Church Planting, Uncategorized

Funding Your Church Plant: The Right People Should Pay for It… And It’s Not the Pastor’s Kids

Financial-Stress

I occasionally coach church planters, and there is a common denominator between all of them.

They are underpaid.

Shocker, eh?

Nondenominational planters especially are underpaid because they often lack the deep pockets of denominational funders. Unfortunately, some denominations underfund plants, as well, not realizing that an investment in effective planters will eventually result in far more denominational growth and funding.

On top of these challenges, it is very difficult for pastors to raise funds from the new church’s launch team, because so many people in our culture parrot cliches about pastors being in it for the money. Contrary to 30-year old cultural memes still justified by the unethical actions of 1980s televangelists, most pastors are not even close to being in it for the money. Similar to schoolteachers, most pastors are grossly overworked and underpaid.

So, an inspired, idealistic, well-intentioned (and naive) pastor goes out into the field to start something that brings hope to lots of people, totally unmotivated by money. She sacrifices, works long hours, spends less time with family than she wants, inspires people, and pulls a new church together. She tends to downplay her own needs, while the growing congregation appreciates her dedication but is unaware of the daily financial pressure she feels.

Then, after a few years of struggling to pay the pills, she is forced into a another line of work to make ends meet. The church can’t even hire a successor because they don’t pay a competitive salary and never have.

Like everything else in life, the truth is that someone will have to pay for the new church. Every pastor has a right to earn a fair, honest living, and any congregation that wants to be viable has the responsibility to fund it.

If, as a planting pastor, you struggle to ask for a raise or to believe that your family deserves for you to be paid fairly, here are a couple of questions for you:

1. Should the financial obligations of a church be spread across the whole congregation, or should they be placed squarely upon your family?

In other words, which is easier, for everyone in a 100 person congregation to give $5 more per week (which adds up to $26,000 per year), or for your kids to have less than they need because you are underpaid by $26,000 per year?

Compensating a pastor fairly is actually a small sacrifice if the expense is shared by the congregation. Either the congregation pays the bills or the pastor’s kids do. It’s one or the other.

What if you don’t have children?

You probably will someday, and they will be affected by the financial decisions you make now.

2. How would the people in your congregation respond if they actually knew the financial toll the plant takes on you, and if you’re married, the toll it takes on your marriage?

They would probably feel embarrassed and immediately take steps to pay you adequately. If not, then it might be time to leave and let them face reality.

If they simply had more information about the average compensation for pastors, they might make it right far more quickly than you think. Perhaps Googling “pastor compensation guide” and sharing it with your elders or church board would be a good first step. Or perhaps you could invite a church planting coach or consultant to talk with your board and speak the truths you find it difficult to say. They are probably more open to reality than you realize.

Whichever you choose, remaining underpaid until you no longer can is not an option. It will simply ruin your financial future, and you will eventually leave the church because you have no choice. Your congregation will then realize that they have to give the pastor who follows you a massive raise just to be competitive, and they will probably wish they would have done more to help you.

It’s better to be humbly honest now and let them know what you need. The right people should pay for your church plant… all of the people in it.

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Church Planting, Leadership, Pastors, Uncategorized

Church Planters and Pastors: Are You Welcoming New Residents?

United Van Lines 2014 Migration

United Van Lines, the moving company, just released it’s 38th annual domestic migration study (how many people move in and out of each state).

The map shows the states where people are moving to and from.

The old church growth theory goes that churches grow fastest in places that are growing fastest. On paper, since some percentage of new residents are looking for a church, if you’re church is there and welcoming, it will grow just because of the influx.

If you’re a church planter or pastor in those blues states, more people are moving to your state than out, so it would be wise to creatively welcome new residents. Some potential ways to do that:

  • Send new residents a welcome packet in the mail.
  • Provide lots of user-friendly entry points into the church, especially for people who are looking for new friends.
  • Provide groups for all ladies and moms.
  • Don’t shut down your church ministries in the summer (that’s when many people move).
  • Create fellowship activities.
  • Offer a sermon series on adjusting to new circumstances (stepping out on faith, seeing opportunities, adjusting to sudden change, making new friends, etc.)

