Part 1 – Identity Crisis
Pastors, in this series of articles I’m describing some of the costs of pursuing DMM in your church. Start with the Identity Crisis article if you haven’t read it yet. Like I said in that article, the transition to DMM isn’t easy & the costs are high, but we absolutely believe it’s been worth it.
Our staff usually begins working on the budget in the Fall before the budget year kicks off. Typically, before we start the process, John Bradshaw, our Executive Pastor & a CPA will come up with a projected contributions number for the upcoming year. He assesses our current giving trends & anything coming up in the future that may affect those trends to make his projection.
By budget time in the Fall of 2016, we knew that 2017 would be the year that we would lead our church to go “all in” with movements. We knew that this transition would definitely cost us financially. Not because movements are expensive. They cost virtually nothing. But because we were planning to train & send out over 50 DMM Church Planters & their teams at our 10 Year Anniversary in September of 2017.
We knew that the 50 church planters would be some of our most generous givers. And they would be leaving our church & taking their giving with them. Not only them, but we were encouraging them to each recruit a team to go with them. That meant that we could be intentionally sending out up to 500 of our people. That’s a TON of money that would be walking out of our church.
While it would’ve been impossible to project to what extent contributions would be reduced if we sent that many people out, John did some calculations & he came up with a reasonable estimate. We then took his projected giving for 2017 & subtracted out all of the money that we expected to leave the church in that year. That way we were prepared for people to be sent out & take their giving with them.
In addition to sending out many church planters who would no longer give to our church, we also anticipated that when we cast the vision at our 10 Year Anniversary, many people wouldn’t want to take this next journey with us. And we totally understood & supported that. People transitioning to other great churches in the area would also result in giving leaving our church.
2017 was an amazing year & by the end of the year, we were so glad that we had made these budget adjustments in preparation. We ended up sending out over 50 church planters plus many of their teams at our 10 Year Anniversary & we also had a significant number of people decide that our 1,000,000 in 10 Years vision wasn’t for them. Many of them moved on to other awesome churches in our city.
Pastors, I say this to let you know that pursuing DMM will cost you financially. It’s almost a guarantee. I’m so glad that we prepared for that cost before diving in so that we weren’t scrambling when people started to leave. We were able to excitedly send out many church planters. We were also able to bless many people as they told us they were going to move on to another church.
I’m so thankful for how conservative our church has been financially over the years to give us the margin to follow the Lord however he would lead. For years, we’ve operated with a significant amount of money in savings/reserves. Also, our expenses usually come in far below our income each year. We never had much debt as a church & any of the debt we had, we were able to pay off in just a few years.
Choosing to be fiscally conservative positioned our church to be able to make this change. I know that I’ve talked to other pastors interested in what we’re doing & when they learned there would be a financial cost, they had to back away. Many churches have loads of debt, are consistently over budget, and are not fiscally conservative enough to be able to weather a big financial loss.
Pastors, I’d strongly encourage you to lead your church to be financially conservative so that you can always follow the Lord wherever he leads, even if that results in financial loss. If you’re strapped with loads of debt & other financial obligations, you may miss out on something new the Lord is doing because you’re enslaved to your current model of ministry.
Years ago, as we were making conservative financial decisions, I had no idea our church would be at this point. I just knew we needed to save & spend in such a way that we were always prepared to follow the Lord wherever he led. I didn’t want to be a slave to debt & I don’t want you to be one either. Imagine what the Lord might invite you & your church to be a part of if you make the financial room to join him.
As we move forward, we always want to make sure there is enough margin in our budget to continue to send out church planting teams. We never want to encourage someone to stay with us rather than plant a church just because we can’t afford to lose their giving. We want to live so far below our means that when ANYONE says they feel God leading them to plant a church, we gladly encourage them to go for it.
Honestly, I never thought I’d lead a church where we’d be celebrating people leaving even more than we celebrate people coming. But I can say this, sending people out on a disciple-making mission is far more exciting than seeing people sit comfortably in a chair each weekend far from the people who need Jesus the most.
Part 3 – Reduction in Attendance