Funding Missional Churches Like Tech Startups
Jason Evans, of The Ecclessia Collective in San Diego, pointed to this talk recently on his blog and asked this question, “What would it look like if church planters took Matt Haughey’s approach to Web business startups?”
Matt Haughey is the founder of MetaFilter.com, and in this talk from the Webstock 2012 conference earlier this year in New Zealand, he focuses on starting with a long-term vision, rather than a desire for short-term success (“cashing in and bailing out”):
When it’s possible to get millions of dollars in venture capital funding, get a million users in just days, and then sell out to a larger tech company (what Haughey calls “the big fast route”), the slow and sustainable approach to growing a tech business that Haughey is advocating for is certainly counter-cultural.
- you are able to develop authentic community
- which equates remaining authentic to the context and calling
- you remain a healthy model for those you lead
- you don’t have to be a wiz’ fundraiser to lead ministry”
It’s the last point that I want to flesh out further, as it relates to this question of funding the missional church.
Theoretically, a new church planter could get a bunch of VC money from a denomination to startup a new faith community. In reality, most denominations don’t have any (or much) money for this anymore. So the tech/church analogy doesn’t quite work.
The new reality is that church planters have to be entrepreneurial and think differently about how to fund new church starts, mostly by being bi-(or tri-)vocational and not working full-time for the church (or even expecting to in the short-term and possibly not even in the long-term).
But listen to what Haughey has to say:
- Self-fund to get started — “The hard part or the big question mark is, ‘Where’s the money going to come from?’ I wouldn’t necessarily focus on that on day one. I think it’s bad and sometimes leads to bad decisions if your day one worry is where some money’s going to come from. It helps to self-fund it for a while, let it grow a little bit at least. … I always have low goals, like paying for the [Web] server hosting.”
- Don’t be a free user — “Find mom and pop sites that will let you give them money, so there’s a chance they’ll stick around.” One could argue, based on this point, that you should be willing to invest your time and money into the new church start and ask/expect others who get involved to do the same. Create a culture of giving to support the mission of the community from the start. And, no, the mission of the community should not be paid staff, a cool building, etc. That’s old school thinking. Think different.
- Explore as many funding avenues as you can — On the Web, advertising (where appropriate) is the easiest, he says, but he also suggests funding drives, Kickstarter, merchandise, etc. I’d love to see a new church start launch a Kickstarter campaign tied to a creative project they plan to do, especially if it was something designed to bless and benefit the local community it was seeking to be a vital part of. Think local, contextual, blessed to be a blessing.
- Keep your day job — “I paid for my own sites for the first five-six years just by having a day job, and it wasn’t until the revenue really picked up that I could quit that.” Being bi-vocational is the new normal for people in ministry. Some communities will grow to be able to sustain having full-time paid staff, but many will not. And that’s OK.
As Haughey explains, “It’s a lot of work, it’s a lot of risk, [but] … having a long-term viewpoint makes a lot of dumb decisions really easy.”
There’s so much more to learn from Haughey as he unpacks WWIC? (why wasn’t I consulted?) and the values of being “platform agnostic and super flexible.”
I especially appreciate that Haughey says it’s not about staying small: “You don’t have to sacrifice growth, it’s just going to take longer. It’s not going to limit your impact. You’ll eventually get there, and you’ll have a more stable foundation. … You’ll have a community culture that builds up over years and years, instead of just ramping up from zero in a few months. It doesn’t necessarily shrink your aspirations.”
So just because you choose the slow and sustainable (and intentionally small to start with) approach to church planting/missional community formation doesn’t mean you have to give up the dream of changing the world!
Please take a look at the video and post your thoughts/reflections in the comments. And if you’re going to be in Minneapolis next week for Funding The Missional Church and/or Church Planters Academy, please let me know. I’d love to connect with you!