This post is for church planters.
I’ve served in three church plants in Ohio, Kansas, and Arizona. There is nothing in ministry as exhilarating or as challenging as planting a church, so every bit of wisdom helps.
If you want, or feel called, to be a church planter, I’m assuming that you are a follower of Jesus and that you can make disciples of Jesus. These two essentials are in addition to that.
Here are two pieces of advice for church planters that have angered some pastors I’ve spoken with about them. Regardless of how provocative they are, in my experience, they are absolutely true in church planting. I’ve learned them the hard way and felt the pain of it.
Even though I’m being blunt, I’m speaking the truth in love, because 1) so much heartache can be avoided by the planting pastor and by the sponsoring church and launch team they lead if they are aware of these ahead of time and 2) we need many new thriving churches.
Know in advance that most pastors cannot plant a church. Far less skill is required to maintain an existing church than to plant a new one. In order to plant a church that survives, let alone thrives, you have to excel in these two areas:
If you can’t raise lots of money, either forget about church planting, or learn how. Largely because of televangelists, our culture thinks that pastors “are in it for the money”. They don’t realize that church planting pastors in America make less than public school teachers and that a church plant can easily cost $300,000 in the first 18-24 months to provide the type of church that mainstream Americans want.
Unless it’s a house church, starting a new church is expensive regardless of the planting model you choose. In order to raise funds, you have to be able to inspire people when you communicate vision and follow through on it. If you can’t inspire people with vision and deliver, then you can’t plant a church.
2. Gathering a Crowd
To plant a church, you have to be able to draw a crowd. I know that there is a reaction against the “consumer” church and that some pastors equate gathering a crowd with consumerism. If you can’t draw a large crowd of people to be part of the church you’re planting, the church won’t survive beyond a few years.
Without a crowd, there won’t be any church, consumer or otherwise. In your context, this critical mass may be 50 people or 250 people, but if you can’t draw this number of people, the church plant will not survive.
Ben Arment writes in Church in the Making about how church plants are social movements. This is absolutely true, and if you don’t have social momentum that a crowd brings, the church plant will fizzle. The second reason that critical mass is required? See point number 1.