The Ugliest Word in Church Planting
By Chris Kopka, president of Thrivent Church Services
Not vision. Not multiplication. Not leadership. No, my guest blog post doesn’t start with one of those fun, energizing, engaging words about church planting that gets us so excited.
Instead, this post starts with the one word in church planting that has exactly zero sex appeal: Fundraising.
Before I move on, please pause and reflect: How does that word – fundraising – make you feel? Not what do you think, but how do you feel about fundraising?
My work brings me into contact with hundreds of pastors and planters. So far I haven’t met a single one who went to seminary or planted a church out of a freakish love for the offering plate or tithing or any other form of asking for money.
So what do I see in the eyes of most pastors & church planters when I talk and teach about fundraising? Terror.
Terror and Tension
The theme of “tension” features prominently in how Todd Wilson and Dave Ferguson write and think about church planting. In their new book, Becoming Five, Todd and Dave suggest that Level 5 leaders and churches must not only be aware of tension (“gee wiz, I guess asking for money is tough”), but embrace and live through that tension to maneuver and grow (“hey, if we learn how to move the needle on this fundraising/terror thing, that will have a profound impact”).
If we all agree intellectually that the earth belongs to God, and everything in it (Psalms 24:1), then why on earth should anyone get sweaty palms and a racing heart when asking for money to help start new churches on behalf of God’s son? Sounds crazy, right? And yet sweaty palms and racing hearts happen every day. Asking for money is a hard thing to do.
Why on earth should anyone get sweaty palms and a racing heart when asking for money to help start new churches on behalf of God’s son?
Todd and Dave point out that Level 5 leaders – courageous leaders – not only discover and acknowledge the gap between aspiration and practice, they do something about it.
I submit to you that the American Church as a body has one giant-sized, elephant-in-the-room gap between aspiration and practice when it comes to church planting. And no, the gap isn’t money. There’s an abundance of money all around us! The gap is the feeling of terror a church planter gets about asking for money to grow God’s Kingdom.
Do we have the courage to close that gap?
Todd and Dave point out toward the beginning of Becoming Five that behaviors are “the things we actually do, including how and where we invest the time, talent, and financial resources entrusted to our care.” The organization I’m a part of, Thrivent, engaged Barna to conduct research on the money tensions for pre-launch and early-stage church planters. One of the findings was that very few early tenured pastors and church planters felt they had received any training on fundraising.
One of the questions Dave & Todd pose toward the end of Becoming Five is this: “Will our church put funds toward training church planters and developing a leadership residency?” It is a great question for individual churches.
And I’d expand their question: Will we as the church planting community commit the resources to learning about healthy fundraising as a part of our leadership development?
To face the terror and close the gap in this tension, we as a church planting community need to understand our own relationship with money, discover the power of story in fundraising, and develop a “habit of asking.”
Terror: Meet the beginning of your end.
Chris Kopka is the president of Thrivent Church Services and author of the forthcoming book Habit of Asking.