TransFORM - a missional community formation network

I'm trying to figure out if there are some kind of missional ways that we can shape the nuts & bolts of our newly forming community. I'm interested in hearing how other emerging/missional communities have navigated some of the logistical/"institutional" details of community life-- and did you find ways that reflected missional values to accomplish them?

How did you start out handling money? -- did people contribute only cash; did someone step up as the "money person"; how did you have accountability about income & expenses-? Are there things you wish you'd done differently? How did these practices change over time?

Did you compensate any musicians? and if so, how did you deal with the tax implications of that?

How did you handle music copyright issues-- both legally and morally? Did you buy a music license, and if so, how early in the community's life?

We are renting space on Sunday evenings from an existing (waning) congregation. Do we need our own liability insurance, or are we covered by theirs? What have communities learned about this?

Have you incorporated as a 501(c)3 non-profit, and if so, at what point in your community's life?

Did you "nest" with an existing congregation, and what benefits and/or problems did that create for you? (I've been told that if we nested, for example, that contributions to our community could be tax-deductable; we'd be covered under the nest congregation's music license & insurance, etc.)

What other sorts of nuts & bolts things have we not even thought of yet?

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Bet, these are great questions! These are some of practical things I hope we can cover in the workshops at the TransFORM gathering in D.C. next spring. I hope others will chime in here in the meantime and offer their advice and help!
Steve, I'd love to come to the DC gathering, but there is just no way to afford that, both financially and in time away from my "day job". Are you planning to do any webcasting or video to share?

In the meanwhile, we are going to need to address some of these things fairly soon, so I do hope folks will chime in!
I completely understand! I'll keep plugging this discussion thread until more people with experience can share some of their collective knowledge.

But yes, we are planning to livestream the four main sessions from the D.C. event. Those will be more "big picture" and not so "nuts and bolts," but hopefully you can watch some of that online and it'll be helpful/inspiring/challenging.
Great! I'll watch for the livestream info closer to the date.
In order to make use of insurance, licensing, and other benefits, your new faith community would "nest" with an existing congregation as a sponsored project, not a separate entity. In other words, if you are just paying rent, then you are a separate entity. However, the host congregation's liability insurance would still cover you, even if their music license doesn't. Music licenses are not necessarily very expensive, so you might want to check into this.

Being a sponsored project comes with benefits/challenges...maybe it is a good fit for now in your group's development.
thanks for being willing to put out such practical and honest questions. i can only go off our experience and i am sure that there are others who probably have better & other ideas, but here's what we did when we started 3 1/2 years ago related to a few logistical things.

- we formed as a church so we were able to collect money without having to have a 501c3 for the tax issues, however, after about a year we did go through the work of getting our 501c3 because we function part church/part advocacy agency and we wanted to be able to qualify for grants that just being a church won't meet. i am glad we did it because we got the work done & it has set us up for some of the plans we have for the upcoming years, but looking back it wasn't really necessary then. in terms of receipting, we have always had a bookkeeper who has kept our books for us & made sure that anyone that wrote a check gets proper receipting at the end of the year. we are a poor community & our weekly offerings that we take isn't where our support comes from. our support comes through regular givers who tend to send through our po box and they are friends both in and outside of our community. we have one person who makes sure that all of the checks get deposited and copied and sent to our bookkeeper and we know how much it was. we code our bank statements every month so we can keep track of what we give out in what categories. we don't have a big budget or pore over them all the time, but we do like to make sure that everything's open, accounted for, and clear.

- we do not have regular musicians as our "worship" looks much different every week so that has never been a piece of our DNA.

- we have always used other space for our weekend gathering, and didn't have liability insurance right away. we do now, though, and i am glad. it feels better and isn't very expensive. we did have someone hurt their back after a chair broke and we didn't use our liability insurance but took care of some of the expenses for after-care.

- i know there are advantages and disadvantages to aligning underneath an existing ministry to start. we were always on our own so i can only speak from our experience, but it wasn't all that complicated to form. we have always been team lead so we made these decisions together and split up tasks.

- i can think of all kinds of questions/nuts and bolts thoughts, but some depend on the direction you might be going, the mission you feel dedicated to, who will be the catalysts for your community, what you are dreaming of, what everyone's past experiences have been, who will be responsible for some of these logistical things, etc. feel free to keep firing questions as there are others who i am sure have many good ideas & thoughts.

wow, this is long, isn't it? peace to you as you move forward. very fun.
Kathy, thanks for your post. Until your post about incorporation & looking it up, I wasn't aware that religious organizations can receive up to $5000/year in donations w/o having to incorporate. I'm going to have to check on the state laws though, about whether we can have a bank account w/o some kind of incorporation. We won't have a big budget (at least not at first), but we definitely will be aiming for transparency in all things relating to money.
Bet, bummed that you won't be making it. I'm talking about this very thing.

