I hate preparing a budget. It’s not fun at all. Especially when you have to look at the reality of how much it costs to run a church and the reality of how much money actually comes in to the church; and then there’s the balancing act of budget requests. I never really liked it when I was younger when my dad would tell me that money “doesn’t just grow on trees.” I’ve not only come to realize that as an individual trying to provide for a family, I’ve definitely learned it as a pastor. I could add to my dad’s statement that “God doesn’t just put money in the bank account either, even though its his church.”
I met with our CFO last night and as I was preparing for our meeting I was listing our income versus expenses for the last quarter, laying out some of the things we need to purchase right away, some of the things it would be nice to have right away, and of course the new budget for the second quarter of 2011 (we do a quarterly budget right now since everything is so fluid as a church plant). I was almost tempted to get depressed by what we didn’t have and how little we do have, but in the midst of looking at actual numbers, I was excited and thankful. We are not rich by any means, but we are still breathing and we have what we need to operate and to do a little extra as we need to. See, it wasn’t always this way…
It was only about 22 months ago when things were quite depressing although I made sure to put my happy face on. I wouldn’t recommend starting a church the way I did unless you are absolutely 100% SURE you are called to do it. Most experts will tell you to raise $125,000 or more to do it right, but I knew that wasn’t going to happen. At this point I had asked three friends to be as stupid as me and help me launch the church, two friends couldn’t do it, and the other, Billy Wilson, agreed to launch with me as New Passion’s Mission’s Director. We absolutely had no money. The only money we had was our tithe and the pastor at the church where we were members recommended that I start tithing to New Passion. We had no choice, we had to.
A friend who pastor’s a house church sent me a message and wanted to meet with me. He said that their church wanted to help us, but because they were only a small group of around 8 people and had little money themselves, they could only offer us a loan of $5,000 which would have no due date, no interest, we would just pay them 10% of whatever we brought in the offering every month. We had no money, no building or location to meet, no equipment, we had a CFO outside the church, Billy Wilson and his family was the only leader who had committed, and we had only one other family who was praying about jumping on-board, and I wanted to borrow $5,000. Do you know what you can do with $5,000? A lot with God. I don’t think any of them thought it was a GREAT idea, but they knew we didn’t have too many other options, so they gave me the good ‘ol ‘whatever you think pastor‘ commitment and we signed the papers.
I think I came to the realization at that moment and it has been my personal slogan and motto ever since that “God was going to build New Passion in such a way that only He can get the glory!” Which honestly should be the story of any church. Let me put this into a little bit of perspective though. Between our church logo (one of the first things we bought), our trailer, our first community, “Hey where coming to the area come join us” event, and our mix-matched sound system over $3,800 of that loan was spent. Here’s a few more notes of interest:
- We launched with a team of 35, oh yeah half of those were children and they can’t serve.
- When we secured a location, it was an Elementary School, the school board just doubled their rates, we were looking at a lease of $1,740 on a four week month and $2,100 for a five week month.
- We didn’t have a worship leader until one month before we launched. I asked five other leaders who didn’t work out.
- We had no other churches partner with us. We had two churches give us $1,000 each and tell us they were praying for us, the spiritual definition of that means, “Good Luck!”
- We did have some individuals give us one time gifts while one friend gave us a re-occurring gift for 6 months.
- We finally (right before we launched) got $5,000 in start-up funds from the GA Baptist Convention.
- By the way…Our Church Planting “Coach” left mid-way through our launch process, so we really had no help or guidance in the last couple of months of our launch.
- All said and done, we launched New Passion with $15,000; $5,000 of which was a loan (oh yeah…and a lot of PVC).
- Jonothan Powell and his family came on-board as our Worship Leader in August and we launched in September. One of the first things he asked to see was what we had for sound. I showed him our $800 investment, his immediate response was a giggle and a reply, “So, how much money do we have?” We used that sound equipment for a couple of months or more until Jonothan sold his personal motorcycle and used the money to buy a very nice sound board and two very nice speakers.
We were also fortunate to have received a phone call from a guy who I had only talked with a couple of times on the phone and connected with through the internet. His church had some equipment they were not going to be using for a while, so they loaned it to us (cafe items, lights, children’s stuff, etc). This was huge because we couldn’t afford any of it.
I can go on and on and on and tell story after story of small and big risks we took and how we shouldn’t even be breathing as a church. If it were up to the belief others had in us, we’d be dead. However, there is only one thing I have had to cling to over the last 18+ months, this is what I know God called me to do.
Sure we aren’t running thousands of people. This isn’t an Elevation story. This is the story of New Passion in Grovetown, Georgia that has about 15,000 residents. We’ve seen God take a team of 35, most of which have gone back to their own churches, and turned it into a weekly average of around 110 (including children), he took a group of nine people $5,000 in debt to a church that is averaging approximately $6,000 per month in giving (which could literally be doubled if more people would embrace Biblical Giving). We’ve already been able to send more financial support to two churches each, one in Baltimore, MD and the other in Surfside Beach, SC, than we received total from any other church to help us. Most importantly, we’re seeing lives changed by the gospel
God is literally building this church in such a way that only he can get the glory. There is still a lot of stuff we cannot do as a church, but we will be able to in God’s timing. I have nothing to complain about, I can only stand amazed at what God has done in 18 short months.
Happy 18 months New Passion. May God continue to always receive the glory from our church.