One of the biggest challenges we face in planting the Storyline Community concerns Storyline’s long-term financial sustainability.
Fund raising, budget planning, fostering generosity, you name it — it’s hard work. It’s been on my mind a lot lately because we’ve been planning the 2009 fiscal budget.
Don’t get me wrong: we’ve been blessed immensely. God has dropped more-than-adequate provision into our laps up to this point and used it to confirm the calling we’ve heard into church planting.
But it’s hard work discerning how to manage it well.
What’s particularly hard is the guesswork required in budget planning at these stages in the church’s life.
There are questions related to finances that we have no way to answer with certainty: How much will Storyline grow in the next year? How much will Storyline give? How much should we plan to spend in ministry as this community continues to grow? What will it take for Storyline to reach financial sustainability within 36 months of our start?
We’ve spent hours with projections, number crunching, charts and spreadsheets.
In the midst of it, it’s been tempting to think of ways to strong-arm the process and “do whatever it takes” to achieve financial sustainability.
But I’m convinced that we could concern ourselves so much with the financial sustainability of Storyline such that we neglect seeking the more important elements of spiritual sustainability — particularly in relation to Storyline’s mission of being the church for the sake of our broader community.
We want to be smart. We want to plan well. We want to make good financial decisions for Storyline.
But we will resist the urge to “get pragmatic,” in David Fitch’s words, for the sake of getting people “in the doors” (i.e., apartment home doors) so that they’ll give and we’ll be able to continue playing the church game. The day we stoop to such measures is the day we cease to be the church.
I’m also convinced that Storyline will never be self-sustaining.
Storyline will always be dependent upon God to sustain it.
I’m choosing to believe that if we concern ourselves with being the church God is calling Storyline to be — a community of dependence, mission, life change and genuine relationships — that God will see to it that we are financially sustained.
What challenges my faith is knowing that many new churches have set out on mission and not reached financial sustainability for whatever reason — and have, as a result, been forced to hang it up.
Only God can sustain us.
Please pray that God would give us wisdom and good stewardship. Pray that God would continue to sustain the Storyline Community in every way.