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I'm a passionate writer - and therefore spend most of my time writing thriller novels. But I also live an interesting life in the nations. This blog is here for that aspect of my life - our life - I live with my wonderful wife and two daughters.

I believe in encouragement. I live for obedience. I believe in learning from our experiences, and this blog exists for both of those, and more.

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I was part of the leadership team in St Petersburg, Russia - which planted Hope Church in 2009.(www.hopechurchstpetersburg.com).
In March 2012 Hope Church sent my family to plant into Tallinn, the Capital of Estonia. I therefore lead this small but growing church plant team. Here is the website for Hope Tallinn (www.hopetallinn.ee)

For details on our journey here, read the series called Adventures of Faith which is linked for you on the right hand column, just below. That details our original journey to Russia and then onto Tallinn 4 years later.

Author for fiction novels - Cherry Picking (2012), The Last Prophet (2015), The Tablet (2015) and The Shadow Man (2016) are available on all major bookselling sites. Please visit: www.timheathbooks.com

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Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Life of a Church Plant leader

Following on from my previous blog about investments, there is another type of investment that many people make all around the world - and these are Kingdom Investments. Usually this entails financial giving, though is by no means limited to that. But within this financial giving, we see further areas that money is invested - the local church, or organisations working with particular people both nationally & internationally, and also to workers overseas (to use the popular phrase - Missionaries).

Now I've been deliberate in using the word investment - and not charity or donations or anything else. Now investment demands a return. You want to see something come from the money you are putting in. If it's a gym membership, you hope your investment will return to you a fit, more in shape body, or a more relaxed mind. If it's some shares in a company, you want to see that the company is growing, that it's producing a profit. You want to see dividends coming back.

So too in Kingdom giving. I've started viewing our 'supporters' no longer as that, but as investors. In such a short time, there has already been a return on their investment. Things are happening on the ground, a church is started, people are getting saved, churches are looking for relationship. A base church is growing. At whatever point people decided to make their investment, I realised that through our communications they were surely already seeing a return. And this is not forgetting the 'treasure in heaven' the Bible so blatantly talks about as a return given to all Christians for any giving they do that's from the heart.

But how does actually giving to a church plant actually work? Where does the money go?

These things rarely get talked about and yet here I am bringing them up. I'm going to talk generally, so as to not 'blow' our own trumpet (if we even have one to blow!) But if its ever been a thought with you, and if you've ever given in the past to such people or are considering it in the future, it's important to think it through a little in detail - after all, when you hear, for example, that rents are really high, you don't want to think that your money is just going into the pockets of a landlord looking to get rich from their Western tenants.

So here goes.....Let's image there is a family moving to be part of a church plant in another country from your church. It's their sole purpose for going, they have no employment taking them there, so they are looking to investors to partner with them for the journey. To do something together, both getting blessed through the process.
Let's say that the church plant is outside of the EU and therefore a visa is required to stay within the country. And we'll also say that a foreign language is involved (which is surely going to be more and more relevant in the future with people coming from the UK or the US and moving to countries where English is not the first language - ie most of the rest of the world!!)

Yes, I know this is sounding a lot like St Petersburg, but bear with me....

Firstly, the family need a place to stay - and cities are expensive places to live. Renting will usually be the only option on two counts - firstly the cost of buying makes it very hard, and secondly it would be wrong on several levels to buy when brand new to the culture and city (but I won't go into detail here about this yet, but email me if you want to know more on this point).

So rent will usually be the highest monthly cost a church plant family would have. Even so, rent will only account for at most 20% of the total outlay of finance needed each month.

Then you have schooling costs for children. Initially the children will only get places in private (ie non state) schools and kindergartens. This is probably the second biggest regular monthly cost after rent. In time these might change (we have, for an example, managed to get Mia into the state system for these next two years. It's basically free, so we are glad of this as our income has dropped by about the same amount so we are no worse off!) In two years time we are likely to have the costs of two children in paid for education...!

Next, and if language and visa's are required, come these costs. They might be 10 or 15% of the monthly cost and you are seeing a bit of a return there, as language skills improve and/or the visa keeps them in the place you are investing into.

And then what? Well there are many more practical things. Food, clothes, medical supplies, electricity, gas, heating. Telephone & broadband. You have annual flights to consider, annual medical cover. The flights and medical covers would be about number 4 in the list of expenses.

Then you have transportation - either the running of a family car or use of the cities public transport. Some cities are much more expensive than others (mainly in the EU though, which I'm not referring to here). St Petersburg has at the moment a very reasonably price transport network, though it is also a very busy one at times!

