Creating a Ministry “R&D” Fund
Ensuring money is available when the Spirit moves.
In my own ministry experience, I have found that the best ideas for new ministry often come in the middle of a budget year. A new evangelism or outreach ministry idea, for example, suddenly energizes lay leaders, who approach the staff for funding. Or the church is approached by outside partners, such as a school or youth center, with a community ministry idea. Or a community crisis, or a new need, may present itself, and the church is asked to respond.
In the middle of the budget year, how can you respond? One option is to simply say “It’s not in the budget, wait until next year.” But that approach has costs: It may throw a “wet blanket” on the energy lay leaders have for a new ministry, or it may allow the budget calendar to block the moving of the Holy Spirit. Here’s another way to respond to mid-year opportunities: develop a ministry research and development (R&D) fund. Funds either are set aside in the annual budget as a line item, or through a separate fund established with funds that carry over from year to year.
In 2007, Wheaton Bible Church in Illinois started a ministry R&D line item in its annual budget. The funds help meet opportunities that might arise during the course of the budget year. Scott Landon, the church’s director of finance and administration, says the fund has allowed the church “to pursue new ministries and extend existing ones.” Ministry R&D funds fueled the start of an Alpha program in the middle of a budget year, when the staff felt strongly that the timing was right to start it. The funds also helped advance the development of a bookstore, prepare a Family Worship Guide (age-appropriate Bible study materials for families), and pilot a transportation program for seniors.
Landon says the fund energizes staff and lay leaders to move forward quickly with new ministry ideas. “We can plan our ministry year, but when God moves in a special way, now we have the resources to respond,” he says. Your church might use a ministry R&D fund for the following kinds of expenses:
* Purchasing equipment or materials needed to start a ministry. Depending on the ministry, you may need to purchase curriculum or books, musical instruments, signs, sports equipment, a vehicle, or craft supplies, among other things.
* Sending staff or lay leaders to training. Leaders might attend training to help with a new ministry, such as implementing a new spiritual formation or discipleship curriculum, or learning about community ministry models through a conference.
* Investigating ministry models locally or elsewhere in the country. There is no substitute for seeing with your own eyes what is possible through site visits to other congregations that have implemented a ministry program. These visits also give you a chance to talk with staff at the site about possible pitfalls and to ask them for advice on your situation.
* Piloting a new ministry idea to test its effectiveness. Trying a new ministry out for a short period of time might help staff and lay leaders see whether developing the program on a larger scale is merited.
* Assessing needs in your community, including similar programs offered. Sometimes the real needs of the congregation or the neighborhood around the church are not self-evident, and time needs to be taken to have deeper conversations with church members and community residents. In my own experience, these conversations can help to “peel back the layers,” revealing a set of core issues that need to be dealt with before the ministry becomes successful. Focus groups, one-on-one interviews, and community meetings are some of the ways to get at these core issues.
* Hiring a consultant to help design the new ministry. A consultant may help you locate resources, tailor the ministry approach and content to your church community, and develop a plan for launching the new ministry. As a neutral “third party,” a consultant may have insight into your church culture and needs that staff may not, and may be able to raise difficult issues that would be hard for lay or staff leaders to identify.
Joel Skjegs is a speaker and consultant on nonprofit management and ministry development.
This article may not be written by an Apostolic author, but it contains many excellent principles and concepts that can be adapted to most churches. As the old saying goes “Eat the meat. Throw away the bones.”
This article “Creating a Ministry ‘R&D’ Fund” by Joel Skjegs was excerpted from: www.churchtoday.com web site. November 2010. It may be used for study & research purposes only.