FREE Training using Other People's Money (OPM)


There is a concept in real estate investment called "Other People's Money." I'd like to make an application in this article of that principle to how ANY church can provide training events for your church using other people's money.

Here is how it works in real estate. Seller has a fixer-upper that he has listed for $100,000. He is hoping to get $90K and secretly is afraid he might have to settle for $80K. You offer full price: 100K, with the following conditions:

  1. The seller offers 100% owner financing. (This assumes the property is paid for.)
  2. The seller agrees to subordinate this loan to a bank to put a $20k first lien on the property to be used for repairs.
  3. The buyer agrees to a one year balloon payment when the property will be paid in full.

(Of course, in the real world, it takes the lawyers 100 pages of legalese to communicate this agreement.)

The buyer buys the property, takes the $20K from the bank, fixes up the house and sells it for $150K. All this takes less than a year. The seller gets more than he expects from the house, and the buyer makes $30K (minus any expenses the 20K didn't cover, including commission, if any). Here is the key. The buyer didn't have to put any of his own money in the deal. He used other people's money.

I have done quite a few conferences that cost the host nothing. In a few cases, I think the host might have made money on the deal. Good for him. I was reminded of two expressions of this recently. Before I get into those, let me explain how this usually works. These principles could apply to sponsoring any conference or event of any kind by any speaker.

Plan A

I have seen this plan work many times in various incarnations. Basically, the gist is to advertise like crazy and charge a reasonable fee for everyone who comes. If you charge $10 a person and you get 100 people and the event costs $1000 you break even.

An alternative to this plan is to simply do a love offering. Although unpredictable, you are almost certain to receive something toward the costs of the events.

Another variation is to set a per-church cap. Say, $20 an individual with a cap of $100 per church. Some hosts have even lined up these churches before the event is ever scheduled. There is a good reason for this. It is John Maxwell's principle of buy-in. People like to be in on the decision-making process. They like to own the idea from the beginning--like buying a house before it is complete and picking the color of the paint.

Occasionally I have cases where there are just 2, 3, or 4 sponsoring churches who agree to share all costs. if you do this, I would keep in mind that whoever hosts the event has a kind of home field advantage. To my way of thinking, the church where the event is held ought to pay a slightly higher portion of the costs, as they get the advantage of it benefitting the most. One option would be where the host church pays half of the costs and two other churches pay one. fourth each.

Then, there is sponsorship by the Association and/or State Convention. One of my favorite plans is a third/third/third plan. This is where the host church pays a third, the Association pays a third, and the State Convention pays a third. There are several advantages of this plan. First, because the cost is spread out, it doesn't cost any one group too much. More importantly, because everyone has an investment in the event, everyone seems to promote it better. Associations will help promote local church events. But, if they help pay for it, they will promote it like it was their own. Same with the State. And, from the viewpoint of the Association and State, they are not just getting a place to hold a meeting. They are getting a host who is invested in the project and will support it heavily and strongly encourage his own people to come.

Usually, the best advertising is free. The best advertising is a personal phone call to the Pastor or Minister of Education. On that phone call, everything depends on your people skills and your relationship with that Pastor. Remember the law of buy-in: people buy into the leader before they buy into the vision. If they buy into you, they will buy into whatever you are promoting.

Emails are another form of free advertising. If you are in the business of providing training events, I would keep up with an email list of everyone who attends so that you can invite them to future events. There is no better target customer for your future event than people who have attended past events.

Occasionally I am in an Association that has an unusually high turn out. A few times a year they will pack out the hall with several hundred people. When that happens I know what is going on. It is not about me. Most of those people hadn't heard of me before about a month ago. When there is a packed house at an Associational meeting you can be sure of one thing. That Association has a leader. He has buy in. He loves the people and the people love him. They are not coming to a Josh Hunt event. They are coming because their missionary told them it would be good.

Plans to use other people's money to sponsor an event are as numerous as you are imaginative. There is almost no limit to the variety of ways we can go at this.

I sense from many hosts a hesitancy to do this. It seems that many feel the more Christian thing is to just pay for the event yourself and give it away. This just seems to be the Christian thing to do. While it may be, it might not be. For one thing, we all have limited budgets. When faced with the choice between not doing an event because we can't afford the whole cost and sponsoring some kind of shared cost approach, I think the more Christian thing is sponsor the event and get as much help as you can.

To me, a shared cost approach just seems fair. Many benefit; many pay the costs. Everyone pays their fair share. No one pays too much. The event is affordable for all, and, more importantly, it happens because we find a way to make it work for everyone financially.

As much as we might like to be the great white knight and provide for everyone, we all have limited budgets. The more we can do events and spread the cost around, the more events we can sponsor. There is one more reason I like the shared cost approach.

Greater financial participation means greater interest. Your heart really does follow your checkbook. Where a number of churches are committed financially, a number of churches will heavily promote the event. Where it is a gift to the smaller churches, the smaller churches often don't get that excited about it.

The Phil Stone Plan

Look at my schedule at any given time and you will find a disproportionate number of meetings in North Carolina. The reason? Phil Stone.

Phil Stone is the Sunday School guy for the North Carolina State Convention. His job is to train Sunday School teachers in North Carolina. He has a limited budget. (Don't we all.) He does many events using other people's money.

Here how it works as it applies to me. I assume I am not the only person he has had this kind of relationship with. Phil has asked me several times for dates when I will be in the state. He promotes these events like they were his own. He drives people to events that other people pay for because he is in the business of training Sunday School teachers. Any time he can do it using other people's money, life is good.

Phil also helps me to get conferences. From time to time I will send over a list of key dates I am hoping to fill in North Carolina. These are dates adjacent to dates I already have scheduled. He has a good relationship with many Associational Missionaries and Ministers of Education in the state. One email from him recommending me for a particular date and, (not always, but often),  the date fills up. Once again, Phil promotes that event and the cycle continues.

Phil has trained thousands of Sunday School teachers in North Carolina and it has not cost the State Convention (read: Cooperative Program) anything. He uses other people's money.

The Tim Smith Plan

I love this plan. Oh to have a dozen state conventions where I could do this every year.

I recently trained 500 Sunday School teachers in six meetings across Georgia at the invitation of Tim Smith and the Georgia Baptist Convention. Best I can tell, it was pretty close to a break-even deal for the Georgia Convention. Tim knows about using other people's money.

The genius of this plan is the economy of scale in the advertising. Tim made a really nice flyer that he sent to every pastor, Minister of Education and Sunday School director in the state. I think he mailed that twice, plus, did a few email blasts. Of course, I had it on my site as well, so it goes out to everyone on this list. I also did an ad in Group's Rev! magazine which advertised those as well as other conferences. All of these promoted all six events.

Tim charged $20 for the early bird rate, $30 for the standard rate, and $40 for the at-the-door rate. Everyone got a book. I charge $12.25 plus shipping for books plus shipping in any quantity above ten.

Three ideas I had for Tim if we do it again:

  1. Let's make the trip a bit longer. We could go Monday to Saturday and cram three more meetings in at different parts of the state. The advertising cost is the biggest cost of the tour, and that would stay constant.
  2. Let's bring my wife along to train preschool and children's leaders.
  3. Although I really enjoyed the company with Tim and Alan Folsom hauling me around and handling registration, we could probably get it done and save them the trouble of spending a week on the road.

But, this is getting a bit picky and off the main point, which is: there are a hundred ways to train your teachers and it doesn't have to cost you a dime. With a little hustle and a lot of people skills you can do it using other people's money. 

For details on hosting a conference, see

For a list of existing scheduled conferences, see

For a list of available conferences, see