Church Planting: Before You Start (part one)
On Tuesday I started a series sharing some of what I learned while planting a church. My top secret plan in all this is to turn the comments section of these posts into a powerful resource for planters, and potential planters… so please, share your wisdom, insight, and experiences and let’s walk through this together.
I don’t know that I have met a church planter who believes that they were fully prepared for what they were getting themselves into. The challenge, stress, satisfaction, and overwhelming joy are like nothing that I have ever experienced before. As I look back on my experience, and think of what advice I might pass along to those preparing to plant, most of my pre-planting thoughts revolve around three phrases: limiting your exposure, answering the why, and planning is indispensable.
Limit Your Exposure
Any pastoral position is difficult, but I am convinced that starting a new work brings with it challenges and adversity that are not experienced in other church contexts. Things that are tough in normal ministries are flat out hard in planting. Situations that are hard in an established church are nightmares when planting. Things that are nightmares in the church… well, you get the point. With that in mind, a wise planter takes the time leading up to their launch to limit their exposure to additional stress and struggles once they are in the field:
- Finances. Living off of support is an amazing experience, but it can also be risky. Paying down any debt that you may have, building your savings, and learning to live on a budget will greatly reduce your stress levels (check out Financial Peace University). I believe that pastors need to be modeling a generous lifestyle to their congregations… learning how to be generous now, and creating patterns that will allow you to continue to be generous in the future, will go a long way towards establishing a healthy understanding of finances in your church.
- Marriage. If your marriage is unhealthy, unhappy, or unstable… church planting will wreck you. There is a reason that assessment centers require your spouse to join you when you visit them. Wise planters make sure that their spouse is totally committed to the plant, and understands (as much as possible) what the experience will be like. Your ability to openly and honestly communicate with one another will be critical to your success both in planting a church, and surviving as a family.
- Reasons. Planting a church because you can’t get along with your Senior Pastor, because no one does ministry “right”, or because you want to use a Keytar in worship has become a bad cliche (well, maybe not the Keytar thing), and seldom works. If you are frustrated in your current church, planting a church will turn your frustration up to 11. As I have told countless potential church planters: if you can do anything besides planting a church, do it. Geoff Surratt handles this far better than I can here.
- Personal Junk. Let me be clear: if you are harboring private sins, church planting will wreck you. You may not go down publicly, you may not end up on the news (though you might), and there is a chance that no one will ever know… but hiding your junk while planting a church will eat at the very core of your soul. Take the time to deal with your sin issues now: get counseling, find a mentor and accountability, or work on healing from your past hurts. Going into a church plant with closet sins, or emotional issues is a sure-fire way to build an unhealthy church.
How do YOU limit YOUR exposure?