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Differentiation: Your Church Must Be Different… in More Ways than You Think

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Two of the biggest reasons new churches fail:

  1. Not being different enough…
  2. And not clearly communicating that difference to your city.

When people ask you, as a progressive church planter, what your new church is all about, it’s not enough to say:

“Our church welcomes the LGBTQ community.”

I applaud you for making that choice like I have. You give the world hope, and I wish every church would make that same decision. That is not enough of a foundation, however, to guarantee the survival of the new church you’re planting.  There are actually plenty of progressive churches in your town that are mostly invisible and irrelevant to your city and on the verge of closing. Even if your church is the only one in town that is progressive or welcoming to the LGBTQ community, if your city doesn’t know it, they can’t connect with your new church.

It’s also not enough to say:

“Our church is different from Religious Right, closed-minded churches.”

Ultimately, people will not stay in your church based on what you’re against; they will stay based on what you’re for.

First, to help you determine what your church is for, here are 3 questions from an incredibly effective planter and pastor named Adam Hamilton that sum it up nicely. If you’re going to start a new church, you have to be able to answer these 3 questions.

  • Why do people need Jesus?
  • Why do people need the Church (worldwide)?
  • Why do people need this church (the church you’re starting)?

Second, here are some questions to help you begin to differentiate:

  • What makes your church different from the other churches that dominant the landscape?
  • How does your church positively communicate those differences to your city?
  • In what creative ways can you help people you’re trying to reach immediately see your church as different (this is branding and marketing, and they are extremely important)?

If you want to talk more about how to differentiate the church you’re starting, contact me at ryan.gear@onechurch.com.

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Church Planting, Uncategorized

Funding Your Church Plant: The Right People Should Pay for It… And It’s Not the Pastor’s Kids

Financial-Stress

I occasionally coach church planters, and there is a common denominator between all of them.

They are underpaid.

Shocker, eh?

Nondenominational planters especially are underpaid because they often lack the deep pockets of denominational funders. Unfortunately, some denominations underfund plants, as well, not realizing that an investment in effective planters will eventually result in far more denominational growth and funding.

On top of these challenges, it is very difficult for pastors to raise funds from the new church’s launch team, because so many people in our culture parrot cliches about pastors being in it for the money. Contrary to 30-year old cultural memes still justified by the unethical actions of 1980s televangelists, most pastors are not even close to being in it for the money. Similar to schoolteachers, most pastors are grossly overworked and underpaid.

So, an inspired, idealistic, well-intentioned (and naive) pastor goes out into the field to start something that brings hope to lots of people, totally unmotivated by money. She sacrifices, works long hours, spends less time with family than she wants, inspires people, and pulls a new church together. She tends to downplay her own needs, while the growing congregation appreciates her dedication but is unaware of the daily financial pressure she feels.

Then, after a few years of struggling to pay the pills, she is forced into a another line of work to make ends meet. The church can’t even hire a successor because they don’t pay a competitive salary and never have.

Like everything else in life, the truth is that someone will have to pay for the new church. Every pastor has a right to earn a fair, honest living, and any congregation that wants to be viable has the responsibility to fund it.

If, as a planting pastor, you struggle to ask for a raise or to believe that your family deserves for you to be paid fairly, here are a couple of questions for you:

1. Should the financial obligations of a church be spread across the whole congregation, or should they be placed squarely upon your family?

In other words, which is easier, for everyone in a 100 person congregation to give $5 more per week (which adds up to $26,000 per year), or for your kids to have less than they need because you are underpaid by $26,000 per year?

Compensating a pastor fairly is actually a small sacrifice if the expense is shared by the congregation. Either the congregation pays the bills or the pastor’s kids do. It’s one or the other.

What if you don’t have children?

You probably will someday, and they will be affected by the financial decisions you make now.

2. How would the people in your congregation respond if they actually knew the financial toll the plant takes on you, and if you’re married, the toll it takes on your marriage?

They would probably feel embarrassed and immediately take steps to pay you adequately. If not, then it might be time to leave and let them face reality.

If they simply had more information about the average compensation for pastors, they might make it right far more quickly than you think. Perhaps Googling “pastor compensation guide” and sharing it with your elders or church board would be a good first step. Or perhaps you could invite a church planting coach or consultant to talk with your board and speak the truths you find it difficult to say. They are probably more open to reality than you realize.

Whichever you choose, remaining underpaid until you no longer can is not an option. It will simply ruin your financial future, and you will eventually leave the church because you have no choice. Your congregation will then realize that they have to give the pastor who follows you a massive raise just to be competitive, and they will probably wish they would have done more to help you.

It’s better to be humbly honest now and let them know what you need. The right people should pay for your church plant… all of the people in it.

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