As we have planted, I’ve had many prospective church plant women approach me asking for advice. “What do I need to know or anticipate with church planting?” “What should I do to prepare for church planting?”
This question was always hard to answer. Since I’m a person who needs to process things over time (to make sure I communicate what I’m thinking clearly), it took me awhile to fully understand what they were even asking me.
When I gave answers at first, like: “It’s nothing like working in an established ministry…” “It will exhaust you spiritually, mentally, emotionally and physically…” “You spend most of your time on your knees in battle…”- it didn’t seem to alleviate the stress in their eyes.
So, I’m going to begin to compile a list of things that take precedent in your new world of church planting. Some of the things I offer, people will look at as trivial. Or too easy to say. And honestly, I don’t care. After almost 5 years in the church planting world, these are things that I have found make our world easier. I have not listed them in order of importance, just as they come to me. (Because that, my friend, is how my brain works. Slow processor– remember?)
#1 Keep your focus WIDE
When you become so hyper-focused on one thing within the church plant, you will miss the small details that can cause trouble down the road. As a supportive wife to your planter husband, make sure you pay attention to small details that he may miss. If the Holy Spirit brings to your attention something that may seem trivial at the time, but could eventually blow up out of proportion, tell him immediately.
- You notice the hard line of a man’s face and his condescending tone about something awry in the church… weeks later, he and his family ghost on your texts and voice mails and stop attending.
- More and more problems with leadership within a ministry seem to be being brought to the surface. Red flags… if you will.
- A family begins to pull away from you and circle their wagons with other families in the church. There is no disdain, only whispers of gossip from within the circle.
- Two women clash. Their resentment of each others begins to affect their families and then, their friend circles.
- One ministry is struggling, while another is flourishing.
- The amount of events are killing your volunteers’ aptitudes and attitudes towards ministry.
When your vision stays WIDE, you will begin to see how God is molding the plant into His Vision for it. If you have tunnel-vision, you may be a good ministry leader, but you will not be a good church planter. Make sure that as leaders you notice those small details that can bring a church down. Constantly be scanning for problems as you move ahead towards the future. All good entrepreneurs are always looking to the future. Be present in your present, but be looking ahead to where God has gone ahead of you.
#2 Don’t you dare gossip to anyone about people. Anyone.
Sorry for the super harsh vocabulary- but this one gets me frustrated. We should never open our mouth to gossip or speak unkindly of others within the walls of our church, as well as outside the walls of our church.
I am guilty of this. And it does not end well. God will hold out on his blessings for you and it always affects your church… and ultimately the Kingdom.
So, please, I beg you for the sake of the Kingdom- keep your tongue silent. You may think that you have that one girlfriend who wouldn’t ever pass the gossip on. But guess what- it will color how she views what you are griping about. She will start to watch that person/ministry more closely and have more things to add to your fire. And when that happens? Not good…
Also, don’t tell me that you just share “concerns” or “prayer requests” when you just want to “talk” and make someone else look pathetic… or make yourself look better. Get over yourself.
If you truly want to help someone out by asking for prayer for them, go to the source and ask permission. Then ask what they want to be shared. Be respectful of their privacy.
#3 Don’t criticize other church planters or ministers in established churches.
We are all in this Kingdom-Building together. If we continue to pick apart other ministries, we are literally picking fights with our own calvary.
Come on, people. It seems ridiculous right? But it happens. So put an end to it, starting in your own church. And squash it when it happens. I mean, other churches are still the Bride of Christ… no matter how tarnished. Christ still loves and died for them. Let’s instead learn to pray for each other as churches, instead of compete, gossip and tear down other Brides that God loves.
You have to be willing to get dirty.
Church planting is literally dirty. You may find yourself with paint, grease, dirt, urine and any number of disgusting things on your clothes, hands and under your nails. Church planting is not for the faint of heart. If you hate dirt… this is not for you. There will be times when you are on your own… and there won’t be anyone to help you. You will need to roll up your sleeves and do it yourself. Toilets will need to be scrubbed. A/Cs will need to be turned on the night before. Floors will need to be swept and that gap of unpainted wall at the top by the ceiling will need to be painted. And its up to you. It’s either your job or up to you to call someone… or the troops…
You need to be uncomfortable in established churches.
