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Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Funding the Church as Abbey

Chuck Warnock is fond of discussing the concept of the "Church as Abbey".

One of the traits of the Celtic abbey (or monasterium or minister)was that they were self sufficient economically though as Chuck's comment mentions, sometimes that economic independence came through the benevolence of a benefactor.

Let's brainstorm some possible ways to fund the "Church as Abbey".

How might they be economically self-sufficient? Leave your comment and I'll add it to the list. Note... the enterprise funding the abbey may not be on the abbey's premises.

1. Paid Daycare/School
2. Thrift Store
3. Coffee House
4. Social Security Disability Representation (see Note 1)
5. Agricultural products (see Note 2)
6. Software development - Can you say "Broderbund"? Yes that brand was started by a Hutterite offshoot to fund their communal lifestyle. I think they were bought out a long time ago, but you get the idea.
7. A "Middleman" for local producers (see Note 3)
8. Bakery
9. Local/Regional Publications selling advertising
10. Bookstore
11. Non Profit Credit Union (see Note 4)

Note 1 - Yes, it's possible to be paid to represent persons filing for Social Security Disability... persons with a medical background or other related training may do this. One doesn't have to be an attorney. Truly disabled people though really do need help getting through the bureaucracy. Here's a resource to discuss what takes place: Social Security Disability and the Legal Professional (West Legal Studies)

Note 2 - My guess is that intensive crop production and the growing interest in local food supply may make this more viable than you'd think. Here's a resource to allow a small experimental start in the process: CA$H from Square Foot Gardening

Note 3 - you see this in groups promoting "fair trade" all the time. But it can work for promoting the wares of local crafts people in the US too and using the "abbey's" network (or a network of abbey's pooling their products to create a "catalog")

Note 4 - Non profit credit unions still generate revenue to fund salaries and pay overhead. Creating a non profit community development credit union is really a multi church project I think. I wish there were a network of churches linked by such a credit union to stop the pay day loan businesses through service instead of regulation. Regulation will just drive people to unregulated lenders. Local churches operating as "branches" could offer job support, financial counseling, Christian nurture and support while people enter into programs to help them escape the pay day loan trap. I think this is brilliant but alas, no benefactor has arisen to help fund my dream!

Here's a hard reality most of these discussions never mention: the problem with any idea of this nature is that many ministers tend to think of making money in any form as evil and greedy. If that's the case, your economic self-sufficiency project won't get very far for very long. It would be good for more ministers to have a hand in running a business and seeing the work it takes to meet a payroll or pay for inventory. They might really develop a respect for their congregants who don't get to read their favorite books at "work".