1. You can do anything you can pay for. This is actually something I learned from my pastor, John Breitmeier. It may sound crass, but it’s really true. You might have the biggest ministry dream in the world, but if it’s not funded, it doesn’t move. As a church planter, you are the main fundraiser and you have to be alright with straight up asking people to fund a church that doesn’t even exist yet. You dream first, but then you have to take a look at the budget and adjust accordingly; God will provide all the money He needs to do what He wants to do.
2. If you send out mailers/postcards/door hangers expect to see the kinds of people who choose churches by mailers. Honestly, what kind of a person gets a postcard in the mail and then makes major spiritual decisions according to what it says. 9 times out of 10 it’s crazy people. There’s the odd person who has been praying and asking God for a sign and then this is how God leads someone to a church, but mostly you are going to see crazy people. The crazy people will also call you and get mad at you for inviting them to your party in the park. It’s awesome.
3. Satan will come against you by coming against everyone close to you. When the devil comes against me it’s no surprise and I am able to stand strong. When those I love most suffer, it hurts in a completely different way. I can point to too many “coincidences” of extreme difficulties and trials in my immediate family, in the lives of my close friends and in my extended family. You may seek prayer cover for yourself, but I think those closest to you need it also. It’s important to not be surprised by opposition, when you make aggressive moves for Jesus, it’s going to be noticed by Satan.
4. Those first two years when everyone thinks you are the greatest invention since velcro shoes…don’t get used to it. In the first place it’s an easy time to get a big head and start believing your own hype. Even more, the third and fourth year is when opposition that has been simmering under the surface finally comes out and tries to kick you square in the face. It’s a special feeling to have someone tell you that you are absolutely terrible, that you are the primary reason that people don’t go to church (I think they meant all people everywhere, which is quite a compliment if you think about it), or have people dedicate their internet chatter to talking about your failings. So, it’s important in your first couple years not to get used to people thinking you are awesome – because some people don’t think that and they are just waiting their turn.
5. The church plant rises and falls on the preacher. People will be extremely patient and generous with pretty much everything about your church except the child’s safety and the preaching. If your chairs are uncomfy, it’s ok. If the school you are renting accidentally forgets the heat over winter break people will keep their jackets on. Even if your band struggles to find it’s voice the people will still worship and love it. But, if your preaching lacks fire people will burn a trail to the exit. Having all those other frills is great, but child safety that allows parents to focus and honestly strong preaching will have people showing up and growing! Also, pretty much all the research on church planting points to the major determining factor of success being the primary vision casting leader.
6. Having a killer band basically makes every Sunday easier. If you are able to create a culture where musicians have the opportunity to grow and play awesome music, they will show up and they will play magical music. Senior pastors who are terrible guitar players (I’m talking to you James Carmichael!) will do the gospel well by getting out of the way and allowing awesome musicians to be awesome. This should also inform the culture shaping process of what you chose to center your service on. Most churches are sermon-centric, but is that the way to be the church in your neighborhood?
7. Set the culture and allow the strategy to flow from it. Culture eats strategy every single time. You can copy the very best ideas from the very best churches and leaders, but if you fail to create a dynamic culture your strategies will be out of style quicker than crocs. Wait, they never were in style. And that’s the point. Let the leaders lead. Great churches have great leaders at all levels of the organization. If you are blessed with great leaders, don’t just delegate responsibility – also give them authority to make important decisions. If you’ve built a str0ng culture, they will be able to know how to make decisions that align with the organization.
8. Church planters need a community of church planters. The second most determinate factor in a church planter’s success is being in relationships with other church planters. The encouragement and mutual support of other planters is such a major factor that most planting organizations require it. This comes in the form of more experienced coaches and/or current planters. Finding and investing in those relationships make a huge difference in your church.
9. Be where the people are. For the Grove, this meant being outside at community festivals all summer long because these were the biggest gatherings of people in our city. If we believe that God loves people and is working in their lives and we want to be where God is working, then we have to be where the people are. We do not set up shop, advertise and expect the people to come to Jesus because Jesus has already come to earth and the Spirit is at work!
10. Be a generous church even before you can afford it. To this day, I don’t know of a church that can ‘afford’ generosity. Churches (and people) chose generosity intentionally. From the very start set up your church plant as a source of blessing for others and you will have a lot more fun. Give locally and globally, to Christian and secular organizations, intentionally and randomly. Even while your church plant is being supported by outside organizations, decide to be a giving church and support others.
11. Start a church for unbelievers. Starting a church for church people is as easy as making it a little cooler than the coolest church in town. If the coolest church has a boss youth ministry, hire a young pastor with a mohawk and tattoos – church people will flock to you. Starting a church for people who don’t know anything about church is stunningly more dangerous. First, it gets messy because they won’t know how to behave, and second, the church people will hate it and start gossiping all over town about how “emergent” your church is. This means you don’t need small groups when you start – only Christians think it’s awesome to meet in small groups to talk about their feelings. It also means you might not participate in the local ‘christian’ festival because all the christians are already there – so your band might need to play at the ‘ungodly pagan heathenfest’.