This is a hard one to understand, until you find yourself there. I have no problems with established churches… our world needs them. But this world also needs churches that reach those who don’t feel comfortable or feel like outsiders in established churches. If you are comfortable in an established church, then you should probably stay. God will use you there. But if something doesn’t sit right, and your heart goes out to those who feel like outsiders within an established church… then God can use you in church plants.
You need to be flexible (and have an imagination)!
I do not how much more to lay this out, then to repeat myself. You need to be flexible or in leadership terms: adaptable.
Church planting does not go by the book of established churches. An early church plant will not have an unlimited children’s resource closet, more than likely no kitchen, and probably not even an office. If you can’t imagine running a church without these things… then… well… maybe you should ask yourself some tough questions.
You must be willing to change your worship set last minute, call up a volunteer an hour before service to ask them to help cover the nursery, and most importantly… you must have an imagination to make the most of something that seems dire. You must have an endurance that doesn’t make sense to the normal Christian. When things seem disastrous… you must have a “pick-up-and-continue” kind of attitude.
You need to love people. Like really love people! Not just say you do.
You must have a heart for those who are dirty. And when I say dirty– I mean all kinds of dirt. Literal dirt. Dirty mouths. Dirty jokes. Dirty hearts. If you cannot imagine giving a hug to a child who hasn’t bathed in awhile, walking up to someone who simply terrifies you and carrying on a conversation, or listening to an adulterer’s story… then examine your heart for planting.
Your heart must ache for those that need to know of Christ’s love, no matter who or where they’ve come from.
There are cloudy patches in church planting. The clouds roll in; but it doesn’t rain. The air gets thick with humidity, your hair frizzes and suddenly you have curl in your otherwise straight hair. The cloudy nothingness seems to be burdened with dark waters just waiting for something to set them off. You hold your breath waiting for the clouds to burst and pour upon your dry soil.
And then nothing happens.
Just like life, huh.
And all I can think is… why now? Why, when we were just picking up steam? People were actively seeking God out… families were finding healing… lives were being changed because of Jesus’ sacrifice. And then… nothing.
It is so frustrating. And disappointing.
And in these moments, I ask God, “Why now? What is the point of this cloudy nothingness? Is there a storm brewing? Do we need to hunker down and prepare for battle? Or is harvest around the corner?” (Can you tell I struggle with impatience? And the need for control?)
He whispers, “Wait. Abide in Me.” Because at the end of the day… week or month… that is all we can do. Wait for Him and His timing. And most importantly, abide in Him.
John 15:1-4, “I am the true grapevine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch of mine that doesn’t produce fruit, and he prunes the branches that do bear fruit so they will produce even more. You have already been pruned and purified by the message I have given you. Remain in me, and I will remain in you. For a branch cannot produce fruit if it is severed from the vine, and you cannot be fruitful unless you remain in me.
Isn’t that what it is all about? Realizing that we do not have control over this church plant and its success or fail. Realizing that it is and has always been His Church. Knowing that He can see all and knows all. And TRUSTING in that. Resting in His Presence with our thoughts and actions… and running to Him with our questions and thoughts.
John 15:5-8,“Yes, I am the vine; you are the branches. Those who remain in me, and I in them, will produce much fruit. For apart from me you can do nothing. Anyone who does not remain in me is thrown away like a useless branch and withers. Such branches are gathered into a pile to be burned. But if you remain in me and my words remain in you, you may ask for anything you want, and it will be granted! When you produce much fruit, you are my true disciples. This brings great glory to my Father.
Am I trusting? Am I truly abiding?
John 15:9-17, “I have loved you even as the Father has loved me. Remain in my love. When you obey my commandments, you remain in my love, just as I obey my Father’s commandments and remain in his love. I have told you these things so that you will be filled with my joy. Yes, your joy will overflow! This is my commandment: Love each other in the same way I have loved you. There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. You are my friends if you do what I command. I no longer call you slaves, because a master doesn’t confide in his slaves. Now you are my friends, since I have told you everything the Father told me. You didn’t choose me. I chose you. I appointed you to go and produce lasting fruit, so that the Father will give you whatever you ask for, using my name. This is my command: Love each other.
And here is my answer:
In the cloudy times of nothingness…
- Remain in Christ.
- Realize, He chose and appointed us for this.
- Love one other.
Now, to actually do that…