Home > Blog > Thinking of Planting a Church in a City? (Part 2)

February 7, 2017

Thinking of Planting a Church in a City? (Part 2)

By Drew Hyun

Note: This piece was originally published on NewChurches.com on October 17, 2015.  We thought Drew’s insight was so valuable, however, that we wanted to share it with you again.

If you missed Part 1 of “Thinking of Planting a Church in a City? Start Here…”, you can find it here.  

Once you know that you will be planting a church in a city (Part 1), here are some next steps:

1) Learn from Other Seasoned Urban Pastors/Ministers about What God is Already Doing in the City

God has already been at work in the city where you are planting.  Yes, the reason we all church plant is to forge new paths for people to experience the love and beauty of Christ and His church, but there are many others who have already sown into that city with prayers, tears, and labor – often unbeknownst to us.   

If I come into a city with any kind of “savior” mentality, it’s very easy to grow in arrogance in believing that my church will be God’s gift to this city. 

“And whether fair or not, racial and class divisions within a city can easily assign nefarious motives to people moving into cities – especially if the Planter or Core team consists of a largely different racial and socioeconomic background from the longstanding members of a geographic community.  The potential land mines of racial division further necessitates a certain posture of humility and partnership that is required when one enters city ministry.” 

Cities are so massive (and only growing in years to come), that it’s impossible for one church, one network, one denomination, one etc to reach the city by itself.   

Hence, the need for non-competitive kingdom collaboration and partnership, which is only possible if I come with a non-competitive, kingdom, collaborative, disposition when encountering others who have gone before me.     

2) Consider the Financial Cost

I can’t get around this significant factor in city ministry.  At the end of the day, cities (especially center cities) cost more money to live and minister in, and these financial costs greatly affect the time and energy of doing ministry here as well.  

The cost for renting regular gathering space is often more expensive in cities, and sometimes venues are less apt to rent to religious organizations in secular urban settings.  

Moreover, unless there’s a parsonage and building attached to a position, it’s also difficult to find an affordable place to live, especially in center city contexts.  And if I have a growing family, finding an affordable place to live long-term is a challenge for which church-planter-salaries often do not fairly compensate.  

Location of residence can impact one’s time and energy in significant ways, because the distance in commute can affect the time and energy one is able to pour into planting a church in a specific neighborhood. 

If I live in a more affordable home, then I’ll likely live further away from the church’s neighborhood which greatly affects my travel time and my availability to people in the local community.  

And if I live close to the Sunday gathering space, then I’m likely foregoing any kind of savings/amenities for the long-term, especially if the center city neighborhood I’m living and planting in is growing in wealth.  

And if I’m planting a church in a poorer neighborhood and I choose to live in the neighborhood, then I’ll quickly become aware of the challenges – systemic and otherwise – of living in a poorer neighborhood and trying to reach financial viability as a self-sustaining church.

All this to say, the factor of the increased financial cost of living in the city – and how this affects other areas of my life – must be looked at with eyes wide open.

The good news is, hundreds of church planters are making it work, but I’m certain that nearly all urban church planters will tell you that financial cost is an issue that continues to come up.  

3) Raise money

This point relates to #2 obviously.  

I cannot stress this enough – if you’re planning on planting a church in a city, raise money before you get here.  Raising money will save a planter from some pressures that a lack of resources can exacerbate (some pressures of which I’ll mention below).

Now I realize there are non-Anglo cultures that do not have fundraising cultures (I come from one as a Korean-American).  However, I’ve come to find that there are more and more people/denominations/foundations that are looking to bless ethnic leaders in cities with financial resources.  

Fundraising has been a real gift to our church and church plants, because it’s afforded the following things:

1. Rest – If money is a pressure, then I have a tendency to increase my hustle to unhealthy places if I’m worried about money.

Fundraising eases some of that pressure in a big way.  

I know that bivocational ministry is a trend across the country, but there are also unique, inherent challenges to bivocational ministry in urban contexts that make ministry difficult if one wants to live a balanced life in the city.  

2. More staff – Fundraising has allowed us to start with more staff, albeit part-time, which has given me an instant community to lean on for much-needed encouragement and mission. More staff has also freed our family to go on vacations (this can be done with volunteers too, but having paid staff makes this significantly easier), and take necessary time off.  

All in all, I think fundraising is a must for any kind of church planter in an urban context, not only for our church’s benefit, but for the opportunity for people to invest in kingdom work in one of the most influential, people-saturated, places in the world!  


Drew Hyun

Drew Hyun (@drewhyun) is a Church Planter and Pastor of Hope Church Midtown, as well as the Founding Pastor of Hope Church NYC, a family of diverse churches in NYC. He has spent the last 15 years living and pastoring in New York. He loves cities, ESPN, and naps, and finds it a restful Sabbath when all three come together. He resides in New York City with his lovely wife Christina and their son David. Drew is the author of no books and posts things from time to time on Twitter and Facebook.


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