Obviously, churches reach people all over the country by loving people in a way that is relevant to their ministry context. And, of course, new residents move into every state, so there are always new people arriving in your area. Showing hospitality is a biblical value.

Church planters, however, should be aware of growth trends for the simple fact that more churches will be needed in the growing states just to keep up with the growth.

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Church Planting, Leadership, Pastors

Church Planters: Beware the Church Hoppers

Angry People

When I meet an aspiring church planter, he or she is usually a kind, soft-hearted and trusting person. These are qualities that make for a great pastor.

At the same time, these are qualities that less-than-healthy people will take advantage of.

Every church planter feels the continual pressure to gather an ever enlarging group of people, because a church plant has to fight for survival. New churches die for lack of people and funds. It’s hard to get something new off the ground, and you can quickly find yourself being tempted to involve anyone who comes your way.

Showing up and having a heartbeat, however, are not the only criteria a person must meet in order to be entrusted with any measure of influence in the church you’re planting.

The church you’re planting needs emotionally healthy, stable people.

God loves everyone, but not everyone is emotionally healthy enough to have influence in a church. Any church will only be as healthy as its core group, and unhealthiness in the core group will only be magnified in a new, small church with inexperienced leaders who are often not accustomed to dealing with church drama.

There is a group of people who will do more damage to the church plant than you could ever imagine when you first meet them. At first encounter, they seem nice, very thankful they found your church, and eager to jump in and get involved. You need people, and they’re looking for a church. Seems like a match made in heaven.

Unfortunately, there are people who change churches frequently because they have a difficult time relating to other people and committing any length of time to a church. They are often called “church hoppers.”

Every church planter and pastor I know can verify the reality of church hoppers by painful experience.

There are several types of church hoppers. Here are three:

1. The “We weren’t being fed” type.

They are looking for expository preaching and their favorite worship songs from a particular flavor of church they like, but left, for some reason. They expect you to change your church just to please them.

2. The “We were just looking for something else” type.

This means that they move from church to church based on what feels exciting to them, what is new, and what church style they like. They will leave the church you serve as soon as the newness wears off.

3. The “We were hurt” type.

They experienced a church conflict (often more than one) and, instead of resolving it, they left looking for a church with no conflict and a perfect pastor.

In this post, I’m talking about the third type.

They left their last three churches because they were hurt in a conflict. They were hurt. Over and over and over again. So, instead of resolving the conflict, they left. You can see the clear pattern.

They caused the repeated conflicts that hurt them.

Then, instead of caring enough to confess their role and resolve the conflict, they bailed.

Now, they’re in the church you pastor!

This third type of church hoppers are people who have a difficult time staying in any one church because of their own emotional and relational dysfunction. They cause relational conflicts in every church they try. They may not mean to, but they can’t, or won’t, help it. It is a pattern in their lives that springs from their own pathology.

Once they cause the conflict, they exit for another church, leaving the people who are committed to clean up their mess. They hop from church to church, looking for the perfect church that doesn’t exist.

Young pastors are often idealistic, trusting… and incredibly naive people. Especially when feeling the pressure of church planting, we can lose sight of basic facts about working with human beings:

  • Mental illness is real.
  • Some people really will lie to protect their own egos.
  • Unhealthy people gossip and build alliances, taking others with them when they leave.
  • Because of pride, some won’t admit their unhealthy decisions, even when it’s obvious to others.
  • They don’t see the problem because they are the problem.

This is the reality of working with human beings in a fallen world.

Once again, God loves everyone, but not everyone is emotionally healthy enough to have influence in a church.

In Community of Kindness: A Refreshing New Approach to Planting and Growing a Church, church planter Steve Sjogren warns that new churches attract a variety of people who come for different reasons. Some connect because they genuinely believe in the mission and values of the new church. Some like to help new churches and may leave once the church grows. Some join, however, because they have a history of not being able to build a long term relationship with any church, and your church is their next ex.

The tell-tale sign of a church hopper is the list of churches he or she has left and the strong emotion they hold against “church,” in general.

  • Often, the person will meet with you and emotionally share multiple stories of painful conflict.
  • He or she may demonize former pastors (red flag!).
  • He or she will express frustration with “church” in general and always be on the brink of chucking the whole thing.

