk/sacrifice ratio required for ministry.

There is a delicate balance between one’s responsibility to provide for one’s family and the necessity for one’s family to make certain sacrifices for the sake of the call. When the balance tips in the direction of not being healthy for your family, it may be an indicator that a search for a new place of ministry is in order.

It’s much easier to move into a new ministry than to get a new family.

4. The advice and counsel of Godly, trusted people outside of your ministry suggest you consider a move.

Sometimes an outside perspective from someone who has nothing to gain but the joy of seeing you succeed can bring insight you might never discover on your own. If you are wrestling with the issue of staying or moving on from your current ministry, find wise advisers who can keep things in confidence and give you their take on things. (Be sure to have a good wisdom filter in place when you do so.)

But when these good people suggest that you consider the possibility of moving “out of the blue” as it were, without any prompting from you – it may indicate that it’s time to consider packing up and heading out.

5. You can no longer honestly follow or support the leadership.

Obviously, this assumes that you are not the lead guy. But if you find that there are “one too many” things that you can’t see eye to eye on with the leadership, it’s most likely time to get going.

The longer you stay, the more unhappy and ineffective you, the leadership and the church will become. Better to part ways in a God honoring way than to allow things to boil.

6. You’re at an impenetrable brick wall.

Basically, this is when you have no support, are not received well, or your opportunity for success has passed. Nothing seems to work. There is no progress and no impression from God that you need to stay the course and keep hammering away.

I believe these times are similar to the situation that Jesus described to His disciples in Matthew 10:14, Mark 6:11 and Luke 9:5 – Essentially, if no one listens to you and you are not welcomed, “shake the dust” of your sandals and move on.

Again, all of these possible “indicators” are just that – “possible.” Please understand that they could also simply be distractions from your calling or mission, or “red light indicators” that something in your life, family or ministry is in trouble and needs attention.

As with all things, praying, fasting and seeking God’s direction continuously can help bring clarity and focus to your situation.

Don’t waste your life banging your head against a brick wall. If God wants you to stay He will give you that conviction, but if not – the fields are white for harvest and there are people everywhere who need Jesus.

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 Johnny Leckie is a Christ Follower, Husband to Leona, and Father to MatthewMelissa & Michael. He is also a Church Planting Pastor, Musician, Artist, & Blogger. He’s a big fan of Coffee & Bacon and is currently planting a Church in Aurora, Colorado called Compass Church.  He is the founder of MinistryBackpack.com.

God called you to start a church, but there’s a problem. You don’t have any money, yet. Spiritualize it all you want, but at the end of the day, you still have to eat and have a place to sleep.

So here are 5 Strategies for starting your church with “no money down.”  I may add 5 more later because I have a few pages of thoughts about it, but for now, here are the first five. We’ll start in  no particular order of priority (except for number one):

5-strategies-for-starting-your-church-with-no-money-down-pinterest-graphic

1. Put some money down. Ha! I got you there. You can’t start a church with no money down, silly. You need to have a little “skin in the game.” If you want others to give to your church plant, it has to start with you. What are you willing to invest? Do you have savings? Do you have something you could sell? Time to put some of your security on the line and into God’s hands.

2. Be bi-vocational. Do this for a year or two at least. I know that you want to spend all of your time invested in the start of your new church, but don’t think that you’re not doing that if you’re bi-vocational. You’ll meet people you can share Christ with and invite to be a part of your new church. You can also see what it’s like during the week for most of the people you’ll be leading. You’ll free up any money you initially raise so that it can be used for ministry and equipment.  As a bonus, you’ll be able to pay a few of your bills and relieve some stress.

3. Require all team members to give from day one. The moment someone comes on board your launch team, request that they make the shift of channeling all of their giving through your church plant.  They should share this with their current pastor immediately, if necessary, but they don’t need to wait until things get going for them to begin giving.

4. Start a non-profit business that supports your new church. I know of a church planter in Georgia who started a “second hand” store where all of the income generated went directly to support the new church. Another church planter in Colorado created multiple businesses, including a coffee shop, an “odd jobs” service and more that did the same thing. You need to be careful in how you set that up and of course, you need to keep stellar records, but I love this kind of thinking for funding ministry.

5. Know the minimum you need and promote the dream amount you hope for. Don’t inflate the numbers, but map out your needs based on “the bare bones,” “the next level of impact,” and “the best impact” you can make on your community. Filter this through every area of your startup – marketing to the community, equipment, events, rental space, etc. Make a list of the things you absolutely must purchase or have donated, the things you could borrow or rent, and the things you could make or create.

These are just suggestions. As you are faithful and a good steward of what God entrusts to you, He will bless as you are faithful to his calling.

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 Johnny Leckie is a Christ Follower, Husband to Leona, and Father to MatthewMelissa & Michael. He is also a Church Planting Pastor, Musician, Artist, & Blogger. He’s a big fan of Coffee & Bacon and is currently planting a Church in Aurora, Colorado called Compass Church.  He is the founder of MinistryBackpack.com.

