Why I Changed My Mind About Fundraising for Our Church Plant

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A couple of years ago, my husband and I were in the thick of fundraising for our church plant. We were a few months away from launching, and it seemed we spent all our time writing letters and thank-you notes, and organizing gatherings where we’d invite people to invest in our church.

Our situation going into fundraising was not ideal, in that we were in a bit of a time crunch. Our New York apartment was too small for a house-church meeting, so we needed to rent meeting space right from the beginning. We didn’t want to delay our launch, because we feared we’d lose the people who’d already indicated interest in our church, most of whom were recent arrivals to Manhattan.

Since there’s a finite number of hours in a week (168 to be precise), the time we spent on fundraising was time we couldn’t spend on the other aspects of church planting. Building donor relationships takes time away from investing in relationships with unbelievers or potential church members. I remember saying to God, “Wouldn’t it be more efficient if a wealthy Christian gave us the money we needed in a lump sum? We want to concentrate on ministry, but raising money is swallowing all our time!”

Two years later, we still spend significant time on fundraising. Our church likely won’t be self-sustaining for a while, so we stay in regular contact with the many faithful Christians around the world who provide the funds that allow us to pay the bills. We write monthly prayer emails, send out an end-of-year fundraising letter, and do our part to keep the post office in business through mailing thank-you notes. But I no longer view this part of ministry as a distraction from the real work. Instead, I’ve come to appreciate that all the time we’ve spent fundraising has built a network of deeply committed prayer warriors for our fledgling church.

Your Heart Follows Your Treasure

In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus told his followers that instead of making earthly investments, they should store up treasure in heaven. He offered two reasons: (1) No earthly treasure is safe, and (2) “where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matt. 6:21).

Making heavenly investments helps us set our hearts on the life to come. But that’s not all that Jesus means. When you make a sacrificial financial gift to a work of God on earth, you care about what happens to that work. You want to see it flourish and multiply. And so you pray for it.

If we hadn’t needed to raise money, we still would’ve attempted to raise prayer support. We would’ve asked people to commit to pray for us, and quite a few would’ve checked that box. But would they have prayed with equal commitment if they hadn’t also put their money where their prayers were? In many cases, I suspect they wouldn’t. You don’t have to give financially to take an interest in someone’s ministry, but if you back them with your money, your heart is more likely to be with them in their work.

When More Pray, More Praise

When more people give to your ministry, leading more people to pray for it, then more people will give God glory when he answers prayer. The apostle Paul motivated the church at Corinth to give to other churches. How? By telling them of the thanksgiving to come:

You will be enriched in every way to be generous in every way, which through us will produce thanksgiving to God. For the ministry of this service is not only supplying the needs of the saints but is also overflowing in many thanksgivings to God. (1 Cor. 9:11–12)

Each time God works through our church and provides for us, a host of people get to celebrate. The supporters who have followed our ongoing needs and desires recognize the answers to their prayers. And thanksgiving overflows.

We’re Not the Only Sacrificers

When God called us into church planting, we had to entrust our financial future to him. Most church plants don’t have the means to provide things like health insurance and retirement benefits for their pastors. But we weren’t the only ones who made financial sacrifices.

At the start of fundraising, if you’d asked me where the majority of our funds would come from, I would’ve rattled off a few names of people who had the means to give large gifts. I would’ve been wrong. Some of those people did give generously to our church, but several of our largest gifts have from people who are not financially well-off. Each time we receive donations from people I know will feel the pinch of their generosity, I am filled with joy to know that someone else considers this work worth sacrificing for.

If one wealthy donor had written us a huge check a couple of years ago, we would’ve had more time for ministry. But we would’ve missed out on the blessing of knowing that we are not alone in church planting. A band of intercessors has poured their treasure into our little church, and they hold it in their hearts.

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