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Taking a Tiered Approach to Giving to Sent-Ones & Organizations

One of the great and fun challenges that churches will face as they grow to become a strategic sending church is how they will allocate their finances. As a new missions department, or a smaller church, it’s fairly simple to give to a small handful of people and organizations. But as your church and missions department grow, it will become increasingly important to consider how to allocate funds towards strategic endeavors.

One question that quickly comes up is, “how do we allocate resources fairly?” Or for churches that have been around for a while, “how do we give greater funding to some and less to others? Isn’t that unfair?”

One of the key things that we hit in our Foundations Cohort for Upstream is the importance of allocating funds strategically. We work hard to help you define a vision and strategy that will not only help you make an impact on the field, but also will help you steward your church’s resources well.

Stewardship and Giving to Missions

Stewardship is an important theme of the Bible that is not only for individuals, but for churches as well. Jesus, in his “Parable of the Talents” in Matthew 25:14-30 teaches us that those who steward their time, talents, and resources well will be blessed. Those who do not, will not be blessed.

"As your church and missions department grow, it will become increasingly important to consider how to allocate funds towards strategic endeavors."

When we think of stewardship, what values describe stewardship well? One that commonly enters the list is fairness. But fairness is not at all described in the “Parable of the Talents.” What’s described is ingenuity, shrewdness, vision, strategy, and values. Therefore when we think about giving, we need to let those values drive us, rather than allowing kindness and false peace-making be what drives us as missions leaders.

I want to propose a tiered approach to giving for your church. Consider your missions department’s vision, values, strategy, and calling. Here’s a basic overview. Begin by considering 3 P’s of alignment in regards to vision, values, and strategy when examining an existing partnership, or a current partnership.

  1. People - Does this partnership involve those we love from our church or closely connected to our church?

  2. Places - Is this a location that we are currently strategically partnering with now or could see ourselves doing so in the future?

  3. Projects - To what extent does this partnership align with the Strategy from our Vision Frame?

The grid of People, Places, and Projects and their subsequent questions give practical direction to which partnerships to invest in.

Own, Catalyze, Bless

Every new and existing partnership will have varying levels to which they align with the 3 P’s framework. Because of this variation, it’s important, from a stewardship standpoint, to give guidelines for how much focus and funding that Sent-One or Organization should receive. Based on the information gathered from the 3P’s a church can assign partnerships a focus and funding tier. An example of a tiered system is “Own, Catalyze, and Bless:”

  1. Own - Partnerships that include all 3 P’s; People, Places, and Projects. These partnerships will receive the greatest focus and funding as the church really takes responsibility for the success of this partnership.

  2. Catalyze - Partnerships that include 2 of the 3 P’s: People and either a Place or a Project. These partnerships will receive an average amount of focus and funding as the church works to encourage ministry and member involvement, but not as much responsibility for its success.

  3. Bless - Partnerships that include 1 of the 3 P’s: Likely People, but possibly a Place or a Project. These partnerships the church will give their blessing to, but it will not be a high priority of focus and funding.

So to apply this, make a list of all of your partners that you give towards currently. Put this in a spreadsheet if possible in one column. In the next column categorize each partner as: “Own, Catalyze, or Bless.” Just do a gut reaction to each partner. If you’d like a template for this, check out the Budgeting Template excel spreadsheet. It’s $5 for non-members and free for Upstream members.


Mike Ironside is Missions Pastor at Cornerstone Church in Ames, Iowa. He has served on staff with Cornerstone since 2006 in varying roles from college ministry to pastoral staff to being an overseas missionary sent from Cornerstone for 2 years. Mike is the Director of Cohorts for the Upstream Collective. He also serves as chairman of the board for Campus to Campus, a missions organization dedicated to getting US college students connected to church planting movements amongst college students worldwide.

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