I once heard a church leadership guru wonder aloud what would happen if, when we started new congregations, we also established their expiration date. He argued that after seven years ministry gets stale. So, he figured, no congregation should remain open for more than seven years. After that time, they should fold and start new churches. The idea is a bit strange, and I certainly don’t advocate its implementation. It does push the established church, however, to consider how we support new ministries. Continuing our Funding the Next Church series, in this week’s newsletter Rev. Justin Grimm writes about the mutual benefit of established congregations partnering with new church starts.
Adam J. Copeland, Director
Center for Stewardship Leaders
Partnering with New Congregations
Something radical happens when an established congregation partners with a new congregation for the sake of ministry. That’s my belief anyway and something I have seen to be true time and again. I have been in my call as Director of Evangelical Mission (DEM) for the Saint Paul Area Synod for just over three months and I have witnessed this to be reality. You might be thinking, “That’s a short time to make such a statement.” You’re right, it is. Before this call I served as a mission developer of a new congregation. For ten years I witnessed that gift of partnership. It is a gift for both the new congregation as well as the established church. And the partnership is so much more than money.
Obviously this space is reserved typically for writings about stewardship, and this series particularly concerns funding the next church. But funding and partnership has to be about more than money. As part of my call as DEM, I get to walk alongside the exciting new start congregations in the Saint Paul Area Synod. These congregations are somewhere on the cycle of life between taking first steps and speaking first words to learning how to ride a bicycle or skate board, depending on how long they have been at it. The leadership of these congregations is very unique in how they attempt to bring the Kingdom of God alive for their community. Yet they are all connected in that they believe the church is needed to exist for the sake of the world and in fact bring Christ to life for many through their ministry. Many of the people who visit and eventually become part of these new communities of faith would not be found at another, more established congregation in the area. There is something about the newness and the uniqueness that is a bit less intimidating for some who are seeking to connect with God in a different way. New churches do indeed lead to new followers of Christ. But they can’t do this work alone.
With the excitement of new believers comes the reality that to these new followers of Christ the idea of Stewardship can be quite foreign. This leads to the challenge of how these new faith communities can be financially stable. I have heard different opinions from “stewardship experts” but it seems that we can expect it to take a new believer three to seven years before they begin to understand the gift of what sacrificial giving truly is. Therefore, there is a huge need for the larger church to become an active financial partner with these new congregations. That’s the hard truth. New congregations, without the support of other congregations, the Synod, and the national church will not be able to sustain their ministry. Eventually, of course, the congregation will be able to support itself but this takes time. Too often, it seems, the partners pull back too early and the congregation is not able to truly stand firm on its own foundation.
If our goal as the body of Christ is to grow more disciples, it is in everybody’s best interest to support these new faith communities well into adolescence. And when partnership really happens, everyone gains. The established congregation gains a window into a new world of church often where things are done a little different but where the same Christ is witnessed and worshipped. The partner congregation can learn and grow in new ways by spending time, truly spending time with the new congregation. The new congregation gains support financially to help them do ministry but also, and just as importantly gains tools for growing up…as a church. Like every person really needs a mentor, every church does too. And partnership goes both ways leading to the growth of both partners.
Encourage your congregation to be a mission partner with a mission start. You will not regret it!
Check out the rest of the Funding the Next Church series:
Humbly Walking for Seven Years, And… by Jodi Houge
From Consumption to Collaborationby Scott Simmons
Flipping the Funding Model by Sara Hayden
The Great Login in the Sky by Andy Greenhow
The Rev. Justin Grimm serves as Director of Evangelical Mission for the Saint Paul Area Synod.
Upcoming Learning Experiences
Hybrid Ministry in a Post-Pandemic Church
Understanding, Exploring, & Managing Bias and Burnout
Mere Science and Christian Faith
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