If God is calling you and your family to plant a Church, I just have one thing to say…it is going to be very hard, messy, and nothing like you thought it would be. I have the opportunity to talk with church planters all over the Globe. Many went into it thinking that this was going to be sexy and if they preached well then they would have 100 people at their first gathering and 1,000 a year later. However, 3 years later they actually have 50 people attending, working three jobs, taking sleeping pills as the only way to sleep, and haven’t had sex with their wife in months. Wow that sounds like a fun calling to me.
First, I would encourage church planters to have their main goal of being a Church Family committed to living life on mission in order to make disciples who make disciples. Let the Spirit build Jesus’ Church, He has a better resume than you.
One of the biggest topics that come’s up in the Church Planting world: MONEY. Here are some practical things a church planter can do as it relates to money:
Raising Personal Support and Being Bi-Vocational
Starting out right: When planting a church you should ask the Holy Spirit if you should raise personal support or get another job to help pay the bills for the first couple years. I would recommends doing both making each 50% of your salary needs.
Raising Personal Support – If you are planting a church you most likely have family and friends; start with asking them. If you don’t at least have friends then maybe you are in the wrong field. This will be a great way to get used to telling people the truthful, compelling message on why you are doing what God is calling you to do.
Do not stop raising money at just half your Salary/Benefits, anything you raise above and beyond this I would recommend that you put into saving each month for you and your church. Most people make the mistake of stopping and throwing in the towel right when they reach their 100% funded goal. Here is a great website that can help you think this through more www.gcmweb.org .
Jesus was a carpenter and maybe you should be too. You may be able to raise more than you need in personal support but I would still recommend getting a job in the city, town, or community that you are planting a church in at least for the first year or two. This will help you get a heartbeat for the people in which you are trying to reach. Here is a great website to help you find a job www.craigslist.org
Proper paper work
If you are planting a church and you meet these criteria:
■ the organization must be organized and operated exclusively for religious, educational, scientific, or other charitable purposes
■ net earnings may not inure to the benefit of any private individual or shareholder,
■ no substantial part of its activity may be attempting to influence legislation
■ the organization may not intervene in political campaigns
■ the organization’s purposes and activities may not be illegal or violate fundamental public policy
…then you are automatically tax-exempt by the federal government.
Although the government recognizes tax-deductible donation for a church without having to file a 501c3 paperwork I would still recommend it. If you file your 501c3 paperwork your church family is guaranteed that their donation is tax deductible and your church will have extra benefits like not having to pay certain taxes and getting bulk non-profit rates on mailing items through USPS.
You will also have to file for an EIN #, there is no real way around this, as you will need this to open a bank account. Both the 501c3 and the EIN # application can be done here at www.legalzoom.com – I use this for all legal documents and its great.
If you are just starting to plant a church and do not have elders, deacons or other leaders right away I would encourage you to ask 2-3 people to help be apart of your advisory team. One of the things they would help you oversee is your church family’s finance. This keeps you at a higher level of accountability and integrity in your finances, you should not be the only one looking at it and making decisions.
Once you have found a couple people to help advise you, you need to find a platform to help you keep track of your finances. Quickbooks for Churches is the most affordable, reliable software out there that can fully integrate with church bank institutions. http://quickbooks.intuit.com/church-accounting/
As a paid staff person you are also going to be racking up expenses. I know how much of a pain it can be to save all your receipts, as the IRS wants you to save the last 7 years of all things finances. I would recommend using Expensify to track all your expenses, as it generates IRS approved receipts without saving them all up in your wallet.
Once you are getting paid FT and possibly have another PT staff, building expenses, and other ministry expenses, things start adding up pretty quickly. Next thing you know you are up to your eyeballs in QuickBooks and Expensify. Once you reach this position I would encourage you to outsource this to an organization. MAG Bookkeeping is one of the great ones out there that does bookkeeping for churches all over the USA. It would cost you 2-3 times more to hire a person with expertizes in this field rather than outsourcing to a Christian organizations for $300 a month. http://magbookkeeping.com
Communication with Money, Finances and Stewardship
I would encourage you to start a practice early of at least once a month giving a financial update to your church family and your personal supporters. Also include your church family in all major financial decision, this isn’t a fortune 500 company that you get to make top down decisions without asking or telling anyone. This is a church family who is on mission together. Imagine coming home one day and letting your wife, daughter, and son know that you just bought a new house, sold all the cars, and reinvested all your money in Amway. They would probably have liked to be informed and included in these decisions. Communicate frequently and keep it simple.
Implementing these steps can help you navigate the finances during the first couple years of your Church Plant.