One of the biggest decisions for a new church planter is when to start meeting Sunday mornings. Here are five questions I found helpful in determining our church launch date:
1. Do we have the resources we need?
Churches require resources. There is a lot more involved in meeting Sunday morning than for a midweek Bible study or prayer gathering. This is an official church service after all, and you want the people coming to feel like you are serious. Do you have enough money to pay for rent, children’s ministry crafts, and other startup costs? What about sound equipment, cables, and lighting? Have you thoughtfully considered the entire service and concluded that you have what it takes? Jesus Himself said we should count the cost. We don’t want to come up short on something so important.
Jesus Himself said we should count the cost. We don’t want to come up short on something so important.
2. Is it the right time of year?
This question may sound silly, but the reality is that different times of year provide different opportunities and challenges for the church planter. For example, many people are looking for a church around the New Year. They are ready to start afresh in their spiritual lives, so they will often come to a Sunday service. Early fall is another good time to start a church because people are getting back into routines after the summer vacation. Generally, winter and summer are not considered great times of year to start. That being said, however, you should not determine start dates solely on what time of year it is. We started the end of November when it was getting cold and rainy, and God gave success.
3. Are my volunteers and core team members ready?
When we started The Bridge Bellingham we had a consistent group of about twenty adults meeting for prayer and planning. The size of the group is not as important as the readiness of the group. Talk with the team members and get feedback about the Sunday morning service launch. Are they confident? Do they feel like you are able to lead them into this new and intimidating territory? In my experience, it was the team members who encouraged me to start when we did. I wanted to wait until January to launch the church, but the team let me know that they were ready, and we started in November.
4. Do we have a place to meet?
Venue is extremely important in deciding when to start. When we first arrived in Bellingham, I was convinced that we would get this old white church building. It was awesome, and in a perfect location right between Western Washington University and downtown. A few weeks before we signed a lease on it, we discovered that it was about to fall down. Fortunately, we had an inspector look at it and determined that it was unusable before we started meeting there. Having a building fall down on your congregation is not a great church growth strategy! We ended up getting a beautiful old manor that is used for wedding venues and events. The owner is a Christian man, and said we could use it Sunday mornings rent-free! The point is, wait for the right place before you start meeting.
5. Do I feel a peace from the Holy Spirit?
This question is the most difficult to quantify, but the most important to determine. Ultimately, you have to step out in faith and set a start date. You may not have all the resources you need, and it may not be the right time of year, but God is calling you to begin. My own personal opinion is that church planting strategies and techniques can be helpful, but ultimately, it must be God who leads you by His Spirit. Church planting is more than just following the man’s directions, it’s about following the one who said, “I will build my church, and the gates of Hell will not prevail against it.”
Church planting is more than just following the man’s directions, it’s about following the one who said, “I will build my church, and the gates of Hell will not prevail against it.”
Pastor Brian Kelly is a former missionary and Senior Pastor at Calvary Chapel Kampala, Uganda. After returning from the field and serving for a time at Maranatha Chapel in San Diego, he and his family moved to Bellingham, to plant the Bridge. You can find more information about the Bridge on their website or on Facebook.