In most places,  it takes money to start a church. Sure, you can begin with a Bible study in your house with a few friends who invite friends and do that for free but this is not always the best option. What if your home is too small for more than a small gathering of people? What if you’ve recently moved to the area? What if your small group outgrows your tiny apartment? What about babies and children?

If you want to be a network of home churches, that’s cool. Just make sure you’re reaching out to your community and growing new groups. But for other scenarios, you’re going to need some money.

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Here are three possible ways to make that happen:

1. Be fully sponsored by one or many churches and individuals who fully underwrite the cost of the new church with a combined investment of at least $100,000 or more.

2. Pray and ask God to put it on someone’s heart to send you a big check, then wait for it to arrive in the mail.

3. Plan well, boot-strap and move in strategic steps.

Obviously, these are not the only options, but let’s focus on them for a moment, anyway.

I like option number one, but it has many built in challenges, and can keep Church Planters from fully responding to God’s calling if all of their funding doesn’t arrive on their time schedule. (I talk a bit about this in this series of posts: Where God Guides, He Provides) Option number two is certainly possible, but let me just say, I wouldn’t hinge my strategy on it. God just usually doesn’t do it that way.

I believe the need for new and vibrant churches is great. I also believe that Churches planting churches is one of the best ways to make this happen. Unfortunately, most churches don’t necessarily share that view, so it doesn’t happen as often as it should. 🙂

So option number three is a great option for getting things rolling. It’s particularly great for new church planters and/or first time pastors, because it gives them an opportunity to “get their sea legs” during their first year, learn to pace themselves, set achievable goals, make mistakes that are easier to recover from and discover what works best in their community with the vision that God has given them.

But it’s okay to pursue options one and two while you’re at it.  In fact, that is what I am currently attempting to do. 🙂

I’ll provide some practical ideas for “option number three” in a follow up post.

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 Johnny Leckie is a Christ Follower, Husband to Leona, and Father to MatthewMelissa & Michael. He is also a Church Planting Pastor, Musician, Artist, & Blogger. He’s a big fan of Coffee & Bacon and is currently planting a Church in Aurora, Colorado called Compass Church.  He is the founder of MinistryBackpack.com.

Some would say that the “ability to raise money” is a determining factor for whether or not someone has “the right stuff” for planting a church. They would say this because they believe that this skill demonstrates that this person can build support for their vision, which is very necessary for church planting. There is also the fact, so the reasoning goes, that the church planter will need to be able to raise funds as the pastor/leader in the new church from then on.

Okay. Fair enough. The thinking behind the need for fundraising is correct, but as to it being a “determining factor”  for having “the right stuff” to start? I say, “not necessarily.”  

Here are two reasons why:

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1. The first reason I say this may be better explained with a short story.

I had a friend who got a job as a vacuum cleaner salesman while he was in college and the company had him sell to his friends and family first. Their reasoning was “If you can’t sell to your friends and family, you can’t sell at all.” So he gave it a shot.

The problem was, he had to give a “sales pitch” to his friends and family, who were now in that awkward position of having to change their relationship from being “friends and family” to being “customers.”

The pitch was actually harder to pull off. His friends and family loved and supported him, but really weren’t interested in buying an expensive new vacuum cleaner that they didn’t really need. My friend also found it difficult to “put the pressure” on them to buy the product without feeling like he was pressuring them into a sale.

Friends and family are friends and family. Some may support you, but you don’t want an awkward, potential relationship-breaking, hard sell, “If you love God and love me, you’ll support me in this” kind of experience with them.  Give them an opportunity, sure, but don’t let that be the gauge of whether you should be planting a church or not.

2. A second reason I would say, “not necessarily,” is because the nature of raising funds for a new church plant is different from the nature of raising funds within an existing church.

Just because you can raise money for a new work doesn’t mean you can raise money within it after it’s already going, and vice-versa.

Here’s why. When you raise money for a start up, you are another mission or organization that people can support outside of their local church. The people you are “pitching” to have no “skin in the game.”  However, when you’re raising funds for a project within the church you are leading, it effects everyone in your organization.

If you’re building a new worship center, for example, they will participate in the benefits of that fundraising directly. Even if you’re raising funds to support a need in your community or around the world, your people will also directly participate in the benefits of ministry. It is something they are doing together as a group, rather than as a collection of individuals and organizations who may or may not know each other.

Please don’t misunderstand. If you are a church planter, you will need to be able to raise funds, even if you’re not that great at it, now. But realize that the funds you raise before you begin require a different approach than the funds you raise with the people who join your church later.

Count the cost. Plan well. Don’t be foolishly reckless. But for heaven’s sake, if God tells you to do something, do it – whether you’ve raised all the funds yet or not.

God is the One with “The Right Stuff.” I believe He just wants us to have the “right response.”

And that always involves a measure of faith.

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 Johnny Leckie is a Christ Follower, Husband to Leona, and Father to MatthewMelissa & Michael. He is also a Church Planting Pastor, Musician, Artist, & Blogger. He’s a big fan of Coffee & Bacon and is currently planting a Church in Aurora, Colorado called Compass Church.  He is the founder of MinistryBackpack.com.