Tips for Church Planting on the Cheap

There is a neighborhood in Oakland, California, called “Jingletown.” Legend has it that previously poor immigrants in that community would walk the streets proudly jingling the coins in their pockets because they had jobs that enabled them to save a little.

I know what it is like to plant churches with little or no change in my pocket, and maybe you do too. Many financial wisdom posts suggest that small steps such as cutting out that morning Starbucks coffee or banking the change from monetary transactions are first steps toward financial stability. It seems we are a little bit slower to consider the small steps in church budgets, but here is a start.

Warning: Every idea has actually been utilized by real church planters.

Children’s Ministry Supplies

Before the school year starts, crayons, glue sticks, colored pencils, markers, pens and more go on sale. Buy them for your new church or to restock last year’s supplies. This approach also works if your church plant wants to buy supplies to bless a community and give to the teachers in the schools where your church meets. Another idea is to give these school supplies away to people who respond to your neighborhood surveys or who you meet when you distribute invitations to your worship service.

Free Meeting Space and Free Coffee

If you have an IKEA nearby, IKEA family has a loyalty plan that offers free coffee or tea at their restaurants plus a place to leave young children for an hour. Other stores in your area may offer similar programs. How about meeting team members, neighbors and others there to connect? (I learned about this from an Iranian Muslim background immigrant friend who loved sharing her idea with me!)

Christmas Greetings

On the day after Thanksgiving at 5 a.m., many stores open their doors with poinsettia plants on sale for $1 each. Most stores allow each adult to buy 10 plants. A core group of early morning shoppers could readily buy 100 plants to give to neighbors, businesses or teachers in the schools where you meet along with Christmas cards or invitations to seasonal events.

Free Flu Shots

Most insurance plans offer free flu shots, and some retail stores and pharmacies offer for free without insurance plans. Learn what is available in your area, and serve your community by taking carloads of people for immunizations who don’t know about this, don’t speak English and are out of the loop, or have no transportation. Last year, I suggested this to a church of new refugees.


Many restaurants and stores will provide food that will soon expire or gift cards to organizations with a 501c3 status that serve in their community. Restaurants, zoos, museums and businesses also give door prizes for events that are meant to raise money to serve and meet community needs.

New Church Baby Showers

I threw my first church baby shower in 1988. The Sending Church helped make a registry with items like children’s toys, coffee pots, Bibles and gift cards. It was structured so that even a 3-year-old could bring a pack of crayons and begin to understand the idea of giving to missions. Serve cake, pray, sing happy birthday to the new baby church and open gifts. Recently a group of Spanish-speaking churches in the San Francisco Bay Area hosted a baby shower for a new church.

Ride the Bus or Walk—Sometimes

This is especially true for those planting in dense urban areas. Yesterday, I took the bus for $1.35 to a meeting place seven miles away. In my city, transfer tickets for return trips within an hour and a half are free. Mileage reimbursement both ways using the current federal rate would have been $7.63. That is not a large savings, but it adds up. In addition, this bus made 71 stops, took just 20 minutes longer and allowed me to see part of my city I had not explored for a long time.

Church planting on a meager budget is really difficult, and for indigenous planters with fewer relationships to large churches in other cities, it often seems formidable. However, those who have lived in places for a long time know the rhythms of their communities, including what goes on sale and when. For example, I know that sometimes Giants game tickets go on sale for $3.

But maybe your new church has deep pockets? Even if it does, patterning ways to save money allows the church plant to model for members a different way of living and enables the church to give more to missions, and to other things that matter. What ideas do you have, and how has your church plant tried to save money? and LifeWay are committed to help churches in their first two years of operation and provide a variety of free and heavily discounted offerings to help get a few of the foundational aspects of ministry in place. To see additional information and apply for this offer, click here.

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Linda Bergquist
Linda Bergquist

Linda Bergquist is a church planting catalyst, teacher, mentor and author in the San Fransisco Bay area.