How to Do Ministry When You Don’t Have Money

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Bert Perry's picture

One garment to call His own, no home, eating barley bread (very crumbly, I've tried making it), walking everywhere, etc..?  While there are certainly some hallmarks of our culture that differ from those in Jesus' day--far less emphasis on hospitality for starters--something to learn is there.

Ron Bean's picture

Being broke is a financial condition-----being poor is a state of mind.

It can be done but we don't embrace frugal living easily.

 

"Some things are of that nature as to make one's fancy chuckle, while his heart doth ache." John Bunyan

TylerR's picture

One thing the author didn't mention is that some money is often available, if we have the courage to re-allocate it. If I had to do it over again at my church, I'd suggest the following:

  1. You can't pay me enough to even live. I understand. It's not your fault; we're a small church.
  2. Let me get a full-time job so I can actually afford to take the family out for a gourmet dinner at Cracker Barrel once and a while, and have healthcare
  3. In turn, you must reduce my preaching responsibilities to one service per week, one teaching session (Sunday School or Wednesday) and the prayer meeting.
  4. Then, we'll actually have money to do something.

In my experience, there is always some money available. It's just a matter of prying it loose from whichever person or ministry has it's cold, dead fingers all over it. Sometimes, you need to re-allocate funds. Would this have worked at my church? Probably not. The power faction would have cried foul. But, I think some money is always available if you have the courage to make cuts and be ruthless.

  • Do you still have a landline phone for your church? Join the 21st century and ditch it. Buy a basic cell phone (not a smart phone) and use it as "the church phone." Cricket has plans for unlimited everything @ $25 per month.
  • Are you paying $150 per month for that monster copier you never really use? Tsk, tsk. Buy a LaserJet and refill it with cheap, generic ink.
  • Are you paying a secretary? Do you really need one? No, really - do you really need one? Why? Are you a mega-church? No? Find a way to get rid of the position in a gracious way. But, get rid of it. You probably don't need it.
  • Are you paying $200 per month to a stupid company that maintains your website? Why? You can do it yourself with Wordpress for about $150 per year. Get rid of those folks; I don't care how many stock pictures of people in skinny jeans they have - Google Images has more.

There! See? I've just saved your church about $1000 per month . . .

If it's not budgeted and allocated the appropriate amount of funds, you're saying it's not as important as the stuff that is allocated funds. Don't care what you say. Money talks. Where are you spending it? That's where your real priorities are, no matter what you say. There's some money available, you just need to "find it."  

  • Don't have money for evangelism? Must not be important to you, then.
  • Oh, wait - it is important to you? Well, why don't you re-allocate funds to prove it?
  • Oh, there are "complications?"
  • I understand. Lemme know when your church dies how that worked out for you.

Tyler Robbins is a former Pastor. He lives with his family in Olympia, WA. He blogs as the Eccentric Fundamentalist

Steve Newman's picture

My family and I can live on less money, and we trust God to take care of our needs...and He has and is. What is harder is to try to minister in the community and feeling "outgunned" by larger and richer ministries. I really try to guard against covetousness, but that is the area that really gets me. Would love to hear what others in smaller ministries think on the subject. 

Bert Perry's picture

A friend of mine--and a guy who discipled the guys who discipled the guys who led me to Christ--notes that there are many house churches in Japan where ten families support an eleventh at their standard of living simply by going to a house church arrangement instead of a physical building.  You need to change how you do ministry, but with the current mood, we might have to do that anyways.  

Ron Bean's picture

It is essential that the members, no matter how few, understand that "sheep have sheep". They must be involved in personal evangelism! If the people just want to "go to church" they're doomed.  I would also echo Tyler's requirement that the church understand the limitations a working pastor will have. 

"Some things are of that nature as to make one's fancy chuckle, while his heart doth ache." John Bunyan

TylerR's picture

I have no experience with church planting, so my comments about money re-allocation are from the perspective of an established church.

  • The church I pastored was dying because people didn't want to change anything and they were extraordinarily insular, and there was a bitter resistance from the small "power faction" to new members who joined - even those who came to faith! It was very stressful for my family, financially speaking. I should have proposed a massive paradigm shift (e.g. I get secular employment, have less preaching responsibilities, use extra money to do evangelistic things). I tried to be Superman instead, got a horrible part-time job during nights, and tried to maintain the same 4x per week preaching schedule. I found out that I'm not made out of steel . . . Stupid mistake.

