The Church Plant Bank

Traditional church planters normally receive between $200,000 and $400,000 from denominations or church planting associations. Typically, the majority of that money is spent on staff. People will follow vision, but people will also follow a paycheck and a certain comfort level. I am all in favor of music at a church, but starting out, why do we drop a full-time salary on a worship pastor salary when most church plants take a good year before they hold their first service? There is a great chance that you could meet people in the city your church is in who want to help out in that way. Eventually, you might need a full-time guy. Maybe.
churchplantbank
I was a huge Bulls fan as a kid. I remember the first time I saw Michael Jordan play basketball. I remember the day I got his autograph. I’ve taken down the posters now that I am married—although I kept the ’86 Fleer rookie card. I remember the years when the Bulls could not beat the Pistons. Jordan could not do it alone. Finally, they assembled a team around Jordan. An amazing coach and then they made history.

A few years after XXXchurch began, the guy who started the ministry with me quit because he did not want to be the “porn” guy anymore. I sat in my house with an idea, a load of debt and a dream. I felt like I was on an island all by myself. I was fighting porn. I was the underdog. I could never outspend or outsmart the industry. I began to bring some people onto our team. The first decisions were made to outsource everything I could. I worked with people from all over the country to take XXXchurch to the next level.

For years, I would travel the country—but when I was home working out of our home office, I could work in my boxers. My wife helped out, and on a few days we had my friends Dave or Katie come in to do some office work.

I miss those days sometimes. We weren’t able to do what we can do now with a team, but it was easier than it is now with a team.

This past August, 14 of us moved from all over the U.S. to Las Vegas with a dream for something new and something different on the Las Vegas Strip. People will follow vision. If your vision is great, and people can understand it, grasp it, you will not have trouble attracting a team.

Traditional church planters normally receive between $200,000 and $400,000 from denominations or church planting associations. Typically, the majority of that money is spent on staff. People will follow vision, but people will also follow a paycheck and a certain comfort level. I am all in favor of music at a church, but starting out, why do we drop a full-time salary on a worship pastor salary when most church plants take a good year before they hold their first service? There is a great chance that you could meet people in the city your church is in who want to help out in that way. Eventually, you might need a full-time guy. Maybe.

We were promised $400,000 over a a period of three years from one of these church planting agencies. I was not going to hire any staff with that money. The people who will follow the vision, who you want on your team, are the ones who will move with you and sell their stuff regardless of a paycheck. The ones who are willing to work another job until you can pay them—or never ask for a paycheck.

Most churches spend more than 80 percent of their budget on staff and buildings. Forget it. That is not the model for the Church. Don’t believe me—reread Acts.

Obama is having a blast handing out money. Build a dream team, but don’t use all your money doing it.

I love our intern program. I love our volunteers. All of my staff were volunteers or interns at one point. They did not come to the table with their hand out. They came to the table willing to serve.

Church planting has become popular these days. These days, in a lot of cases, it requires little sacrifice. Church planting has become an excuse for many people to move from one bad situation in ministry to another.

We never ended up receiving the $400,000. The organization sent my wife and I to an assessment. They told me it was protocol. They told me all my online tests came back strong, and I had nothing to worry about. They asked me to spend $1,600 and drag my wife to Baltimore for four days and be assessed. I agreed. I’m a straight shooter: This was a waste of a time. It is a waste of money and an embarrassment that this assessment even exists.

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To begin with, the person leading the assessment, to decide whether or not I’m qualified, was a failed church planter. There were seven couples there and one single guy—all of them having hopes to start a church in the near future. All of them hoping for a stamp at the end of the four days from this assessment that would allow them to continue the process with the different church planting agencies that they were working with. All of them convinced they should start a church, but no one except me and my wife had already moved or taken that first step. So, if you are supposed to start a church or plant something, do you have to wait to be assessed, or do you just go?

I did not fail, but did I pass?  My 60-page report back looks quite good on paper. My gifts match up with someone who most would say would be a successful leader in this kind of work. (More on the report in the next blog.)

Shortly after the assessment, we were told by the agency that asked us to go to this assessment that they would not be able to work with us or help fund our mission. Our four days at an assessment gave them an easy out to supporting our plant. After I received the phone call, I was in shock. I sat in my apartment and cried. I felt all alone at that moment. I never doubted, but I was discouraged. At that point, I was faced with a huge decision.

I was in Las Vegas, in a rented apartment, living with my two kids and wife and two of our staff. Our family living in one bedroom, sleeping on bunk beds, and the staff in the other room. I realized something that night: This was not going to be easy. This will require sacrifice. I already committed. I already sold almost everything I owned and moved to Vegas. So, now I am not getting start-up money that was promised.

“When the going gets tough, the tough get going”
– Billy Ocean

If you want to do this, will you do this even if you and a few other people are the only ones that believe in it? Will you do it when the cash disappears or never comes in? Will you be willing to stand up for what you believe in and not sell out just to get a check? Will you attract others that will make as big of a sacrifice as you, if not bigger?  Will you sell out just to get the cash from the bank?

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