Growing God’s Kingdom During COVID-19

growing the church during COVID

6 Creative and Proven Ways to Fund Missional Goals

Throughout the world, the pandemic hit churches hard. While many struggled to keep the doors open, others were challenged to meet missional goals like planting churches and establishing church residencies. Here, W. Jay Moon identifies six nontraditional, real-life approaches to funding kingdom multiplication in light of today’s financial picture.

1. Monetize Existing Resources.

Many churches heat and cool a building that’s left empty most of the week. Look for ways to open it up. Churches with dwindling cash reserves are leveraging their underutilized spaces by renting them out as workstations. At Wilmore UMC (WilmoreUMC.com) in Wilmore, Kentucky, 23 people, mainly seminary students, signed up to rent workspaces in the church. The arrangement provided not only a new income stream for the church, but it also created an avenue for missional engagement. 

2. Incubate New Businesses.

When cash is more available and your church has open networks in the community, you’re in a position to incubate new businesses. This approach can often provide a better return on investment than simply parking the money in a bank. 

Many churches are getting creative with the use of their space to incubate businesses and at the same time restore their community. Bible Center Church (BibleCenterPGH.org) in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, is located in a neighborhood that has long been plagued by poverty and crime. Pastor John Wallace Jr.’s passion for Black-owned businesses has resulted in the church starting a variety of businesses through its community outreach arm, The Oasis Project, including a transportation company, a café, a farm, a fishery and more. 

The approach, Wallace says, is driven by missional vision. “I believe the proliferation of small [business] ownership can have a tremendously powerful impact, not only economically, but also psychologically.” 

In Nicholasville, Kentucky, Shadowland Community Church (ShadowlandChurch.com) purchased a coffee shop in the center of the city. The goal was to provide a third space for the community during the workweek as well as a church venue for Sundays.

3. Create a Nonprofit.

How would your church board respond if someone said the church could increase its mission budget to over $500,000 without asking for more tithes and offerings? This is what Mosaic Church (MosaicChurch.net) in Little Rock, Arkansas, accomplished through the formation of Vine and Village, its nonprofit arm. Since this nonprofit is separate from the church, it can attract government grants and donations from other entities that would not otherwise give to the church. Even other churches are donating to this nonprofit due to its missional impact on immigration, training teen moms and more.

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Many churches operate schools and day care centers as nonprofits. The nonprofit pays rent to the church, allowing churches to create an income stream as well as a missional impact on the community. 

Recently, a church leader in a small community in Kentucky shared with me that his church would have closed a long time ago if it were not for the preschool the church opened. 

4. Go Co-Vocational.

Another approach for cash-challenged churches is co-vocational pastoring. The term bivocational has been used to describe a pastor who works another job outside the church. But as soon as the church could afford a full salary, the bivocational pastor would leave their marketplace job and work full-time for the church. Co-vocational assumes a pastor will continue to work outside the church even when the church can afford a full salary. The paradigm allows churches to create relational networks through the pastor’s job.  

Shadowland Community Church models this new term. Five pastors share preaching duties, but only one is paid part-time for mission mobilization. Being co-vocational allows the church to move toward its goal to give away 51% of its tithes and offerings to impact the community to reveal the kingdom of God. 

Pastor Johnson Asare, a co-vocational pastor in Muslim-majority Ghana, West Africa, has started multiple businesses (a hotel, a shea butter processing station, a cashew farm). To do church planting and ministry, he doesn’t need money from outside the country. The funds for Christian ministry actually come from local Muslims who patronize his businesses.

“In the garden of Eden, God provided multiple streams,” he says. “Perhaps this is to ensure that there was water even if one stream dried up. Pastors also need more than one income stream because you never know which one will dry up.” 

5. Create a Church in the Marketplace.

When Pastor Paul Unsworth noticed that 20,000 people a day walked down his London, England, street, he realized no vital Christian witness existed for these individuals. How could he gain access to this large group of people and lead them to Jesus? Unsworth’s response was to open Kahaila coffee shop. 

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“We need to find out how to form community,” he explains. “This is why we chose a coffee shop. It is a third space where people share life. We aim to build community in the café. For evangelism, if you like doing something, do it with others. Invite others to do it with you. You build community and listen to others.”

Kahaila has resulted in a church plant that also meets in the same building on Wednesday nights and reaches the unchurched and dechurched. 

“I have had more spiritual conversations with people in a week than I had in working in a church for a whole year,” he shares. “We need to create opportunities to genuinely listen to people. Church is more than a service on a Sunday. Church is a spiritual family that comes together to redeem the lost.”

6. Go Decentralized.

Decentralized churches can be called by different names—house church, simple church, organic church, microchurch—but what they all have in common is the gathering of small groups of Christ followers in everyday settings. The venues vary, as well as the number of people and the meeting frequency. They all challenge the existing financial models as they subtly ask, When did the church attendance number become the gold standard for church health? 

Decentralized churches eliminate (or greatly reduce) the largest line items in most church budgets: building mortgage/rent and salaries. Similar to the other financial options, this model is based upon missional vibrancy, as well as financial viability. The Tampa Underground network, based in Tampa, Florida, includes house churches that focus on mission among the poor, homeless, recovering, single mothers and many more.

Seemingly overnight in 2020, large church gatherings were no more. The pandemic forced churches, from rural to suburban to urban, to quickly adapt to technology to maintain connection with their congregations. COVID-19 compelled churches to decentralize for their own survival—and revealed the strength of churches that have already taken this approach. 

This article is based on the Exponential ebook Alternative Financial Models for Churches and Church Plants: When Tithes and Offerings Are Not Enough by W. Jay Moon. Download the book at Exponential.org/ebooks.