For church plants in the USA, I don't know why pastors aren't willing to be completely bi-viocational. Why not get a job, work, meet people, start a bible study, and try to grow it organically? If you take your salary out of the equation, one of your church's largest financial headaches vanishes. I'm well aware this is theoretical to me, and some of you have lived this. Is this a bad way to go?

I know Don Johnson once told me he "did everything wrong" when he planted his church. I'm very interested to hear what church planters have to say on this topic of money.

Tyler Robbins is a former Pastor. He lives with his family in Olympia, WA. He blogs as the Eccentric Fundamentalist

Lee's picture

Ron Bean wrote:

Being broke is a financial condition-----being poor is a state of mind.

It can be done but we don't embrace frugal living easily.

 

My dad, a pastor, would often say "Being broke is not a sin, but it is inconvenient."

 

Lee

Barry L.'s picture

The expectation of this for one pastor, full or part time, is ludicrous. I'm a layman and would rather have the pastor give one or two good sermons than 4 mediocre ones thrown together in a few minutes. If they're bi-vocational, two is too much.

G. N. Barkman's picture

When God led us to plant a new church in North Carolina in 1973, Marti and I didn't have a clue how it "ought" to be done.  We had no outside financial support, but we had 19 adults with which to begin, and that provided a slim (very slim) financial base.  Truthfully, the first several years yielded little more than starvation wages, yet God was always faithful, and every need was supplied without any extras.  Yes, I mean No extras.  We didn't even eat out at McDonalds in those days.  I was convinced that "what God orders, He pays for," and slowly, the church grew and the financial base expanded.  Today, after 44 years, I sometimes feel like the Laodicean church, "rich and increased with goods, and have need of nothing."  We support three full time pastors at comfortable salaries, enjoy a modern building complex of over 32,000 square feet debt free, and give hundreds of thousands to missions each year.

Every situation is different, but total commitment to God's work engages God's rich blessing.  "Seek ye first...and all these things will be added unto you."  Sometimes, I'm almost embarrassed around other pastors because I feel so exceedingly blessed beyond what others have experienced.  There really is no formula that works for everyone alike, nor does God deal with every church and pastor the same way.  But His promise of supply does apply to all His children, and those who are committed to His Kingdom can know assuredly that God will provide.

G. N. Barkman

Lee's picture

G. N. Barkman wrote:

When God led us to plant a new church in North Carolina in 1973, Marti and I didn't have a clue how it "ought" to be done.  We had no outside financial support, but we had 19 adults with which to begin, and that provided a slim (very slim) financial base.  Truthfully, the first several years yielded little more than starvation wages, yet God was always faithful, and every need was supplied without any extras.  Yes, I mean No extras.  We didn't even eat out at McDonalds in those days.  I was convinced that "what God orders, He pays for," and slowly, the church grew and the financial base expanded.  Today, after 44 years, I sometimes feel like the Laodicean church, "rich and increased with goods, and have need of nothing."  We support three full time pastors at comfortable salaries, enjoy a modern building complex of over 32,000 square feet debt free, and give hundreds of thousands to missions each year.

Every situation is different, but total commitment to God's work engages God's rich blessing.  "Seek ye first...and all these things will be added unto you."  Sometimes, I'm almost embarrassed around other pastors because I feel so exceedingly blessed beyond what others have experienced.  There really is no formula that works for everyone alike, nor does God deal with every church and pastor the same way.  But His promise of supply does apply to all His children, and those who are committed to His Kingdom can know assuredly that God will provide.

I sat with Walt Brock of Ironwood Camp and his advice for those going into ministry was "Don't be afraid to give it all."  Excellent advice for those with the God-given passion to pioneer whatever the venue. 

Lee

pvawter's picture

Steve Newman wrote:

My family and I can live on less money, and we trust God to take care of our needs...and He has and is. What is harder is to try to minister in the community and feeling "outgunned" by larger and richer ministries. I really try to guard against covetousness, but that is the area that really gets me. Would love to hear what others in smaller ministries think on the subject. 

Steve,
We are really trying to embrace who we are, to build personal relationships with people who are overlooked by other ministries, and to offer the "family" atmosphere that is so difficult to achieve in the larger churches that surround us. Not sure if that speaks to your questions, but it fairly represents what we're trying to do with the limited resources we do have.