How to Raise Support
In most cases a new church planter must raise monthly support to help finance the starting of a new church. The importance of proper funding cannot be overstated. The old days of, “I’ll just go and get a job and start meeting in a store front” are all but over. Recognizing the importance of raising support behooves every new church planter to learn how to undertake this enormous task. Deputation is a learned process in which some men know how to do it and others do not. You, the church planter, must learn the process of obtaining the confidence of churches so that they will lend you support. Failure to do so will dramatically reduce your prospects for success.
You must be spiritually prepared and financially prepared before setting out on this new adventure. If you are in debt, get out of debt before trying to raise support. If you have not finished your education, finish it. Prepare your family. If your wife is hesitant, help prepare her for this great undertaking. You will need your wife’s support because you will both be starting this new church.
A church planter must know where he plans to start the new church and he must be capable of conveying his burden to others. The exact town may not be necessary at the beginning of deputation, but the general area or region must be known.
Scheduling the meetings will require that a significant amount of information be prepared. A web site must be designed. The web site should contain photos of the church planter and his family, along with a brief biography of the future pastor. Other information should include: how to contact the pastor, a doctrinal statement, a target date for the first service, and general information about the new church. This site can be converted to become the church web site after the new church is started.
A packet of information should be prepared to be mailed to prospective pastors. The packet should include a cover letter clearly explaining your plans and goals to start a new church, a prayer card, a doctrinal statement, a personal testimony of salvation of the church planter and his wife, and a letter of recommendation from the pastor of the sending church and reproducing church. A monthly prayer letter should be written to all supporting churches and a copy can be included with the packet of material. All printed material must be designed and prepared professionally. The only impression some people will have of your church is the material you prepare, therefore it must be “first class.” Professional materials are expensive, but losing support is more expensive. After completing the packet of information, it should be sent to prospective pastors with the cover letter explaining you will be calling in two weeks to speak to the pastor. Therefore, you must keep excellent records so that you follow up within two weeks to speak to the pastor about presenting your burden for church planting.
Obtaining meetings and filling your schedule is difficult and requires a lot of phone calling. Pastors are not sitting in their office waiting for your call; you may need to call several times before you speak to someone. Some churches do not have a secretary and some ministries have several staff members. Both situations make it difficult to contact the pastor. The best churches to schedule are the ones who have mission money and a vision for church planting. Sometimes pastors are willing to have you present your burden, but they have no intention of supporting you. You don’t just want meetings; you must schedule churches that have a high probability of supporting you. Take the time to fill your schedule with these kinds of churches.
Develop a data base of probable churches. Start with churches in which you are familiar, or that your pastor is familiar, that would be inclined to support you. Make inquiries with new church planters who have recently raised support. They will know who to avoid and who to call. Attend mission conferences which will give you the highest probability of support. Attend church planting fellowships. Some of these special meetings will be attended by men who are burdened for church planting and they are prepared to help you. Go to new churches that have recently been started, they will have a burden for church planting. New churches often have mission money and they already are convinced of the need to start more churches.
Gain the confidence of key pastors who will allow you to use their name as a reference. When you call a new church you can say, “I will be with Bro. So and so and I am trying to schedule another meeting in this area. Work hard to schedule a meeting on every available date. Christmas, Thanksgiving, Easter and a few other dates can be difficult to schedule. The more meetings you schedule and the higher probability of the church supporting you, will result in a shorter and more successful deputation.
Gaining support in a reasonably short period of time is crucial. You will be seeking temporary support; therefore, you don’t want your support ending before you gain all that is necessary. Usually support should be sought for a period of four years depending on the area in which you intend to start the new church. Keep in mind that if you do well starting the new church it will help subsidize your finances from the very beginning. Therefore it is important to start well. In most cases receiving 50% to 80% of the foreign missionaries will be sufficient. Again, this all is dependent on a successful beginning of the church.
Your presentation should be a brief video of about ten minutes. The pictures should be sharp, clear, and convey your burden. You and your family should be well dressed, shoes shined, children obedient and everyone should look sharp. Your car should be clean and your display table well organized and attractive. A display board can be purchased that is very reasonably priced and attractive.
Your preaching should be within your time-limit and be directed toward missions and church planting. Keep a list of needs that can be presented upon request. Christians can not give unless they know your needs. Prepare a prayer list that can be distributed upon request. It is your responsibility to convey your burden to possible supporters. Finally, don’t forget that some individuals may support you, primarily friends and family. Please don’t seek individual support behind a pastor’s back. If a member asks if he can support you speak to the pastor and follow his protocol. Deputation requires a lot of preparation and planning, but it is rewarding to know many people are praying for you and have given financially to further the gospel.
HANDLING THE MONEY
If God leads you to go through a mission board, then churches should be instructed to send support through your mission board. If you are going out of a local church then your local church should be prepared to properly handle your support and send you a monthly check and at the end of the year a 1099 form for taxable income. The use of a mission board has advantages and disadvantages and each man should pray for God’s direction in the matter. Churches generally send support monthly, but some may choose to give you a one time offering. Some people may help with purchasing John and Romans, your display, song books, or another major expense. The money should be properly designated toward the purpose to which it was given.
You will develop a network of people who can help you with finances or information and you should keep in contact with them by phone and email. Successful church planters ask many questions and seek a lot of advice. Any man who has all the answers is doomed to failure. Pray for a family to come work with you in this new endeavor. There are numerous recent college graduates who are not prepared to start their own church and often they would be willing to work a job and be an assistant and apprentice for you. They will be a blessing to you and you can be a blessing to them. Perhaps a retired couple would be willing to relocate and join you in planting this new church. Live in the town in which you start. If you are purchasing a home you may need funds for a down payment or if you are renting you may need money for a monthly deposit. The new meeting place for the church may need to have a deposit. Someone may be willing to pay for these expenses if only they are aware of them.
Let people know of your needs, but don’t be a beggar. The smallest offering should be appreciated and acknowledged with a thank you letter. Never expect anything from anyone. Consider it the grace of God that anyone gives anything to you. In the end it is God who will give the increase.
Written by Jim Townsley