Many a church planter has wished money grew on trees. It would sure ease a lot of stress in the early days of the church. A healthy goal for any new church is to be self-sustaining financially. The sooner that happens the better. It’s typical when fundraising to base your outside support on needing supplemental funding for the first three years. Assuming that by typical you are planting in an area whose people are financially stable themselves. Planting in poverty-stricken areas changes the game substantially.
To become self-sustaining, the people who become a part of the church must give. The problem for many planters is many of the people coming to the church are pre-Christians. Asking people who are just at the beginning of their faith journey is awkward for many planters. Let’s be honest, we are afraid we’ll scare them away.
Stewardship and financial giving is a discipleship matter. The logic goes that this person isn’t even a disciple yet. How can I ask them to act like a disciple when they haven’t even made the commitment? Rather than point out the folly in this logic, which is easy, I’d like to suggest a different way to think about it. While on a call with a management team chair and bookkeeper for a planter today, we had this aha moment. Asking for money doesn’t have to be a discipleship matter. In fact in the early days, it’s more likely asking for money is a vision matter.
You are casting vision heavily in the early days of the desired future of the church. If pre-Christians are coming even sporadically, then there is something in the vision that’s attractive to them. The ask is for them to support the vision. You’re not asking a pre-Christian to give as an act of worship to a God he or she isn’t sure about yet. You’re asking them to buy into a vision of transformed lives and communities.
The typical offering time in a new church excuses pre-Christians. It goes something like, “If you are new to this church, know the offering time is an act of worship for those of us who call this church home.” I have lots of hangups with these types of statements. If you didn’t excuse them from your sermon, then either a) your sermon wasn’t an act of worship, or b) you are afraid to call people to worship God through giving. While I understand the hangup—trust me, I’ve been there and said those words—there is another way. Ask them to give to the vision. And then invite them to begin living out the vision with you. If you do that, the funds will come in and you will allow people who aren’t disciples yet to contribute to something that’s important to them. If they can give to the vision of the Red Cross, they can surely give to the vision of the church. Just don’t forget you are called to disciple them, and that does include teaching them what the Bible says about money, too.