“It’s happening! It’s really happening! But…what in the world am I doing?” This is the feeling of starting a church plant, especially when it comes to fundraising.
We were 15 days away from the grand opening of our church, and we had not yet reached our full budget to sustain the church for its first year of ministry. I was a mess. It was a Ron Burgundy glass case of emotion moment minus the goofy suit and mustache. But God provided.
In fact, God provided above and beyond what we needed. We launched the church on January 22, 2017. We celebrated with three baptisms and commissioned nine leaders to lead ministries and community groups. It was a big day! Looking back at the stressful journey of church plant fundraising, here are some valuable lessons I learned that I hope can help you:
Fundraising is Hard
Dear friends said no. Family members said no. People that we admired said no. Even people that loved our vision said no. I began to wonder if I was cut out for this. But we pressed on, and we kept sharing our vision. And God provided.
People that had little gave generously. Friends sold houses and donated the profits. Churches that we had never heard of showed up and jumped on board. Still, fundraising is hard, and in the hard times, cling to your calling. If God has called you, he will make it happen.
Have a Clear Vision
People want to be a part of something bigger than themselves. People will invest in vision. They want to see a preferred future and a plan to get there.
One of the biggest shifts for me was buying into my own vision. I had to realize that what we are doing matters enough that other should give and not see fundraising as a spiritual form of panhandling. It was difficult for me to convince myself that this was a worthy endeavor—worthy of inviting others to join the mission.
People will happily invest in a worthy endeavor. Believe what you’re doing matters.
Have a Team That Keeps You Accountable
Get a team around you that believes in you and the vision that God is calling you to. They will be your biggest fans and toughest critics. Some of the most fruitful conversations I had were the hardest, all centered around staying on task and staying the course to reach our goal.
Everyone has something they run away from. For some, it’s scary things and for others, it’s hard things. For me, it’s boring things. Fundraising was a lot of spreadsheets, data, and follow up. My tendency is to run far, far away from the minute details. Thankfully, I had a team of friends and fellow soldiers that have been in my shoes before to keep me on track.
Get a team and give them the permission to hold you accountable. You’ll be glad you did.
Trust the Lord
Fundraising increased my faith and prayer life. It stretched me farther than I could have imagined. You have to know without a shadow of a doubt that all the money you need to do the ministry God has called you is out there, and God owns it all. He wants his Church to succeed and his Kingdom to advance more than you do.
I can specifically remember a watershed moment where I was worried constantly about a $7,000 deficit. It felt like an immovable mountain. We were so close to our goal, and the clock was ticking. I didn’t know what else to do, so we prayed. The very next day I got a call from a man who asked me how much we needed to close the gap. I told him, and he said, “OK, I’ll send a check for the full amount next week.” It was unbelievable. God is so good. Trust that he has it under control.
Go Down or Hold the Rope
In the late 1700’s, the great missionary to India, William Carey, needed financial support to continue his work in reaching the unreached with the gospel. In sharing his vision for India, he told a group of men, “I will go down if you hold the rope.” Today, by God’s grace we have a team of folks ranging from friends and family to churches and college students holding the rope for us as we pursue all that God has for us.
The biggest lesson I have learned about fundraising is that it’s God’s way to both further his mission and build his people. So, what is God calling you to do? Will you go down? Will you hold the rope? Whatever you do, don’t do nothing. We have too many good reasons to give and to go.