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.
We’ve all been criticized at one point in our lives. (If you haven’t—WHEW! You’ve dodged a painful bullet!)
I don’t know if I’ve ever heard as much criticism in my life (yes- all 32 years of it…) than I did when we began to plant the church here. (And it continues still today! Yay! Not so much.) What is with us humans?!?! I mean- are we really this stuck on ourselves? IT’S NOT ABOUT US, PEOPLE!!!
(Sorry for the many question marks and exclamation points.)
Here are some things I have heard just in passing while planting this church.
- “It feels like you’re just playing church…”
- “I hate that orange wall color… it looks like diarrhea…”
- “As a church, you’re not welcoming enough…”
- “Wow. You’re too welcoming…
- “Your band plays the same songs over and over.”
- “Your band plays songs I’ve never heard…”
And the funny thing is? These criticisms are coming from within the Church (as in people who love and follow Christ). When we began the planting process, I really felt like we would have more support and understanding from our fellow Church from within and from far away. (And we do have a TON OF SUPPORT…) but I never expected to hear SO MUCH CRITICISM from those so close to the plant.
I am a critical person, and yet, hearing this blatant criticism over and over is teaching me that being critical is not a good thing. We are humans; imperfect and sinful beings. God has bulldozed me over and over to break me of my criticism… and I know He’s not done with me yet. Should we be focusing on the imperfect things in life or the things that lift Christ up?
These words convict me over and over from the Message version. (I’m starting to think that they are haunting me, as they float into my mind in the midst of a critical thought now.)
Philippians 4:8-9 (The Message)
“Summing it all up friends, I’d say you’ll do best by filling your minds and meditating on things true, noble, reputable, authentic, compelling, gracious— the best, not the worst; the beautiful, not the ugly; things to praise, not things to curse. Put into practice what you learned from me, what you heard and saw and realized. Do that, and God, who makes everything work together, will work you into his most excellent harmonies.”
Oh… I love that. Think about the best, not the worst; the beautiful, not the ugly… things to praise and not to curse. Are we? Am I? I am trying to… every day. And those criticisms? Maybe I should just delete them off this blog… so that I never have to think of them again. (Although, they do make me laugh now…)
I am choosing to focus on the encouraging things. For example, God is moving in our little city and we realize that we are just along for the ride.
Hurting people are healing.
People who don’t acknowledge God are still seeking Him (a monthly event brings 80% non-believers into our home!)
The weekly “Man-Up” Prayer group is now going to be starting a “Man-Up” bible study.
God is sending us workers willing and ready to get to work!
God continues to bring us people who don’t know Him personally.
Our church’s needs are being met (even before we ask for them in prayer!!!)
Our homes are filled weekly with small groups and we are continuing to grow!!
The community is asking how they can help us. (Seriously—isn’t that awesome???)
God is good. And He continues to knock our socks off through this crazy process. So, what is the moral of this story? Choose to encourage and not break down. Take what others say in criticism and ask yourself, “Does this really need to be addressed?” And if it doesn’t, move on. And when you notice that the paint color does have sheen of diarrhea-ness to it? Keep it to yourself.
Building a united and effective church planting team is challenging, but the success of the church plant hinges on it. You must be careful and look for signs that potential team members do not appear to be a root to potential problems. But, before you look at team members look at your own leadership.
Be aware of red flags… and if you see them, address them. (seriously, address them)
Red Flag #1: If one person begins to talk bad of the church, it will spread like a virus. Their distrust of the team/church will leak into relationships, friendships and even into the lives of those that you are trying to reach. These people are divisive and need to be cut out of leadership as soon as they are found out.
Red Flag #2: If you notice marriage problems growing within a family, address it! Do not feel as though you will encroach on their personal problems if you address it. Ask them to begin marital counseling as soon as possible. Make sure you minister to your team.
Red Flag #3: Most of the church planter’s extended families are supportive. But there are those that will not be. Some will come to visit with the intention of encouragement, but leave you only with criticism and doubt that can creep into your heart. Remind your team only to trust in the God who brought you to plant this church. Reflect on the criticisms, but don’t dwell on it or own it. If the criticism continues to grow and there is no positive encouragement, relationships within the team will begin to fray. Ask families for positive encouragement and prayers.
Red Flag #4: Watch for signs of apathy. People in church planting, at times, do not feel an urgency to accomplish tasks or apply excellence to the tasks that they do accomplish. Be aware of this: soon this apathy will creep into everyone’s philosophy of ministry and the church will fail. Stay on your team to remember the reason the church was planted (to bring the lost to Christ) and appeal to them to go all-out in all aspects of their ministry.
In order for an apple to remain fresh and good to eat, you must cut out any bruises/rotten areas before you consume it. The same is true for any church. Fight against these red flags and keep moving forward.