Ministry + Artistry = Profitability? Should I Become A Non-Profit?
Editor’s Note: This is the third in a series from Scott A. Shuford's new column for Creator Worship in Worship Musician Magazine! Focusing on a balance between the business of music and ministry, Scott will take your questions and share successful strategies from his experiences working with Integrity Music, Worship Together, Vineyard Music, Rick Muchow (Saddleback Church,) and others in the areas of social media, public relations, advertising and promotion. .
In the first article, I asked you to think about your Mission, to really own what that Mission is for you. What I’m about to say next really only applies to the mission of a ministry. If you want to be the next Switchfoot, P.O.D., or Thousand Foot Krutch in worldwide music, then for various reasons this next idea probably isn’t right for you.
If you are called to be a ministry, then you should seriously consider the option of setting your ministry up as a non-profit.
As artists in ministry, I don’t think that we have to be trying to grind out sales to our fans in order to put food on our tables. So far as I can tell, the Levites were called by God to minister to His people, who in turn provided for them through their offerings (Numbers 18.)
Are we not Levites in God’s Christian family? If God has called you to ministry, then I also believe that He has called others to recognize your ministry and support it. In fact, I think part of God’s confirmation over your ministry comes through the validation of others supporting it.
As musicians, why are we not thinking about this and raising support for our ministries? You should be able to raise a base level of support that will allow you to have your basic life necessities met, first in part as you grow, and later in full as the ministry matures. Can you imagine having a base of $3,000, $5,000, $10,000 or more each month to operate from BEFORE you’ve sold anything to your fan base?
Do we think God wants us to stress out and worry about how we are going to make ends meet every month? That message does not sound like the “god” I believe is our loving Father who sees us as His beloved sons & daughters (Matthew 7.) Getting your basic needs covered is a key to having a healthy ministry.
Can I smack down a lie for someone who is reading this right now? DO NOT buy into the lie that every dollar that comes into the ministry should go “to ministry” in the form of paying it out to help the target audience while somehow leaving out covering the very tangible needs of the person doing the ministry: YOU! That’s an idea that needs to go toe to toe with Mark Munoz for a little UFC treatment.
We should not be self-inducing our own poverty by thinking that our very real needs should be left out of our “ministry” unless God has directly called us to a vow of poverty. If part of God’s allowance for you is to have a family, then it’s pretty unlikely that he has called you to poverty. For some of us in that situation, our poverty may have more to do with our own decisions than with God’s. Certainly there are times of sacrifice. There are seasons of faith and famine. There are down times and attacks, but I don’t believe that ministry is a lifestyle of famine where God expects you to always be waiting on the ravens (1 Kings 17.) There is nothing wrong with allowing God to provide for your needs through the offerings and donations that come into your ministry.
Setting up your business as a non-profit takes an investment of time both in the preparation to obtain non-profit status and in the general execution of activities under the requirements of that status. You absolutely should talk to a lawyer and a CPA about what is required here. I am neither a lawyer nor a CPA, so I can’t tell you how to do it, but I have been through the process twice now, once for our own ministry My Broken Palace (www.MyBrokenPalace.com,) and again as a Board Member for the Christian Comics Arts Society (www.ChristianComicArts.com.)
Just as we raise money for foreign missionaries or to take our families on mission trips, or just as anyone who works for organizations like Campus Crusade or e3 Partners, we should be raising support for our music ministry.
I know this can make us feel awkward, especially in the beginning. It’s hard to ask people to support you. Actually, it’s not hard, it’s just very humbling… and it makes us accountable. Hmmmhh, humbled and accountable… does that sound like something that honors God?
We’ve talked about Mission, Fan Development, and now the Non-Profit option. Next time we’ll talk about what I’ve seen across the years as God’s growth strategy for any ministry. BTW – a shout out to Jon and the guys in Hyland (Tooth & Nail Records) who are readying their first full length produced by Aaron Sprinkle. Thanks for the email about the Fan Development article. Blessings on you guys!
Scott has led classes for us at NAMM and the Christian Musician Summit. He has been featured in Adweek and is the CEO of FrontGate Media, the #1 pop-culture media group reaching the Christian audience (www.FrontGateMedia.com) and is the co-founder of Creator Worship: online radio for worship leaders (www.CreatorWorship.com). Email your comments or questions to Scott@CreatorLeadershipNetwork.com.