Three Financial Mistakes Church Planters Make
Updated: Oct 5, 2021
By Paul Rice
Planting a church is one of the most difficult things a pastor can attempt.
Achieving financial independence as a church plant is even harder.
If you’re a church plant pastor, I’m sure you can relate. In a 2015 study, Lifeway Research and NewChurches.com reported that about 1 in 3 church plants had NOT reached self-sufficiency at the time of the study.
Pastor Chris Faggins of Believer’s City Church in Red Oak, TX, knows the financial challenges of church planting well.
In 2013, he launched his first church plant, which reached a few hundred in attendance each week, but was never able to pay the bills without external assistance. He ultimately decided to shut down the church plant and relaunch as Believer’s City Church. This time, however, he did things very differently.
Three years later, with only half of the first church's attendance, Believer’s City Church is able to cover all of the bills, has built an emergency fund, and supports local and global missions programs.
Pastor Chris and I had a very transparent conversation about what didn’t work for the first church plant and what did work for Believer’s City Church. In this post, I discuss three of the financial mistakes we examined and how to avoid them.
Pitfall #1: Building the organization before building the community.
A well known quote from the movie, Field of Dreams, comes to mind - “If you build it, they will come.”
If you are an entrepreneurial person, you might be tempted to plant a church by building the organization first, in hopes that the community, and financial support, will follow. However, building the church organization before community robs others of the opportunity to develop ownership in their church.
Pastor Chris found that lack of ownership in his first church plant translated into a lack of financial support. In spite of all the programs and special events, people didn’t spontaneously start giving financially, because everything had already been done for them. They never had the opportunity to invest in what had already been built.
Believer’s City Church was built by a community of people and quickly achieved financial self-sufficiency. These days, Pastor Chris says, people actually approach him about making giving even easier. Instead of having an “If you build it, they will come,” mindset, he would advise church planters, “Let them come, and help you build it.”
People value what they help build. Let people build the church with you and the financial investment will follow.
Pitfall #2: Spending big for short-term looks.
Have you ever spent money on something you couldn't afford because you liked the way it made you look or feel? (Of course not!) Pastors would do well to avoid this mentality, whether money is tight or not.
Often, new churches are birthed by pastors who belonged to an established church and saw great results during their time there.
Pastor Chris was no exception. While pursuing what he thought was excellence, he started spending money trying to achieve the appearance of results that his previous church took 135 years to accomplish!
Ultimately, he learned that excellence is NOT about spending outside your means to appear successful. Excellence is about using what God has already provided to make the greatest possible impact in your church.
Don’t spend money for appearance’s sake. Invest money with the long-term impact in mind.
Pitfall #3: Never talking about money.
I’m convinced that the one phobia that every pastor has shared at some point in their ministry is chrometophobia, the fear of money. It’s not so much the fear of having money (I don’t know any pastor with that phobia), it’s the fear of talking about money in church.
For most pastors, the fear of perception keeps them from talking about money.
Be honest. Have you ever preached about money, and were certain everyone in the room was judging you? Were you afraid people might leave the church? I think 100% of pastors would say, “Yes!”.
However, money is not a topic to be avoided. I believe it’s one of the most important issues a church can address, and Jesus did too. In fact, Jesus talked about money more often than most issues. Why?
In Matthew 6:21, Jesus says, “Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” People’s hearts are drawn to what they value, and people value money for the purchasing power it gives them.
Pastors have the unique responsibility to help people start valuing God’s kingdom over their money. Talking about money the right way will help people make that shift without the false perception that you are trying to extort their hard-earned wages from them.
The right way to talk about money is worthy of its own blog post, but here are some steps you can start taking right now:
Teach people about the value of giving. Help them understand how their giving relates to God, their heart, their church, and the surrounding community.
Educate people about managing their personal finances. People cannot be financially generous with your church or anyone in their community if they are broke and investing into people’s personal lives shows that you care about them.
Provide regular opportunities to give into community outreach projects, capital campaigns, and tithes/offerings. Most people will not give unless an opportunity is presented to them.
These three financial mistakes can get trip up ANY church at ANY stage of growth.
If you church is struggling to achieve financial independence, gather your board or leadership team, and discuss if one of these three pitfalls is holding your church back. Then, decide how you are going to change things up. You owe it to your mission to remove those financial barriers.