Dear Church Plant Leader,
I was privileged to be the church planting pastor for Lake Cities Community Church. We started on Easter Sunday, 2007 with 14 families and a healthy “mother church”.
We became financially self-sufficient after 18 months.
In this post, I want to share seven things that worked well for us. Seven steps we would do again, and stress even more. I hope they are helpful to you.
1) Discern Divine Direction
The most foundational part of church planting is having confidence that God is leading you to birth this new church. Church planting is the “X-games” of Kingdom business. You are entering into a risky endeavor and so it is important to have a sense of confidence that God has led you to this point and position.
Spend much time in prayer, get wise counsel and seek affirmation of God’s leading.
In our case, the Elder Board of our planting church was unified in sensing God’s call to start our church. In the early days when I encountered painful times, this gave me great confidence in God’s divine direction and was a strong anchor when I was discouraged.
Business plans, vision statements and demographic studies are wonderful – but even more than those things – we enter into church planting because we believe that God Himself is raising up a new congregation – and He has invited us to be involved.
2) Don’t Give Up!
The second most important ingredient to successful church planting is perseverance. You may go 6-months without one single visitor to your new church. Don’t give up. You will experience conflict with leaders and church members. Don’t give up! You may get discouraged with preparing quality sermons for only a few people. Don’t give up!
The Bible has much to say about endurance and perseverance for a reason. God rarely does anything that does not require significant faith. And remember, it takes time to plant and water – don’t give up before you see the fruit.
3) Don’t Rush Leadership
A significant reason for church plant failures is the establishment of leadership too soon.
I can think of three separate church plant situations where the lead planter brought a friend onto the planting team, only to later see that partnership shatter because of different visions. Don’t make assumptions with leadership. Appoint leaders slowly, prayerfully and carefully.
In our situation we served under a “transitional” leadership team for the first 18 months. Three men served us on this board. Though they were not members of the new church, they were close enough to feel the pulse of the church, yet they also had objectivity that was very valuable in our first year. They gave us time to develop and observe leaders before appointing them. This transitional board dissolved after they, along side of us, appointed two local leaders onto a new board.
4) Dollars Matter
Some church planters don’t want to talk about budget projections or giving as it seems less spiritual than preaching and evangelism. Yet the budget is highly important for two reasons.
First, the budget is where your values and vision are fleshed out. You have a vision for outreach? Ultimately, that will be seen in the budget. You have a desire to communicate in a contemporary manner? Websites and sound equipment need budget lines. A wise church planter does not fully delegate the budget – but is prayerfully engaged.
The second reason dollars matter is that misuse of funds is second only to moral failings in taking down churches. The Devil loves sloppy financial processes, which are especially common in new churches. Don’t allow him that foothold!
5) Depend on Others
Church planting is a little bit like baseball. It is an individual game within a team sport. You need to have good “at bats” each week as you plan and execute your worship services, yet the overall success of your church will depend on your networking and relationships with other kingdom minded people. To put it in theological terms – the more you purpose to depend on God, the more He will ask you to depend on others.
A few years before we bought our current property, our church was making a move from a movie theater to a school cafeteria. I was part of a pastor’s prayer network within my city and another church planter – in the same city – who had previously met in that cafeteria was now looking at the movie theater! I was able to help them with connections at the theater – and they helped us make the best use of space at the school. They even donated a video screen, backdrop and partitions that were custom made for that space.
Seek out and develop partnerships both within your denomination and outside of it. Always remember – God is not just at work in your church – He is building a Kingdom, of which you are a part.
The real joy in church planting is participating in Kingdom Work and seeing God work in and through others.
6) Deliver Good Sermons
In the early months of our church plant, I often thought, “We may have less than ideal facilities. We might not have all the programs of a larger church. But with God’s help I will preach Christ to the best of my ability.”
It is easy in church planting to let the priority of preaching slip. It is easy to “give up” on preparing a quality sermon in a particularly busy week. The “tyranny of the urgent” will try to steal time and energy from sermon preparation and delivery. Don’t let it. If people are fed spiritually – they will come back and you will be in a good position to grow.
On nearly every “what-factors-are-important-in-joining-a-new-church” lists – even in this age of technology and 140-character tweets – old fashioned preaching is still near or at the top of the list.
Zealously guard time to prepare your messages.
7) Delight to Love!
The first Scripture I opened to our “core group” – months before our public launch was John 13:34-35. I told my small flock, that whatever becomes of our new church, my priority and prayer was that it be full of love.
I often remind my church that if you join the Lions Club or the Chamber of Commerce – they do not require that their members love one another. Only the church is radical enough to not suggest but command its members to love. You must love them, they must love you, and together you love the world into the Kingdom of God.
Make loving people your priority – and your church plant, no matter how long it lasts; and no matter its size – will have been a wonderful success in God’s eyes.
I pray God’s grace and empowerment upon you – as you follow Him into your own church planting experience.