Church planting is hard. No, seriously … it’s really hard. So what’s the difference between success and failure? How can church planters walk the razor-thin edge between growth and decline?
1. Count the cost.
Church planting is not only financially expensive, but it takes its toll on your family. There are times in the early phases (and later during busy growth phases), when the church planter will be required to work more hours than seems reasonable. Successful church planters know this in advance and find ways to preserve valuable family time, while still getting the job done. Those who go into church planting while trying to maintain another full-time job or without understanding the necessary commitment level almost always fail.
2. Don’t do it alone.
Lots of church planters think: “I’ll get things started, and then I’ll bring more people on the leadership team.” That line of thinking will lead to failure. It’s critical to have committed people involved in your leadership team (as early as possible) with tasks and jobs that they are entrusted with. If the planter can hire at least one other staff person, great. If not, identify sold-out, trustworthy lay leaders who will join you on your church planting journey. Leaders who try to manage all aspects of a new church alone almost always fail.
3. Don’t plant someone else’s church.
Most church planters get into the business of church planting, because they were inspired by someone else’s story. Most church planters have a friend, a previous experience or a celebrity pastor who they put on a pedestal, and they strive to reproduce their success. It’s impossible. Church planters have to be committed to planting the church that God has wired them to lead. Pastors who try to imitate someone or somewhere else almost always fail.
4. Know thyself.
Don’t spend only one day thinking about what you want your mission and values to be. Spend months thinking on these things. Then, and only then, should you officially ink them. Church planters sometimes find themselves living out a different mission or set of values than the ones posted on their website, because there was no consideration as to whether or not they would actually work in their cultural context. Another possibility exists that church planters force a mission and values on a community that doesn’t “get” those mission and values. Church plants that are forced to change their values or mission, because they don’t work in their context, almost always fail.
5. Don’t hold back.
Church planters, in an honest attempt to be wise, often underdream. They make plans on what little they have versus planning for what God can provide. Like the unbelieving Israelite spies, they enter the land of church planting thinking that the obstacles are too big. God despises (and punishes) this kind of faithlessness. Dream big! Pray big prayers! And even more importantly, expect God to do great things. Plan in a way that you have to lean on God to provide. Church planters who set their goals too low almost always fail.
The road to successful church planting is filled with an abundance of pitfalls. Success starts with prayer, continues with solid strategic planning and ends with God’s providential intervention. If you’re just starting the process of planting a church or thinking about it–be sure you have a coach to help you avoid the pitfalls.
Scott Ball is a consultant with The Malphurs Group, an organization that provides consulting services for churches, non-profits and marketplace organizations to help them successfully overcome their greatest challenges. This article was originally published on the blog at MalphursGroup.com.