When I talk to pastors about partnering with a church plant like ours there are several responses that are common but one that used more than any other... "We are not in a place to partner right now." When pressed about what this really means, usually one of the following two reasons are expressed:
The culture of our church is not as mission centered as we would like therefore the people in the church would likely not support partnership with a church plant at this time.
The economic situation of our church is difficult therefore the church can not afford to partner with a church plant.
I want to take a minute and address these concerns. I am not going to explore here why a church might lose sight of her mission, but I do want to talk about some ways to shift the cultural mindset through church plant partnership. Orienting a people toward a mission of serving, sharing and discipling others needs to include three basic elements: Praying, Giving and Experiencing.
Churches must be led to center their prayers on mission. The prayers of a church are a strong indication of the focus of that church. If most of the prayer requests are for people in the church rather than those the church is seeking to reach then there might be a culture problem. I certainly think that members of a church should be praying for each other and the needs within the congregation, but ask yourself... When was the last time we spent significant time praying for mission efforts in our community and around the globe? Partnering with a church plant gives the leadership of an established congregation another mission to lead the people to pray for.
People must be led to give toward mission. We have all heard it said that when you follow someone's pocketbook you will see what they value. Most churches spend 75-90% of funds on themselves--things like buildings, kids' programs and personnel. The dreaded budget season can be an effective catalyst for shifting the culture in your church. Promote partnership with a plant by saying something like... "We spend $XXXXXXXXX on ourselves every year, but this year we want to spend $XXXXXX supporting a new work in say... New Orleans. Also special offerings can be an effective way to help shift the culture in your church.
People must be led to experience mission. It is easy to give to a ministry or missionary, but in order to really shift the culture in your church your people must get face-to-face with the ministry and missionary. You need to lead them to sweat and work alongside those on the field. I have never been on a mission trip where people worked really hard did not ask on the way home: "How will this experience change the way we serve and share in our community?" Your experience with a church plant in a city where you will certainly sweat is culture-changing for your congregation.
Would I be OK with a church only sending $50-$200 a month rather than a larger amount? YES!!!
We, of course, need several larger churches to partner with us, but these are few and far between. Small church to large church ratio is like a 1000 to 1.
Thirty churches sending $100 a month versus 6 churches sending $500 a month is a much more stable situation for the new church plant. When one of our partner churches has conflict or needs to cut us out of the budget it is very easy to recover from a $100 loss. Also 30 churches potentially means more consistent hands on the ground helping us get started. It also means 30 congregations are consistently praying for us.
Bring on the small churches!!!