Church planting takes resources. It takes a lot of resources. And it takes a variety of resources, including spiritual, financial, emotional, and human resources. Sometimes these resources spring up out of nowhere. Sometimes they take a bold, courageous ask. Sometimes they are just waiting to be given if the ask is made. You can’t control the resources that God provides out of his abundance without your prompting, but you can get better at asking for resources. You can get better at using your asking voice because, as my friend Dr. Jo Anne Lyon says, “You never know when your voice is going to work!” Here are three often overlooked questions to help you prepare for making requests for resources.
1. Who are you asking?
When I was a child, I would trade hockey cards. When evaluating a trade, you didn’t just have to know your hockey cards, you had to know your trading partner. Some kids would want to undo their trades the next day. Some would waste your time by never deciding on a trade. Others would never let a trade go and always talked about how their cards turned out better or how they really did you a favor making a trade. When making bold requests, you must know the person you’re asking. Is this going to be a gift or is it going to be a purchased voucher to be exchanged for the ministry equivalent of prizes and goods down the road, which might prove even more costly than the initial purchase? Beyond the wisdom of knowing the character of who are you asking, you can also know how they are inclined to give. Because church planting takes different resources, it takes different kinds of generosity. Does the person have prayer, the gift of encouragement, a flexible schedule?
2. What are your needs? What are your wants? What are your wishes?
Do you know what you need? I mean, the things that you cannot do without, the resources without which there is no church plant. Some people want to support needs; to know that their support was vital. Do you need people to move to a city with you? Do you need money for rent for a “zero year”? Do you need a place to meet? Do you need seed money? Know your needs.
Do you know what you want? Other people want their resources to be icing on the cake. They don’t give what’s needed, they give what’s wanted. If you don’t have a cake, then you don’t need the icing. But if you know your cake and how it’s coming together, then they are ready to top it up. Know your wants.
Do you know what would amaze you? Finally, do you know what you would only dream about getting? Do you know what resources would blow your mind? Would you be amazed if someone uprooted their family and moved to a city with you? Would you be amazed if someone quit their paying job to be an unpaid worker in the plant? Would you be amazed if someone gave you a 5-year commitment in fasting and prayer? Some donors will want to wow you—the Lord has placed you on their heart and they want to be obedient. Know your wishes.
Notice that needs, wants, and wishes are subjective. Different church plants and different church planters have different needs, wants, and wishes, but they must all be clear on which is which so that when the ask is made, it is clear and compelling or when the offer to help is made, it can be readily answered.
3. What is your mid-range budget?
Often generous people have learned to be discerning. People who take prayer seriously do not flippantly say, “I’ll pray for you.” People who take giving their money seriously do not want to waste it. If it is serious for a person to entrust their resources to you, then you need to show you take their resources seriously. One of the best ways to show that you take the donors finances seriously is to have a budget. Dreams don’t need budgets, but plans do. Every plan needs a budget. Most likely you are familiar with the first question of a budget: What will it take to start? But have you considered what it takes to stay? What resources will you need in the third, fourth, fifth year of the plant to make your staying more likely? Will you need spiritual retreats or education conferences? Family vacations with supply preachers and hired musicians? Will you need a FT administrator because details just wear you down? By asking what your needs, wants, and wishes are, you will be able to form a budget in light of mid-range needs that set the plant up for viability because the planter is staying healthy. In many ways, a budget formed by asking, “What will it take to stay?” is a humbling document because it reminds the planter of two things: First, of all the hard work of planting; second, of the fact that the planter cannot be a team of one. The planter is not all-sufficient and planning for insufficiency is not a weakness. It is wisdom. Ask yourself and your confidantes, what will you need to keep going in two, three, or five years? Wise donors will know whether or not you are self-aware and have given critical thought to longevity questions.
What other questions would you add to the list? What are other overlooked questions when seeking resources for church planting?