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Money matters

Ecumenical conversation highlights ways new worshiping communities build financial support

by the Rev. Nikki Collins, 1001 New Worshiping Communities coordinator| Special to Presbyterian News Service

LOUISVILLE — One of the most frequently asked questions about the nearly 700 new worshiping communities launched in the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) since 2012 is, “How long does it take a new worshiping community to become financially sustainable?”  This question is surrounded by similar ones about funding communities of new disciples, building solid financial skills and practices, budgets, salaries, giving and grants.

Earlier this month, 1001 New Worshiping Communities joined with the Disciples of Christ, The Episcopal Church and the Presbyterian Church in Canada to share stories of success and learnings from a broad representation of new expressions of church across North America.

The stories shared ranged from Kentucky Potluck Church, founded in 2013 by the Disciples of Christ and operating on a budget of $19 a month, to an Episcopalian intentional community and co-housing endeavor called Creche Community (for Charles River Episcopal Co-Housing Endeavor) that raised $125,000 from a small group of young adults to purchase a house in the Boston area for their community. These two new worshiping communities have radically different financial needs, and so building financial sustainability requires very different models.

The operative question for Potluck Church is “How can we simplify?” says founder Rachel Nance Woehler, and so this community is led cooperatively — trusting in the priesthood of all believers — with no paid staff and therefore no large budget line items.

In an almost opposite scenario, when the leaders of Creche set out to purchase an $800,000 house for the community, they were unable to secure a traditional conventional mortgage or identify congregations or mid councils as partners. Still believing God was calling them to invest in this vision, the leaders of the community pulled from their young retirement accounts and other personal sources of income to raise the necessary funds to grow to the next phase of the ministry.

Founder Isaac Everett says what worked for Creche was starting from the inside out. When he encountered potential ministry partners he said, “I’m going on this wild adventure. Do you want to go with me?” Today the ministry is funded equally through rental income, grants, and individual givers and donors.

The Rev. Gad Mpoyo tells participants at the PC(USA) 2019 Seminarians of Color conference in Clinton, Tennessee, about the 1001 New Worshiping Communities initiative. (Photo by Gregg Brekke.)

The Rev. Gad Mpoyo and the Rev. Miriam Mauritzen represented the PC(USA) on this panel. Mpoyo, founder of Shalom International Fellowship in Clarkston, Georgia, shared the success of event-based fundraising for specific causes in his ministry.

With an annual budget of $130,000, this six-year-old new worshiping community has grown so much and diversified in its programing, Mpoyo says the question is not about sustaining one ministry but several — and the staff who support them.

For Mauritzen, Community Pastor for Serious Juju, a skate park ministry in Kalispell, Mont., allowing the skaters in the Serious JuJu community the space to tell their stories to potential partners and donors often leads to long term relationships between the donors and the young people. During the pandemic, giving to Serious Juju increased by 50% and by 45 new donors, including many of the young people themselves.

‘Our God is generous. It is our job to keep up.’

The Rev. Miriam Mauritzen (Photo by Mike Fitzer)

Mauritzen says, “Our God is generous. It is our job to keep up.”

She invites congregations to “adopt a new ministry into their family, sharing the inheritance now so members can benefit from the joy of knowing each other and watching their investment flourish.”

The path to sustainability varies for the new worshiping communities of the PC(USA) and for our siblings in other denominations. As one of the presenters noted, “The way might cost a lot, or it might not cost much at all. What matters is knowing where you are going and being willing to do what it takes to reach the goal.” As staff for the Disciples of Christ’s church planting initiative, Terrell McTyer, says, “If it’s God’s will, then it’s God’s bill, but we are called to be good stewards of resources.”

The 1001 New Worshiping Community team works closely with leaders and mid councils to build the funding capacity and financial management skills necessary for sustaining vibrant new ministries.   For more information on training opportunities or to support the work of 1001, contact the Rev. Jon Moore (jon.moore@pcusa.org ) or view training curriculum here.   


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