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):

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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.