Within the budget for a church plant family there will also need to be money put aside for a holiday as well as Christmas and birthday's.

It was one of the strangest things I had to do before coming here, which was work out our Expense Budget. Basically we had to cost up everything (including our tithing!) and then work it backwards to see how much money we needed to get us through the year! But it was important we did it like this because you can't just live in a city without the money needed to live there!

It's also a good idea to think about National Insurance contributions and pensions. By not working in the UK you are not earning your NI and this would effect your pension in the future. Many also already have private pensions in place which should be maintained. (We haven't included this yet....note to self! Do it soon!)

I know many people don't give thinking about what cost they are covering, they just believe in the people and want to see them blessed. But on the other hand, having looked at all the things above, there is a lot listed that are just the basics of life in a city - so where does the actual church building stuff go on, you may ask?

Well, of course, all the above is a huge part of church planting as without living in any given city, you aren't properly going to be able to plant a church.

But there is so much more that the church plant leaders do that is more obviously 'church' stuff. For example, church planters will of course tithe themselves - and taking generosity out, if we use the 10% amount, that means 10% of everything an investor gives to the family directly goes in tithes to the local church that has been planted. So that means you are helping hire a venue, provide drinks and food for the church, produce welcome packs etc etc...This is huge for the local church where maybe the small, new congregation couldn't in themselves fund the work.

A church plant family are also going to be hosting people all the time!! This will be 3 or even 4 times a week....sometimes for individuals, or couples, other times for groups and neighbours. Sometimes as whole church events. Most times this is just funded as part of the family opening up their homes. It takes a lot of hosting before people start thinking about bringing something along to help.

So all investors are also involved in this type of hospitality - hosting isn't cheap - to cook 3 or 4 bigger meals a week means much more food for the family but this is so important for building community, especially in big cities, which is where most new church plants are likely to focus. It's easy to feel lost in such a city - to find a family that opens their home to you and invites you to be a part of the church plant is huge and cannot be under-estimated. So investors too are involved at this point.

Because when it boils down to things, once in a place, it's hospitality that really builds people in - sharing your life with individuals, sharing vision, taking them along with you. With us, for example, and especially during specific seasons like New Year, we are having lots of people around - most days usually. And as things grow, visitors increase from other nations, some for the first time, others returning - all of which give opportunity for hospitality.

So I hope this helps you in thinking about Kingdom Investments - yes, giving to a church plant family has many practical issues, but looking past that there is so much more hands on stuff that you maybe didn't realise your money was reaching as well!

So look also for a return on your Kingdom Investments - of course in the 'age to come' but also now....are people getting saved, is the church established and growing, are disciples getting made and how are the poor and rejected being impacted. No one wants to just throw money away, but lets not be shy in investing where the Kingdom return is evident!

So go for it! Look at who God has put around you - bless them and see the return on your investment. And if you haven't anyone around you but want to invest in this way in the Kingdom, you only have to ask....:-)

Thanks for reading and following this blog. Until next time!

Talking Investments - Paper Loses

I think differently to most people, I know that, though rarely do I see it. One such time came talking with a friend & our teacher about 'paper loses'. You know the scene - the stock market crashes, and the doom bearers on TV and the newspapers state how many millions people have lost in one day. Fear rises. For the very wealthy, the loss of £500million may not effect them. But for the average person on the street, the thought of their £15,000 pension now worth £500 is a little more alarming....

And yet, it's obvious to me but maybe not all, no one has in fact at that moment lost anything!

Let me explain. Stocks & Shares go up and down (&up&down&up - crash and boom, crash and boom....) Yesterday you had 1000 shares worth £15 each - wow, that's £15,000 worth! Today they are only worth 50p each - oh no!...you've lost £14,500.....BUT, NO YOU HAVEN'T! It's what's called a paper debt. Only if you sold your 1000 shares TODAY would you receive the £500 they are worth...
So you keep the 1000 shares...and in time, things improve, and soon they are worth £15 again.

So when you hear them say how many millions of pounds have been lost in a stock market fall, don't panic (unless you are planning on selling your shares that same day!) - because like all things, some time later, they are likely to go up again, and back down and up many times. (It is of course another matter when a company goes bust - which is very sad for all effected, but I'm just referring to paper debts here).

So investments are confusing at times - everyone wants to know that the money they are putting into something is working for them. Usually this means financial gains, but many times it means much more....and that brings me to my next entry, which you can see here...