Tag Archives: Rev. Gordon Stewart Jenner

Ecclessial Mercenaries

Soon after the Church of the Exiles website went live, I started to get some e-mails in asking me who was funding our little church plant.  I think everyone assumed that either Resonate or the Free Methodist Church in Canada (through the Life Cycle Project) was funding it.  They were shocked to find out that Resonate doesn’t fund church plants (neither does Emergent Village as far as I know) and we never applied for funding from the Life Cycle Project (although that is an option).
Why no money?  I am not opposed to the idea of outside funding and we do have some needs (a small soundboard would be great) but we don’t have that much financial needs right now.  We don’t have permanent office space or salaries and our technical needs can be met by modest (cheap) means rather than expensive ones.  While some of us in leadership have had staff positions at churches, we are all working outside the plant.  People call us bi-vocational but that seems to suggest two paychecks.  We are doing it out of passion and fueled by coffee.  I could say that we were lucky in finding affordable space but it also came through Wendy probably making 100 phone calls to pubs, schools, businesses, churches, and other third spaces trying to find a space that would work.  It wasn’t so much luck as perseverance and desperation :-). In some ways we have taken on the business philosophy of bootstrapping.
During that time as I have shared that with other prospective planters, the response has been disbelief but I am not that sure why.  My grandfather pastored a small Free Methodist church in Davis, Saskatchewan (Rural Municipality Number 461, just outside of Prince Albert, neither the church or the town exist today) during the Great Depression.  There was literally no funding as Saskatchewan was bankrupt and he was paid in potatoes, turnips, and wild game meat which was all that many in the congregation had to give.  From his records, the only money seemed to come from his atheist father who would send up money for train tickets home at Christmas.  Now that was a different time and context and seems like worlds away from today but a quick read of most of the churches in Saskatoon show very modest and humble beginnings and a character that was created out of the shared struggles as a faith community.
For some of the people I have talked to there seems to be a desire of instant success.  I am not sure where it comes from, whether it be from the instant churches of 200 that get planted out of larger churches who hit the ground running with a building, staff, and mature congregation and leadership or if it is just part of the church culture that worships size and success (whatever that is) and 10 people getting together and praying and worshipping in a rented room isn’t success.
A while ago I asked someone why they needed so much funding.  Earlier in the conversation that couple had described themselves as “ecclessial mercenaries” – people who would church plant for whoever would pay the bills.
Of course they had their list of needs.
  • A Macbook so they could run both Windows and Mac software
  • Essential software, MS Office, Adobe Photoshop, Premiere, Illustrator, InDesign, and After Affects, Dreamweaver.
  • Projector, Sound system
  • Web host that can handle streaming audio and video.
  • Comfortable office space with a street front access
  • Rental space for worship in a historical location.
  • Salaries for him to be high enough so his wife would not have to work.
  • Operational funding for two years at least.

The one thing that work has taught me to do is question statements by people.

  • What do they need a Macbook to do that my Compaq Armada m700 won’t?  Not picking on Mac users here.  The same question could be asked about what does he need a Macbook for that a G3 won’t do either.  Yes the Macbook is a far superior notebook and OSX is a better OS than Windows 2000 but for the money (1/10 of the price) that you don’t have, something cheaper may work pretty well.
  • What are they using Premiere, Photoshop, InDesign, Illustrator for that Premiere Elements, Photoshop Elements or Paint Shop Pro , Ulead Video Studio, or even Microsoft Movie Maker (shudder) software won’t do.  Again, I worked with an excellent and talented digital media creator for years that can do things that would make some movie makers blush.  He also does great stuff with crappy tools as well.  My point is that there is cheaper alternatives to professional grade software that creative people can still make things look very good with. It may be a pain in the neck (and other places at times) but if the money is tight, you have to make do. If you have someone with professional talent, it is a great investment, if not, it is a waste of money.  One church I know of bought the same animation software that they used to create Jurassic Park with.  Even if someone was capable of mastering the interface, they would have needed a server farm to render their creations.  In the end it was a massive waste of money.  I have loved Microsoft Office since 4.x under Windows 3.x  but again, it comes down to is there anything I really need that Open Office and NeoOffice can’t do?
  • Had they not heard of Google Video or ODEO?
  • They had talked of their respect for Wendy and I so I asked, if it is okay for Wendy to work and for us to raise a child (however poorly we are doing with it), why can’t other church planter spouses work?  Don’t get me wrong, I have nothing wrong with stay at home parents and Wendy and mine schedule stinks right now where we go weeks without a full day off with each other but if the money isn’t there.

I was being a pain and it was a good conversation but I think one of the things that church plants need to figure out is cash and how to do things without it.

I am not that sure if it is any different than it has always been.  You need to start something before it you know if it going to turn out.  I can’t think of too many startups that were guaranteed instant success but they just kept working towards what they knew they had to do.  Kind of like the graphic from Andrew Jones old post on How Do You Build a Cathedral.

Another way of looking at it is from this interview with a designer turned wine maker, Courtney Kingston (of Kingston Family Vineyards)

One of the biggest challenges for me was going from a job that was reactive (e.g. a highly scheduled day managing other people) to starting a business with a blank slate every morning. Every day, there were a thousand things that seemed urgent that I needed to do to get things going. It was a little paralyzing and I didn’t know where to start. My friend Rob gave me a great piece of advice: decide what *one thing* is critical to your concept’s success. Write “ONE” on a little yellow stickie, and stick it on your computer monitor as a daily reminder to accomplish one thing–no matter how small—that will get you one step closer to that goal each and every day.

The person who helped clarify this for me was Guy Kawasaki in his book, Rules for Revolutionaries and his idea of starting out with what you have and going from there making it better and working towards your final vision.  The vision and ideas for Exiles are a lot more than what we have no but slowly we are making out way there as a community and no it doesn’t take a lot of money to start.

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