Church planters tend to have an image problem. It is said, sometime joking and sometimes serious, that church planters are after one thing – money. We will do anything to find individuals, churches, networks or agencies who will support their church planting vision financially.
Believe me, I get it. The financial pressure associated with planting a church is overwhelming at times. In the early days, faced with moving to a new city, finding a place to live, and putting food on the table each night, a church planter can be paralyzed by fear related to meeting the financial needs of his family and young church. These realities can cause him to hyper-focus on fundraising. If he is not careful, once someone agrees to help fund the church plant he may subtly confirm the stereotype and take the money and run. While he would never say it, his actions say “Thanks for the help but I’ve got more money to raise, sermons to preach, and people to disciple.”
Church planters must be zealous to maintain an ongoing relationship with those who support them in order to break this stereotype. The relationship must be defined by more than a monthly newsletter filled with bullet point lists and a few nice stories. Rather church planters should go out of their way to ensure that those who support them feel like they are truly a part of the journey of church planting.
Here are some ideas on how to do that well:
Thank you Notes – My buddy Jeremy Chasteen at Crosspoint Church, Clemson, SC says that the mantra of fund raising is always “Thank before you bank.” Before you deposit the first check from a new donor you should take the time to send a note to them thanking them for their support for your ministry.
Personalized Letters – Mass emails or social media posts are helpful but impersonal. Take time at least twice a year to get a list of all of those who have supported financially over the past six months and write them a personal letter of thanks.
Spontaneous Calls – We all have those times in our days where we have a short window of time that is unaccounted for. Maybe you show up to a meeting a few minutes early or your next appointment is running a few minutes late. Take that opportunity to make a quick call or send a text message of thanks to the first person who comes to mind.
Speaking – The answer is “yes”. If a church has served you by funding your work then you have an obligation to do everything possible to speak at mission conferences, weekend retreats, or church gatherings if you are asked. If you find that you are too busy then you either need to cut other things out of your schedule or decline to take money from so many churches. Showing up and saying thanks in person demonstrates honor and respect to those that have inconvieniced themselves to help us financially.
Videos – Technology affords you the opportunity to quickly capture a compelling story of God’s work in your church – be it a quick interview with someone whose life has been changed or a story you share about something God has done. Don’t stress about video quality or lighting, simply capture the story and send it out to your supporters.
Social Media – If you are doing the things above, then, you are positioned to leverage social media to share stories of God’s work in your church plant. The internet allows people who may not attend your church or be able to visit to catch a glimpse of how God is using the money they have invested. Don’t squander this method of redeeming technology.
Prayer – Finally, people love to come alongside of you by praying for specific requests. You can involve them in your work by sending a note to your supporters about an upcoming meeting or important training that you are having with those in your church. This allows them to feel like they are doing more than simply writing you a check each month but that they are continuing to support your work through prayer.
Like all stereotypes, this one will be hard to break. But with proper intentionality a church planter can show honor, respect, and thanks to those who are so vital to the work we do each day.
Published March 11, 2015