FAQ: Who Typically Pays for Materials in a Church-Wide Campaign?

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I get a lot of questions.  Many in the form of a comment on a post and others that are emailed to me.  I got a good one yesterday that I thought needed to be answered here.

Q: Who typically pays for materials (DVDs and study guides) in a church-wide campaign?

Good question, don’t you think?  Maybe you’ve asked that question yourself!  Here’s how it works:

First, there are a couple main ways that churches typically handle the issue of who pays.

  • Because of the popularity of the church-wide campaign strategy, many churches have included the cost of the materials in their annual budget.  Makes a lot of sense.  After all, if it’s important enough to encourage everyone “to be part of a group that’s using the curriculum that goes along with our weekend message series,” shouldn’t churches make it easy for everyone to participate?
  • Many churches simply pass the expense on to small group members by selling the materials at a booth in the lobby (or send it home with group leaders on consignment with the expectation that the leaders collect the money from members).
Second, churches frequently skip some important thinking as they decide who pays.  I think there are several key questions that ought to be asked as the decision is being made.  Here they are:
  • Is the topic one that will make an easy invite to an unconnected friend or neighbor?  If it is what I call a cross-cultural topic (one that makes sense to Christians and non-Christians alike), it will pay off to make it easy for new hosts to pick up materials to use to invite their friends and neighbors without worrying about how to pay for them.  See Top 5 Resources for Groups Who Invite Non-Christian Friends
  • Are you recruiting new hosts with the expectation that they will fill their own groups?  This is a key component to the host strategy and many churches miss the implications involving how curriculum is distributed.  Can you see how it changes the invitation to join my group?  Imagine the difference if the new host can say, “I know it doesn’t sound like me, but my wife and I are gathering some friends to talk about this book, The Purpose Driven Life.  And I have a free copy for you if you’d like to join us.”  Compare that to the alternative: “And it’s $10 per person if you’d like to join us.”  See How to Make the HOST Ask.
  • What does it say about the topic if I feel comfortable asking the new group member to pay?  This is a very, very important question.  And keep in mind that the longer we’ve been in ministry, the more difficult it is for us to think like an unconnected person, a less committed person.  But if you can get into the mind of your least connected people you may come away with a clue about who should pay.  See Does Your Topic Connect with Your True Customer?
Every church will have to wrestle through this question for themselves.  My preference is to budget for this expense, making it easier for new hosts and new group members to say “yes.”  You may not have the budget this year.  My encouragement is to make it a priority to get there.

What do you think?  Have a question?  Want to argue?  You can click here to jump into the conversation.

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  1. Brian Phipps on August 2, 2012 at 5:35 am

    Hey Mark!  

    This fall Westside Family Church in Kansas City, KS is going from 185 groups to 400 groups using the 40 Days In the Word Material.  We are using the HOST strategy and have created a group leader development process to give HOSTs next steps of growth should they choose.  We are pumped!  

    We are GIVING the material away (over $30K) and at the end we will invite people, if they choose, to give a thank offering back to help cover the costs.  Can’t wait to see how that will turn out.  We had over 110 HOSTS sign up after the first week of recruitment and we still have two more weeks to go!  Thanks for your leadership.Brian PhippsNext Steps PastorWestside Family Church

  2. markchowell on August 2, 2012 at 5:39 am

    That is AWESOME! I love hearing that because it means another 2000 people get connected! Way to go Brian! Thanks for jumping in here. It so important for everyone to hear this. And I really appreciate the affirmation. Your comment makes it all worthwhile.


  3. Margaret on August 2, 2012 at 3:25 pm

    great question! I can see how the tone would change if the hosts were able to offer the free material (or at least, phrase the invite like that). Budgeting would also free up the church in the long run as they start managing money better. Good post!

  4. markchowell on August 2, 2012 at 7:42 pm

    Thanks for jumping in here Margaret! Means a lot to me that you’re diving in here.