You may see some small warning signs along the way, but you may not be aware of how dysfunctional the person is. The inciting incident could be anything, including a normal level of human conflict that occurs on a daily basis.

You will see what is hard for you to believe, because it makes no sense. You will witness emotional and relational dysfunction that the person can no longer mask. You will observe irrational behavior, even belligerence, and you will watch a person you thought was here for life explosively leave the church, inflicting maximum harm on the way out… just like he or she has done before.

It’s new to you but not new to them. You will watch the relationship go up in flames, and now, you need to know something even more painful.

Pastor, they will attack you personally.

They won’t leave because of a conflict with “the church.”

They will leave because they have a problem with you.

It will be intensely personal, because in their dysfunction, it is always personal. They expected you to be the perfect human being who would heal them and coddle them. They often want a job title in the church. They thought you would be different than every other “nasty, terrible, hypocritical pastor” who hurt them so deeply.

In other words, they wanted you to be Jesus. Often, they also wanted a job title, or they wanted you to promote their own agenda.

You didn’t, and for them, it’s personal.

This third type of church hoppers tend to be people who were wounded in a past church experience. Perhaps they encountered an abusive pastor or a shady church conflict and were disillusioned. Unfortunately, they were not able to overcome their own woundedness and function in a healthy way, so they will be overly guarded and actually look for reasons to leave the church you shepherd. They will unintentionally sabotage their own relationships, especially with you, looking for reasons to validate their lack of trust and bitterness.

As the shepherd God has entrusted with this church, you cannot let church hoppers tear the church apart.

Here are some simple ways to guard the church plant from church hoppers:

  • Resist the temptation to give authority to everyone who is nice to you.

Develop a policy that people new to the church wait for at least a year before putting them in any positions of leadership.

  • Vet people before entrusting them with influence.

Why not contact that “terrible, hypocritical” former pastor and get his or her side of the story? It might be quite revealing. Observe the way they interact with others, and do not ignore red flags.

  • There is strength in numbers.

Limit the amount of time you spend with people who have repeatedly left churches, and when you meet with them, make sure other trusted members of the church are with you.

In this church plant, God has called you to be the shepherd, so protect your flock by resisting the temptation to take anybody who comes your way.

God will provide the right people at the right time.

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Church Planting, Leadership, Pastors

Handling Criticism

It’s been eleven months since we launched weekly worship services, and One Church has grown from three people to 200. Overall, the process has been one blessing after another with changed lives, growth, and exciting local and global missions. God has been more than faithful to us.

It’s also true that one of my biggest emotional adjustments since planting One Church has been adjusting to the level of criticism.

I’m sharing this post for two kinds of people:

  1. Leaders who are considering starting something
  2. Church planters and other leaders who are discouraged

Whenever you hear stories of growth, and everything looks rosy, you should know that those stories usually do not include the continual, daily struggles that occur simultaneously with the growth. Some planters were associate pastors previously, and the associate pastor is the most popular person in the world. Once, you’re in the lead role, look out!

People who know me, know that I’m pretty much a mild mannered Clark Kent kind of guy. I’m a huge nerd. I downplay my family’s financial needs and give myself pay cuts to save money in the church budget. My family has sold items that were dear to us in order to pay our bills. I’m usually too nice, and here is the reality:

  • In the past year, I have been called more names than in junior high and high school combined.
  • I have been accused of heresy several times.
  • 25 people left the church after one sermon they didn’t like.
  • One month after launching, one guy told me I’m leading people to hell.
  • A Young Earth Creationist ended his final email to me like this, “I have issued the warning I was instructed to give you. Now I shake the dust from my garments.”

That was before Thanksgiving.

Now, in the past three months, criticism has become a weekly reality for me. Every single week now there are one or more people who express to me that they are not happy about something in the church, usually something to do with me. It may be criticism of a sermon. It may be that they don’t like something about the music. They not-so-secretly want to control the church. There may have been a miscommunication, and apologizing is not enough. Regardless, the criticism is now a constant.

Of course, constructive criticism helps me and One Church. One Church is better because of people who genuinely care about the church and about me, and they contribute in many positive ways. It is easy to tell the difference between people who love you and people who don’t.

