Let me begin by saying that I am not an expert church planter. I've only planted one church. But I've learned a ton about church planting in the last couple of years, so I decided I'd share some of what I've learned with the hope that it can be helpful to other church planters. Here is part one of my top 10 tips for church planters. I'll post the second half of this blog later this week.
1. Find a church planting coach.
Early on in the church planting process, I was partnered up with a coach. I planted a church with the Fellowship of Evangelical Churches. One of the benefits of planting with them was that every church planter gets a coach to help them along the way. Because I planted with Pine Hills Church, my coach was a living legend named Jay Nickless. If you are smart, you will stop reading this blog right now, you will call Jay and you will pay him big money to be your coach. Seriously though, you need a coach. You need someone who knows more about planting than you do. A lot of church planters are resistant to having a coach because they want to do it their way. A lot of those same church planters end up failing because they make preventable mistakes. My coach saved me from so many big mistakes, and he made me look way smarter than I would have on my own. If you do nothing else I say in this blog, get yourself a coach who knows about church planting and has a track record of success.
2. Attend a church planter assessment.
This is another area where church planters tend to be resistant. They feel like they don't need an assessment to tell them what they already know. The truth is, there are a lot of things you don't know about yourself, and an assessment will reveal the areas where you need extra help and support to be successful. It will be intense. You will be evaluated up and down, in and out. You will be pushed. You will be challenged. It will make you better. I am still regularly referring to tips and tools I picked up at the assessment my wife and I attended last summer. Some planters don't want to go because they are afraid they might be told they aren't ready to plant a church. Honestly, if that is true, the best thing that can happen is for you to find that out before you attempt to plant a church. Rarely is the answer "no." But it may be, "not yet." Then you'll know what to work on so that when you do plant a church, you'll be ready to go. My wife and I attended the Discovery Center through the Excel Leadership Network. I'd highly recommend this assessment to any church planter.
3. Know Your Why.
This tip is applicable to any area of life, but it is especially important when it comes to church planting. You have to know your why. Why are you doing this? Why are you planting a church? Do you really care about reaching lost people? Does your heart break for people who don't know Jesus? Do you have a burning passion to reach people who are far from God? And if so, can you articulate this in a clear, concise way? This is such a critical component of effectively planting a church. When it comes to fundraising, people don't give to a what. They give to a why. When it comes to joining a launch team, people don't sacrifice their time for a what. They give their lives to a why. When things get really tough and you want to give up, you will throw in the towel if you only know what you are doing. You'll do whatever it takes to plant a church, no matter how tough it gets, if you know why you are doing it. Here's a powerful video that illustrates this point so well.
4. Focus more on the community. Focus less on the building.
Another common mistake church planters make is that they spend a lot of their time and energy looking for a building, and they let the building define their target community for planting. The truth is that you should identify a target community first, and then find a space for your church within that community second. The process we used to do this is called a T.A.P. team (Target Analysis Process team). I wrote a blog about this a while ago that you can read by clicking here. The brilliance of the T.A.P. team is that it is focused on identifying a community that is ripe for a church plant. If you find the right community, the building you meet in won't matter as much. On the other hand, you could find the most amazing facility ever, but if the community isn't ready for a new church church plant, then the building will be really nice and really empty.
5. Set benchmarks for your church plant.
One tip that really helped me a ton was setting benchmarks for my church plant to launch. My coach and I sat down, looked at a calendar, and asked when we wanted to launch the church. We identified a strategic launch date that also gave us a realistic timeline. For us that was about six months. From there, we picked the date, put it on the calendar, and then asked another really important question: What has to happen between now and that date in order to effectively launch this church? We began to work backwards from our launch date, putting different benchmarks on the calendar. When does the launch team need to be trained? When does the launch team need to be recruited? When does the funding need to be completed? When does equipment need to be purchased? When does the community need to be engaged? When does the T.A.P. team need to be completed? When does the T.A.P. team need to be recruited? How much margin needs to be built in for when things go wrong? We asked a bunch of questions and put all of those dates on the calendar as well. It gave me a great timeline to set goals and measure my progress. When you think about planting a church, it can be overwhelming from a 30,000 ft. view. But when you break it down and set benchmarks, it becomes a lot simpler and more doable.
I hope these tips are helpful to anyone out there who is considering planting a church. As I mentioned, part two of this blog will come out later this week. If you want to make sure to see the second half, click here to subscribe to the blog.