Hey Grace… Why do you own a business?
Some (most) may not even know, but yes, Grace owns and operates a business separate from the church. It’s a different concept, but not entirely foreign. In 2015, I (Austin) had the privilege of attending the SEND Conference in Nashville, TN. Speaking one night, David Platt, the then president of the IMB, said something along the lines of, “God has orchestrated the global economy in such a way that we get to send people all over the world and we don’t have to pay for it. The job of the local church is to disciple their people so when they are sent, we are not losing them, but we are sending them to the foreign mission field.” Immediately, this got me thinking – if we can leverage the global economy for foreign missions, how can we leverage local economies for the local church?
After years of this just being an idea in my head, in February of 2023, Co:Mission Collaborative officially opened.
So, why do we do this? The reasons are many, but they almost all fall into one of three categories: stewardship, relationship, and presence.
In ministry, every dollar matters. It is the responsibility of leadership to steward resources well. People give to and through the church through tithes and sacrificial giving, so there is an incredible responsibility in managing those finances for the glory of God and the mission of the church. In church planting, not only does every dollar matter, but every dime matters. Did you know the number one reason church plants fail is finances? Many church plants work on shoestring budgets as they raise outside funding from partnering churches and networks as a foundation of financial support. Typically, this support will tier-down year after year, and dissipate within five years at which point there is an expectation of self-sustainability. It becomes a race against the clock to grow. I began thinking of ways to mitigate the risk of financial failure, while stewarding resources well, and leveraging the local economy to generate revenue for the church and mission.
We now meet in a space in which the business carries all operating expenses – lease, utilities, Wi-Fi, etc. Grace Church as the sole-owner of the business has complete access to the space, however the business generates revenue to lower church overhead and operating expenses. Additionally, once the business reaches profitability, those additional funds are going to be used to directly support missions and church planting.
In light of the trending decline in church attendance, which has led to a decline in financial giving and has quickened the death of many churches, it is time to start getting creative and proactive in considering the long-term viability of the financial ministry plan in our churches.
Church planting is hard. It is highly relational, and church planters look for every possible avenue to engage people. If the statistics are true, most people living in the community surrounding your church will never walk through your doors on a Sunday morning. They are far less likely to walk through your doors Monday-Friday when the church is “closed”. If you were to consider how to intentionally engage with people in your community in an effort to fill a gap, meet a need, and simultaneously benefit the mission of the church, what would that look like?
If we could create another way to enter conversations, establish relationships, and connect with people in our community on multiple levels, and we aren’t compromising our mission shouldn’t we do it?
Even if you aren’t producing revenue by having people in your building Monday through Friday, you can still create an environment to cultivate relationships with your community by opening the doors for Mom groups, homeschool co-ops, Trail Life, community organizations, and other groups in your community looking for places to meet.
Relationships are built over time. Consider how to build and cultivate these relationships in ways other than the front door on Sunday mornings.
As a church, we are intentional about being involved in our community on multiple levels. Each month during the summer we host a Party in the Park, while also serving our city during their summer concert series by providing activities for kids. We are still new, and not as recognizable as several of the more established churches in our city (which do great things for our community, have been awesome in welcoming us, and we are grateful for their presence). Even though we are smaller, newer, and limited by resources, we are never going to stop loving our community. We ARE going to be a presence because we know that is how we are going to reach people. By operating a business, it allows us to add to our community presence by engaging different spheres through participating in local commerce and filling needs in the marketplace.
The mission of the Co:Mission Collaborative is not just to make money. It is deeper than that. It is to be good stewards the resources the Lord has given, to engage in relationships that may otherwise be out of reach, and be a consistent presence in our community.
We believe this is a way forward for churches to remain financially viable, engaged in their community, and pursue the mission the Lord has given them through multiple avenues. We are not saying this is the only way to plant or to operate as a church. We are not even saying this is the right way for everyone. However, we believe this is what the Lord has placed before us, and though it is a risk, is there a better way to exercise faith than stepping into the unknown?