Honestly, however, at least half of the criticism you receive will not be constructive. It comes from people who are acting out of their own issues and spewing on you. They want power they have not earned. They want the church you planted to look like the church they just left. 

The Key to Handling Criticism

In my experience, the key to handling criticism is a prayer I heard from Craig Groeschel:

“God, give me a softer heart and thicker skin.”

In other words, “God, help me to love people even when they criticize me, and help me to know who I am in You, so that the criticism does not discourage me.”

Nope, that’s not easy. It is, however, necessary to succeed in church planting.

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Church Planting, Leadership, Pastors, Preaching, Sermon Illustrations

Why Millennials Are Leaving the Church

Hemant Mehta and Rachel Held Evans on CNN

Do you agree that the church in America is becoming more known for what it is against?

What do you think of Rachel’s statement that many millennials leave the church because they are not able to engage their questions and doubts in church?

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Church Planting, Leadership, Pastors, Sermon Illustrations, Uncategorized

Why Women are Invited to Serve in Leadership at One Church

Shhh Women

One Church invites women to serve in church leadership, including serving on the church board and preaching sermons.

This is not liberal.

It is normal.

I’m not a radical feminist. The truth is, I don’t crusade for issues of the day, and I don’t make political statements publicly. Enough churches do that. It’s just that I’m a member of mainstream society on this issue.
Here is a link to a sermon I gave entitled “God’s Daughters.”The church I pastor, One Church, is a mainstream, nondenominational church that highly values the Bible. However, we value the whole Bible, not just the two verses that seem to prohibit women from leading or speaking in public. We are also interested in what the other verses say about the role of women.

Half of the churches in 2013 America, however, do not allow women to serve in any position of “authority” over men. Don’t believe me? As an interesting test, visit the websites of churches in your area. If the website lists members of the “Elder Board” (the governing board of the church) look at their names. Notice that the names are all male names. Why is this?

It’s not an accident.

Some churches attempt to hide their theology that women cannot serve in church leadership. The pastor of a large church in my area claims to be passionate about opposing injustices toward women. Yet, he holds to this same theology that women cannot have “authority” over men. For example, the “Elder Board” of his church consists of only males. Intelligent people have no problem seeing through the veil.

My wife is a schoolteacher who was raised in a pastor’s home and possesses great knowledge of the Bible. She is perfectly capable of preaching sermons. My sister is a lawyer. She could argue a case in front of the Supreme Court, but she can’t preach in half of the churches in America. In 2013, this is just odd.

Margaret Thatcher, a staunch conservative, served as Prime Minister of Great Britain in the 1980s and was a close friend of Ronald Reagan. Both Sarah Palin and Hillary Clinton have had massive influences in politics.

Allowing women to serve in leadership is not liberal.

It is normal.

The theology of Complementarianism is an oddity in 21st century America. People who hold to the view that women have no place in church leadership form a small Christian subculture that has already been left behind by mainstream American society.

Some people might think that a male pastor who supports women in church leadership has given up his “man card.” Here’s my answer to that. My wife and I may have a daughter someday.

I want my daughter to have all of the opportunities that life can afford her. I want her to know that she fulfill her dreams and that there is nothing off limits to her because she happened to be born a certain gender.

In other words, I’m man enough to stick up for my daughter.

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Church Planting, Leadership, Pastors, Preaching

TXT: Controversial Messages of the Bible

In October, One Church is beginning a new sermon series entitled TXT: Controversial Messages of the Bible. We’ll explore four of the most provocative messages in the Bible:

Week 1 | How was the Bible was Written and Formed?

Week 2 | Does the Bible Condone Violence (ex. the Canaanite Genocide)?

Week 3 | What does the Bible teach about Slavery and Sexuality?

Week 4 | Did Jesus Really Claim to be the Son of God?

One Church is committed to be a church where questions and doubts are welcome. We’re not afraid to address the most difficult subjects for American churches. It is a guarantee that some people will leave the church, but addressing difficult subjects will bring more people who appreciate the church’s approach.

On week three, I will address the topic of Christians and homosexuality. This will require sensitivity and a calm, reasonable tone.

Click for more info about the sermon series here. You can also watch or listen to sermons anytime at onechurch.com.

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