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Fundraising Lie #3: “We will become self-supportive.”

July 20, 2012

Fundraising is a huge challenge for every church planter.  This is part 3 of a 4-part series about different lies we tell ourselves when it comes to fundraising. (Read part 1 here.  See part 2 here.)

LIE #3: We will become self-supportive.

This is the WHO: Who are you going to reach and what will they give?

I really like impressionist paintings.  If I have a free afternoon (and a babysitter!) I love to spend several hours walking around the National Gallery of Art in Washington D.C.  My favorite section, possibly because it’s very extensive, is the Impressionist gallery. The Manets, Renoirs, and Monets are beautiful, captivating, and tranquil.   Once when I was there I was even able to jump on a tour explaining unique intricacies of these paintings.

Impressionism, of course, is famous for its unique style.  It began with a work of Monet’s called, you guessed it, “Impression.”  He saw a sunset, painted it, and gave a movement a name.  Impressionist used larger brushstrokes and even globs of paint at times at the expense of clear delineation between things.  They wanted to give, obviously, their impression of the subject matter.

The reason I bring up impressionism is that it’s a great way for artists to view painting, but it’s a terrible way for church planters to view their future offerings.

One of the great things about church planting is that there is the opportunity to reach niche markets.  Bill Clinton’s campaign manager became famous for breaking down the United States into various segments, and tailoring a unique message to each segment.  Microtrends explains that there are huge segments of the US that need a direct message or you won’t reach them.  Church planters are on the cutting edge of this, as I’ve seen church plants targeted to:

  • Homeless people
  • Bikers
  • Truckers
  • Strippers
  • Movie producers
  • Military personnel

And the list could go on!  That’s fantastic, and I’m thankful so many churches are aiming to reach so many people.  So when it comes to fundraising we must figure out how this will work long term.  Too many planters flippantly say, “We will become self-supportive,” without examining how that will happen.  The questions I want to know include…

How many people will come?

How much will they give, per capita?

It may be unwise to say you will become self-supportive if your target is people who hate church and have lost their jobs in the last 6 months.  Those people need Jesus, but they sure aren’t going to fund a church.

Be realistic.  Ideally, every local church becomes self-supportive.  There are examples of churches in the Bible helping each other out in a time of great need, but the impression we get is not that the outside support was forever.

Know who you are going to reach and fundraise appropriately.  If you come back to your supporters in year 2 looking for more money and say, “well, it costs a lot more than we planned to reach people who hate church and are jobless!” you’re going to look like a bad leader, and that does not inspire confidence…or giving.

What lessons have you learned about funding the vision long term?

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