We didn't try and do church. We went back to what Jesus did. We created small gatherings of twelve people willing to engage the Way of Jesus together. These tribes could begin to fundamentally address the issues in each other's lives as they practiced intentional grace.

It removed so many layers of complexity like money, corporations, music, management, etc.
Jonathan, I really wish I could come. Will your presentation or workshop be a part of the livestream? I hope so.
I love what you're doing. And I love what Kathy's doing. I can't shake the feeling that there's a way to combine the two. Am I crazy?
Hi Angela!

I'm not sure I know what you mean about combining the two? Could you say a bit more?
Bet,
I'll try and share 8 yrs of experience as best I can:

Musicians - Our musicians do not do the typical worship leader thing and play both praise and "secular" songs. We offer to pay any musician who does music for a living. This allowed us to start our church with good momentum. Some take the money. Some do not. Over the years, some people have disagreed with this approach, but it has worked extremely well for us. I can honestly say in 8 yrs we have never has conflict w/in the band and we have avoided any ego issues. Many churches pay organists and choir directors, so for me, not paying the musicians implies that rock music is somehow a lesser art form.

Incorporating - we didn't for a few years since we were under the umbrella of another church. We should have done it right from the beginning. You need it in our state to have a bank account, a phone listing etc.. It's nice to think those things aren't necessary and they may not be if you're intent is stay a smaller group of people who meet and follow Jesus. However, if you want to be missional in the sense of creating disciples among those who aren't already in a church, you will need to be your own entity. Same goes with insurance etc., especially if you have employees. We had disability insurance through a parent church who cancelled it and never told us. Six months later NY state hit us with a $30,000 fine which it took another six months to get waived. My advice would be to make sure your church has its own tax-exempt status, insurances, etc.. Don't assume everything is being handled by someone else.

Money - we had funding our first three years and didn't talk much about money, stewardship etc.. Biggest mistake we made. I was indoctrinated in the concept of "unchurched people think church's are out for their money." That may be true, but it is equally true that people who have a problem with you talking about money will also lack commitment in other areas and in general, be the biggest pains in the ass you will encounter.

In subsequent years, I have learned that stewardship is part of discipleship. Of course it also helped when I actually started tithing myself. It made me much more comfortable talking about it. There is much more I could add here, but suffice it to say that if following Jesus has no effect on our money, chance are it is not Jesus we are following. I have also learned that when a faith community faces financial challenges, the biggest blessing happens when you all work together to receive an offering and then give it away to someone else.

As far as working with another church, my advice would be to be careful here as well. I don't mean to sound negative, but here are the questions I would ask before getting in a relationship with another congregation. They sound harsh, but will save you problems later on:

Is the other church's pastor 100% behind your relationship?
Does the other church's pastor wish he could start a new church, instead of you?
Does the other church mind if you grow as big or bigger than them?
Does the other church see your church as a threat in any way?
Are the people at the other church happy with their church and their pastor?
Is your church’s music, preaching, worship, children’s ministry or media at a higher quality than the other church’s? If so, there will be tension.
If you are in the same geographic area, have you differentiated your two churches enough?
Is the pastoral leadership at the parent church going to remain the same in first few years of your existence? If not, you could be in for some big surprises.
Make the sure the other church does not see you as a feeder system for their “real” church
If the other church is part of a denomination, remember the other church is a source of revenue for them. You most likely will be seen as an expense (even if you’re not) or an outsider and will be treated as such.
If you utilize “missionaries” from the other church, make sure they are invested in your success and do not have ulterior motives.
On the upside, another church can lend credibility to your ministry and lets people know that you are not a cult. There will be wonderful people who will pray for you and want you to succeed.

All of the above may not be applicable to your situation. These are just things that came from our experience. You may be starting in a very different place and called in a different way. I think dealing with these things, while not very sexy, allow churches to be in position to do the things God calls them to when God calls them to do it. This way you can respond to the prompting of the Spirit and not get caught up in putting out fires.

This also allows us to create the space where people can come together in various small gatherings and journey more deeply in the way of Christ. If we didn't have this larger monstrosity, most of the people in our church would never have met one another and been able to enrich one another's lives.

So that's some of my take on nuts and bolts. Not very emergenty - but very realistic. Perhaps I am an emergent realist.

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