There has been some discussion lately about the Association of Related Churches (ARC), particularly around their funding model and the moral failures of several ARC pastors. I would like to provide my perspective based on my years of experience with a front row seat to the ARC story and ARC churches. I want to be clear, my only association with ARC is that my brother works there; everything that follows is based on my own experience and understanding.
ARC churches began a little over 20 years ago on a golf course when my brother, Greg, and Billy Hornsby began dreaming about planting 2000 new churches around the world. They knew that new churches have the highest rate of evangelism and are the most effective at impacting younger generations, so they decided to invest the rest of their lives in planting churches, and ARC was born. The first church ARC helped plant was with Billy’s son-in-law, Chris Hodges at Church of the Highlands in Birmingham, Alabama.
After a fairly slow start in the early years ARC eventually became one of the most effective church planting networks in America at starting and sustaining new churches. They reached the halfway mark to the goal of 2000 church plants a little earlier this year, with Billy now cheering on from Heaven. A great deal of attention is paid to their “launch large” model, but the real secret sauce is ARC’s funding framework.
Finances in ARC Churches
Billy and Greg made several decision around funding in the early days of ARC churches that have sustained the network:
- ARC would loan money at no interest to a church planter to help them get started. They would also effectively offer a line of credit to cover any shortfall in the church’s budget for the first few months of existence. The goal of the loan and line of credit was to help the church get off to a healthy start, and to ensure the church planter could feed his family for the first few months if the budget wasn’t met. Greg and Billy had seen too many church planters struggle to survive, and they hoped to change the narrative.
- Church plants and member churches would pay 2% of their budget to ARC for future church plants. The goal was to create a fund to keep planting churches long after they were gone.
- All overhead expenses would be paid by the churches of Lead Team members (ARC’s board of directors) so that all money repaid from the no interest loans or given from member churches would go directly to planting churches. To this day not a dime of money coming from member churches and church plants goes to pay for ARC staff salaries, buildings or other expenses.
This model means that ARC always has money to fund new church plants. They are not beholden to donors, and they don’t have to constantly fund raise from existing churches. In the early days everything was done on a handshake, but as ARC has multiplied and things have become more complicated these founding principles have been codified and refined through the years. The underlying values, however, have not changed.