Church Planting 101
For as long as I can remember I have been involved in the ministry in some capacity, especially church planting. As a kid, I grew up in it. My dad was a church planter and from an early age I can remember setting up chairs, passing out invites and entertaining other people’s kids while my parents talked to them. Then in college I was apart of two different teams that helped launch churches in California. Now I find myself as an adult (some would argue that) doing the same thing…starting churches.
I have been apart of so many first days and launches that my mind gets fuzzy remembering them all. I say all that to tell you, I am not an expert nor am I telling you what to do, but rather wanting to put down what I have seen work and not work in my own experiences. Enjoy!
Note: This isn’t comprehensive and it is not a book. Just a few thoughts on the basics of church planting so please don’t send me hate-mail.
- Teams that have a clear vision and planned timeline for the immediate and long term future. (I have been apart of teams as a kid, intern, assistant, pastor and planter. There must be a plan not just for the day of the launch but for a year after the launch. Have a detailed thought out process on what you want and what you don’t want.)
- Slow sell soft services (this is where you don’t blow up with lots of people but rather take your time and organically grow the church over a period of time in anticipation of a launch day. Currently we are doing this in Canton. Instead of trying to pack out our small building every week, we are trying to grow the leaders we have there and develop a team so that when we get more people we are ready for them. I’ve been apart of a plant in college where a lot of people showed up and we all celebrated but we weren’t ready for that many people and didn’t know how to assimilate them. We never saw many of them again.)
- Community Day Events, Block Parties, Life Group Dinners, Kids Bounce Houses and Giveaways. (This is huge for me, church needs to be fun and family oriented. Have a carnival day and be Disney World to your community.)
- Concerts, Great Bands/Artists, Clear programs and clean print media. (JW’s come door knocking with nice full color handouts, why are you handing out those cheap homemade flyers? Now, I know that I have too have been short on money and used cheap handouts but if its cheap it will get thrown away. Find a way, use good print materials.)
What Doesn’t Work:
- Special Guest speakers on launch day. (It’s the big day for your church plant, your church needs to see a face that they will see again the next week. The problem I have seen with special guests speakers on a launch day is that people might come to hear someone they know but they won’t stay. The goal of a launch day shouldn’t be just to get a large crowd, but should be for retention.)
- Being culturally irrelevant to your community. (I was apart of a plant where the community was very poor but the church plant was very classy. It just seemed out of place. I am all for everything being professional, but don’t launch a “Starbucks church” next to homeless people that need blankets and food. Be relevant to your community, not relevant to where you came from or your previous church.)
- Rambo-style church planting. (You are not that great, sorry to bust your bubble. Call your mom if you want applause, you need people around you that will say no. You need help and others to make the wagon go and keep going. I have seen plants personally fail in my zip code because they did it on their own. If you are going to plant a church, you had better talk to the pastors in the community to see what the needs are and to get a feel for whats working and whats not working. Don’t just ask pastors that are like you, ask some small and large churches and even some of a different faith. Talk to the missions/chapels in the area. Don’t just show up and proclaim yourself “fixing” their city.)
Now while the goal of church planting should be basically understood and appreciated, I have come to see that some don’t fully grasp it. The goal of church planting should be to start gospel centers that help start other gospel centers of Jesus believers and disciples that help their community. Existing churches don’t exist to get bigger, they exist to help the great commission get accomplished. We should be for multiplying churches rather than just increasing numbers in one specific church.
The church is a group of people who come together to worship Jesus, preach the gospel and help those in need.
Currently, we are starting two churches and am planning three more launches for next year. My prayer for Detroit is gospel centers that make a real impact in the community and not just have a bunch of church people show up on the weekend. So whatever you do, don’t quit. If God called you to help people, then suck it up, get some help and keep on pushing. Church planting (like starting a small business) might be a science and it is certainly difficult and tough, but for you to succeed it at…#push.
Here are some great books to read on the subject:
- Planting Missional Churches – Ed Stetzer
- Launch: Starting a New Church From Scratch
- Church Planter: Darren Patrick