Doing ministry has never been cheap.
Jesus called for great sacrifice, and Paul told Timothy to challenge the church to be generous. In our conference, we have embarked on a great task to raise significant dollars and invest those funds in many new church plants.
Each dollar raised comes from a person or congregation that has responded to the biblical call to sacrifice and generosity. Precious dollars. How are they then to be spent in the endeavor to plant churches?
Here are four principles that guide church-plant expenditures in the conference:
1. Planting funds are entrusted to gifted planters: A 10-step assessment pathway must be successfully completed with a passing score before consideration is given to a candidate. It takes more than a grand idea to gain planting approval in our conference.
2. Planting funds are entrusted to an approved plan: Every new start is a unique project. However, every new start must reckon with best practices that are integrated into a credible plan. An approved plan does not create a dependent relationship with the conference but instead moves the congregation toward self-governance and self-sustainability.
3. Planting funds are disbursed through collaborative discernment: Discerning plant support is the collaborative work of the Cabinet (bishop, director of ministries, and district superintendents) in partnership with the leadership of the plant’s partner congregation (this is often a church where the plant initially meets), the church planter, and the director of new church development. Together, we vet and affirm the planter, the plan, and the readiness.
4. Planting funds are entrusted conditionally: Church planters move into their projects with clear benchmarks for performance as evidence of their hard work and the readiness of their mission field. When marks are not met, serious conversation takes place about whether the plant should go forward. Planting is not simple or easy. Discernment is always prayerful.
Stewarding funds for the mission of God is a great opportunity and a great privilege. Moving forward into the future God has for us is a trust we share together: entrusted resources and trusted partnerships.
Rev. Ben Ingebretson is director of new church development for the Dakotas-Minnesota Area of The United Methodist Church.
Minnesota Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church