Too many para churches, too few donors


There can be too much of a good thing in Christian ministry. This was one intriguing response to The Other Cheek’s report of staff loss at City to City and staff concern about leadership and culture leading to a re-organisation. The thing there is too much of, possibly, is church planting and mentoring networks.
City to City’s planting and mentoring work is paralleled by Reach Australia (incorporating Geneva Push), Acts 29 Asia Pacific, Partners in Ministry, Building Discipling Churches, and a new Australian Exponential ministry group. Then there are denominational groups such as the NSW Baptists Gen1k and the work of church networks such as Adelaide’s Trinity network or NewLife church on the Gold Coast. These tend to be self-funding from the churches involved.

It is a crowded space. Maybe it’s too crowded.

In a perfect world, there would be room for all. (Actually, in a perfect world, we would not need church planting because everyone would be in church.)

But there is a limiting factor: donors. The summary of the report that Johnmark produced includes staff concerns about financing decisions by “the major donor.”

The Other Cheek understands there is a major donor that funds a number of church planting initiatives. Christians should be grateful that a rich person is able and willing to support church planting in Australia.

This person requests anonymity, which makes this hard to report on.

But one effect is that a number of church planting or mentoring organisations will have a narrow donor base – not just CTCA. This makes their funding contingent on one source.

Whether it is one major donor or whether there are several large Angel donors out there, for too many parachurch organisations, the keystone donor is too prevalent.

Another difficulty with large donors is a propensity to “seed” fund an operation. Giving, in some cases, quite a large amount of money to a start-up – which then needs to expand its donor base. One well-known example is CPX, the Centre for Public Christianity, now a well-established group. It started with sizeable seed funding from Mission Australia and went through a period of seeking partnerships before becoming part of Bible Society, a financially stable organisation. But absent being welcomed into the Bible Society group, CPX would not exist, or only exist in a diminished form.

How can we make our parachurch organisations more resilient? An urge to merge might help. Reach Australia and the Geneva Push CXhurch planters getting togther was a good start.

Stephen McAlpine bounces back up

Yesterday, Stephen McAlpine, one of the staff made redundant by City To City, went public with a new part-time gig. “We’ve just agreed to a partnership with Stephen McAlpine,” the NSW Presbyterians’ Gospel Society and Culture committee announced. “For the next two years, Stephen will work with us to enhance our thinking and resources.

“Stephen is a well-known author and speaker and a leading voice helping Australian evangelical churches respond to the culture. He offers brilliant analysis of cultural trends shaped by his commitment to the Lord Jesus. He communicates this with clarity and conviction. He has made a decisive contribution to the faithfulness of the church and equipping Christians to witness clearly for Christ.”

McAlpine described it to The Other Cheek: “It’s a writing/consultancy role which involves helping the denom think through how to inform and enable their church members to navigate the cultural times effectively and evangelistically. So in a sense, some of the stuff I already write, but with a more pointed pastoral focus.”

This part-time role will sit beside another new one with Reach Australia, the church planting and mentoring organisation. (Update: Steve has asked us to point out that these are contract roles.) He also has a three-month stint with a FIEC Church in Aotearoa/New Zealand. Steve calls it “cobbling together.” The Other Cheek is sure he’d be open to more.

Steve is planning to move east mid-year.

Picture Credit: Gforeator / PxHere