Eye Opening Facts From Barna on Church Planting Finances

In 2016 the Barna Group along with Thrivent Financial released a report entitled “Church Start-Ups and Money.” Generosity by Lifeway is actively involved in speaking, training, and supporting the work of church planters. Their financial challenges are front and center to us.

Here are some of the more intriguing findings in the report. To be honest, it was very difficult to discover positive facts or trends related to church planting and their resource successes. While church planting is by nature high risk, we really need to help this movement take dramatic steps forward in terms of resources, models, and financial best practices. Here are the findings that stuck out to me the most.

  1. 73% of planters say finances are one of their top two to three concerns
  2. The typical planter spends 21% of their time on finances.
  3. 74% of planters believe finances will play a major role in their survival
  4. 1 in 3 have received zero training related to financial education
  5. 70% of planters had a previous career not related to ministry
  6. 51% of planters said that personal debt was a significant or huge problem
  7. 69% percent of church planters said personal debt came from credit cards or student loans
  8. Over 50% of planters stated their training in personal or church fundraising was inadequate.
  9. The closer the planting location is to the city center the more financial challenges it presents.

Here are my five takeaways.

  1. I was super encouraged that 70% of planters were coming from the marketplace. As a person who moved from ministry to the marketplace nearly two decades ago, it always inspires me to see how God uses marketplace leaders. There are many great marketplace heroes in scripture. People like Moses, Abraham, Joseph, David, Peter, and the other eleven disciples. 
  2. Our financial training plans appear to be woefully inadequate according to planters. Also, I am regularly asked by church planting networks about training resources. Their leaders often feel they lack personal experience in this area and are on the constant search to fill this gap. However, it can feel like an endless hole without adequate solutions. 
  3. We might need new screening and assessment practices. The amount of personal debt is highly alarming. No one could put their hand to plow and not be looking back when a large amount of personal debt is looming. Church planting takes a high passion and singular focus. This weight needs to be a big deal before venturing into a plant.
  4. Church planters need to spend a larger amount of time on their finances. Twenty-one percent is too low in my experience. In the startup season (dream stage to 24 months post-launch), it could be 50-75%. Money is a ministry and only the pastor can lead it. If 74% of planters believe it is critical to success then we need to raise our investment in leading this ministry well. 
  5. While this is only conjecture, I left the report wondering about the success rate of church planting. The report caused me to feel like failure was highly likely. I have repeatedly heard over 50% (sometimes much higher) of plants are not in existence after the ten-year mark. If more church plants have shorter lifespans, then we may want to rethink our resource investment strategy. The best way for church planting networks to experience financial overflow is to consistently plant churches that last. Success breeds success. Investing more resources alone is probably not the answer. Money doesn’t plant a church.

If you are a church planter or church planting network, please know that we are for you. I have planted multiple churches over my ministry career and have always been highly invested in this entrepreneurial ministry. Reach out to us for free resources, discounted plans, coaching opportunities, and bulk offers for your network. Go and unleash giving today.