By Todd Sovine, Director of Multiplication
Fact # 1. Money is a reality of life and of ministry, particularly in the American church context.
Fact # 2. If stats are true, the church is headed for some interesting days, as the boomer generation begins to enter glory in greater numbers and their faithfulness to financially support the local church begins to decrease.
Fact # 3. Very few people or ministries ever feel like they have “enough” money. For many it often feels tight when it comes to resources, meeting budget, paying bills, and limited compensation amounts.
Fact # 4. I’m not a fan of money. The accumulation, spending, and effective use of it all frustrates me.
Fact # 5. There is a very, very real difference between ministry contexts that feel financially tight and ministry contexts that classify as under-resourced environments.
To better explain, an under-resourced environment revolves around the idea of access or better yet, lack of access to resources (think education, jobs, housing, nutrition, transportation, and finances) and, pay attention to this crucial “and,” AND opportunities to gain those resources.
The reasons for this lack of access and opportunities vary depending on the ministry context. For refugee/immigrant populations, it may be linguistic and/or transportation barriers, which can lead to a lack of job opportunities. For the former drug addict and gang member, their criminal record and/or lack of education potentially creates difficulty in finding employment. For those who are in difficult urban or deep rural under-resourced areas, it may be all of the above.
Access is the defining issue for under-resourced environments. In ministries where it is financially tight, there is still access for the people of the ministry to produce and provide more, if push came to shove. However, in under-resourced environments access is challenging. For many, this stark reality cannot even be conceived.
In the past, I have personally struggled to understand this reality. I’ve quietly said, “There’s always a way. Pull yourself up by the boot straps, work harder, be more disciplined, etc., etc., etc.” Please, “be woke,” this is a true reality for many.
So what else do we know about under-resourced environments?
Fact #6 – There are people who live in under-resourced environments who are separated from the King today and will be for eternity if they don’t respond to the love and truth of Jesus by surrendering their lives to Him. Somebody has to go with the Gospel. There are also God fearing, Holy Spirit empowered, Kingdom oriented, people in these environments who are ready to yoke up with the King and get after the harvest. Somebody needs to be about the work of discovering, developing, and deploying these ambassadors.
Fact #7 – The American church has a tendency to shy away from meaningful, long-term engagement in these environments. Sure, there are the short microbursts to investment. We ride in, we ride out. But investing in the long, hard work of Kingdom transformation in an under-resourced environment is not typical because, if we are honest, we like a return on our investment and we like it fast. There is nothing fast about investing in an under-resourced environment, outside of some exceptionally divine act.
The typical American church has a congregation size between 70-100 people. In most environments, there is enough resources resident in those 70-100 people to carry the financial load. In an under-resourced environment, way more people are needed to carry the financial load which would make that an atypical church. What all does this mean? These environments will consistently need outside support to function effectively.
Fact #8 – Jesus keeps extending invitations and opening doors throughout the Central District into under-resourced environments. Discussions need to happen and decisions need to be made. What will it take to walk in obedience through those doors as a family of churches? I believe it will demand new creative thinking, greater sacrifice on the part of those who have, and a commitment to the long game.
DEXCOM has been working on some options for us as a district family to come alongside our under-resourced environment ministries. Let this simply be a foundation in our hearts and minds for what is to come.