Christmas is coming. You’ve met with the team and come up with some amazing ideas that involve promotion, décor and possibly some live animals. It has the potential to be the biggest event your church has ever done. But the looming question running through your brain is this: How are we going to pay for it?
For years, we tried to operate on the model we had used as staff members at much larger churches. Take the money that magically appears from the budget, buy the stuff. Listen to what churches who are the size we want to be are doing, and do what they do. After a few years of this as a church plant, our team felt completely defeated about what we didn’t have to give.
After crying out to the Lord over and over and begging Him for resources, I started to sense the Holy Spirit encouraging me to see it as an exciting challenge instead of a liability. He was asking me, “What’s in your hand?”
Could God multiply a few loaves and some little fish for us? How could we reinvent our approach and do things bigger and better than we had ever imagined?
It’s been a transformation that has taken a few years, but our perspective has changed. Before we spend any money, our staff has learned to start with this question: How can we do this for free?
Borrow or Trade
Recently, we put on an album release concert. We borrowed another church facility with great sound and space. We borrowed lighting from another church plant. We traded photography for design services.
If we had paid for everything we borrowed or traded, we would have spent over $10,000, but we did the entire event for $500! Not only was the concert a ton of fun, but the satisfaction that came from working with other churches and spending so little made it a greater success.
A few years back, I was working for a local nonprofit. I was amazed to see all the home décor, artwork, gift cards, vacations, plane tickets, jewelry, services and food businesses donated for the organization's events.
The director told me that when she was growing up, her mother got pizza donated every single week from different pizza places for their youth ministry. After that, I slashed the food budget for youth events, because it worked! Restaurants are happy to donate for events that build up students.
Could God multiply a few loaves and some little fish for us?
Many corporations have donation requirements they must meet every quarter. Small businesses are looking for ways to get name recognition in the community. All we have to do is ask.
As Jesus taught, ask and keep asking; sometimes it takes several calls to get to the right person. Persistence is key. You need a letter on letterhead detailing your specific request from each business (tacos, gift cards, etc.), the date of your event and its purpose, and your tax ID.
This is the key to doing things inexpensively. If you want to save money, you must invest more time. This is a major focus for our staff: Training volunteers to accomplish the work of the ministry rather than paying someone to do it.
In the early years of our church plant, we spent thousands of dollars on mailers. While we had a few people visit, it was a small return that didn’t justify the huge expense.
Last year, for $350 we ordered 5,000 door hangers. We had 20 people hang them on door knobs for two hours. Then the staff spent another day going door to door. We had more than 100 first-time guests and personally met many of our neighbors.
Summer interns made the calls for the event donations, and volunteer teams ran the actual event. I’m always amazed at how much work five volunteers can accomplish in an hour. Many hands make light work.
If businesses make donations, be sure to send a thank you and issue them a receipt. If volunteers donate their time, do something thoughtful to say thanks. If your staff has worked extra hard to pull off an event, it may be part of the job, but public and private appreciation go a long way to build morale.
It doesn’t have to be extravagant, but take the time to do it. My husband, Wayne, is an absolute champ at writing thank you notes for everything from first-time offerings to volunteers who decorate for weddings. People are always amazed that the lead pastor took the time to write a handwritten note, and I believe it has helped foster a culture of volunteerism.
At Saints Community Church, we are in relationship with other churches, community organizations and businesses, as well as our neighbors. There is an established church in our community that is incredibly generous. They have allowed us to use their facility and equipment and rallied around us with kindness and encouragement.
As we become more established and other churches ask us for favors, we are likewise striving to be a church with open hands and hearts. We want to model generosity for others as that church has done for us.
This change in perspective has helped us experience all kinds of growth. It fosters an environment where we think outside the box on a variety of challenges. As our church finances have grown, we have continued to be careful stewards by making a little go a long way. It frees up our resources so we can give more to missions, relief projects and seeing other churches planted.
This is how the economy of God works. It’s not based on what you can spend, but giving and receiving through the body of Christ is sovereignly designed to meet every need. It’s the power of the Church.