So, the comments in my 10 Keys to Sane Church Planting have, not surprisingly, revolved around the money issue... which is fine. We need to talk about this stuff.
"all this $$ talk raises an issue?
are people giving of their finances?
what do you do with that?
does saving the money allow you to invest in other "ministries"/social causes?
i'd like to hear a discussion of church planters talk about how they handle the whole offering thing and distribution of the collection?"
I can only answer for us... the beauty part of all this, a place where God has really done some cool things for evergreen is in the area of finances.
First, the groundwork. We had a church who was about 6 months older than us bless us during our early days. They gave us that $600 sound system, they gave us $500 once and I think $1200 another time. Now, this was a church that was barely making it themselves. But I had led worship for them, they loved us, wanted us to do well and were willing to sacrifice to help us.
Huge lesson for me.
We decided that was the way to go: "It is possible to give freely and become more wealthy, but those who are stingy will lose everything. The generous prosper and are satisfied; those who refresh others will themselves be refreshed."-Prov 11:24-25
In light of that, from the very beginning we decided to give away 10% of our offerings to the poor, to people who were not us. We started supporting another church in town called the Bridge that does a lot for homeless teens. We started giving to Blanket Coverage that feeds/clothes people downtown. And now, we've started seeing our own evergreen stuff for the poor springing up. We've also been able to help out some folks inside our community who were struggling financially.
This (instead of endless sermon series on giving) would be how we would teach on the subject. I hoped (and I think it's worked out pretty well) that people would intuit that what we did as a community, they should be doing as individuals. We also decided that as giving increased, we would raise the actual percentage we gave away. We're at about 12% now. By talking about increasing our giving as a community, we were able to (subtly... or not so subtly, now that I think about it) communicate our hope that we would increase our giving as individuals...
Two years in, and I've never had to preach on tithing. Whew! Doesn't mean it might not happen at some point, but so far, so good... (*fingers crossed*)
Side point- we've also never "taken an offering." The box at the back of the room has sufficed :)
So, the people gave, right from the beginning. I told Amy, my wife, I would get 2 jobs at St. Arbucks to make this work if I needed to (we had a baby less than a month before we "launched"). But I didn't need to (thank the Lord!). The people of evergreen gave to the point where in month 3 I was able to start taking a full salary and we haven't looked back since.
And that's been huge- I know I could have worked somehwere and still planted a church. I just can't imagine how difficult that would have been to split my time, energy, mojo so many ways. Being able to devote myself full-time to getting this thing off the ground, connecting with people, preparing for Sundays, working on our web presence, etc is, I think, a contributing factor to what we've been able to become over the last two years.
The other thing we did was this- I found an associate pastor and a worship pastor who were both young, employable, banging their heads against the glass ceiling of age/experience and the rear ends of all those in line ahead of them, and I told them, "I can't pay you (yet), but I can make you my associate/worship pastor and as soon as we're able..."
We were able to start paying our worship guy fairly quickly... not much, but a nice addition to his full time pay from work. Our associate worked in a family business for two years, and just this month has gone full time for evergreen. And pretty much, right when our numbers needed it. It's gotten bigger than I know how to handle alone, and while he's made great contributions doing this pastor gig on his days off/evenings, at full time he's going to help us even more in many, many ways....
I worked out of Starbucks and until this very month, our "office" expenses consisted of a T-Mobile internet subscription for use there. We just rented an office (that we've already outgrown!), but at $215 a month, you can't beat that :)
Our Sunday rent as a community has gone up slightly, when we moved to the other side of town in October, but it's still low compared to what churches in schools and places like that are paying.
So, to answer Dave's question. Yeah- we have money to give away, and our staff has been able to grow organically with our community. It's nice that we've been able to spend our money on people first and everything else second... And we have avoided the "gap" between what we as a community have given and what we would have needed had we started out with a bang!, a full contingent of staff and a wad from someone else.
Now, that's not to say we did it "right" and everyone else did it "wrong." I have friends, good friends, who planted with the support of organizations/other churches, etc. And they're doing fine, thank you.
I'm just saying that you don't need it.
And if someone offers it to you, maybe take it... but be smart. Watch out for the "strings." Take the money and they'll want you to do it their way. Which is fine if their way is also your way, but if you are reading emerging church blogs, it probably isn't :)