“If you planted another church, what would you do differently?”
That’s a question I’ve been asked since year one. I charged into church planting with a very positive, optimistic, if-you-build-it-they-will-come mindset, which I’m thankful for. I know other church planters who went out burdened with church plant failure statistics, wondering they would become another statistic. I didn’t know the stats, or the struggle, and I certainly couldn’t have predicted the events of the first year (deployment, flood, 3 jobs…).
However, through all of the challenges that the first few years held, I have no regrets. Even the things I’d change became valuable lessons for me.
If I were to plant another church, here are two things I’d do differently…
I would not over-commit.
I’m all about raising up a team, preparing, strategizing, and the like, but don’t wait too long. Hit it! You’ll have time to learn, grow, and re-strategize as you go. On the other hand though, it’s easy to over-commit, stretch yourself thin, and run the risk of burnout at church or at home (neither of which are options).
The main way I over-committed was by launching with a weekend and a mid-week service. Mid-week services are nice, and I’ve always gone to one in every church I was in. A mid-week study was never part of our launch plan, but when enough people requested, it seemed harmless enough. Then by the time we were ready to launch, it felt too scary to cancel something that was working so well. So, in addition to our planned weekend service, we launched with a Wednesday night service as well.
I don’t regret Wednesdays. People grew with each other and in the knowledge of the Word. However, it was way too much commitment early on. I was working 3 jobs in addition to the church, and studying for 2 unique message every week was a huge task. By God’s grace, I survived, my wife and kids still love me, and the church is still growing…but I would do it differently!
I would not try to reproduce.
Coming from a 15,000-member megachurch, our natural tendency early on was to try to replicate what they did so well.
Good Friday? A Good Friday service happens at noon on Good Friday…or so we thought.
Although thousands turn out every Good Friday at our church in New Mexico, when we tried to replicate it at noon in an Army town, a few unemployed people and some moms showed up. Good Friday at noon fit them – not us.
Easter is coming? We should probably rent an outdoor venue and do a sunrise service. That is how Easter services are run, after all…or so we thought.
We had seen it done that way so successfully for so many years in New Mexico that we didn’t even stop to consider any other way of doing Easter. Without considering context, culture, or the unique people we were reaching, we attempted to reproduce their success. Our first Easter was one to remember, but we don’t plan to do it that way again!