Note: This article originally appeared on the Reformation21 blog.
1. Do not compare yourself to other churches.
It is extremely easy to think you have the best of everything in your church. Once that mentality is imbibed, you begin to wonder how Christians could attend other churches in the community. You further wonder how other churches in the community have a larger attendance. Those Christians should be coming to you. After all, you are preaching the gospel and administering the sacraments rightly. After dwelling on these things, you begin to write off other churches. It is an unhealthy place to be. Despite differing views on various items (e.g., RPW), God uses crooked sticks, which we all are, to glorify himself. He has people in other churches for his own purposes.
2. Do not ride the roller coaster of attendance.
One week, your numbers are exciting. Two weeks later, it looks like the building is empty. At times like these, you may begin to question your ministry effectiveness. Rather than walking along the shaky path of attendance, it seems easier to focus on the faithful saints who are present. If they have been taught accurately and they believe what has been taught, despite small numbers, you have a faithful lot who are there to receive the word and sacraments, as well as praise God in prayer and song and have fellowship one with another. Thank God for the ones who are present; thank God for the ones who are absent.
3. Do not expect others in your community to join you.
The PCA is a connectional church. In short, that should mean we do things together. My experience demonstrates that those in my presbytery are fully supportive of our church plant, both in terms of prayer and finances. We are planting this church together. However, just because church officers are supportive, that does not mean laypersons are willing to take the church planting journey with you. You may have members of various PCA congregations in your church planting area, but you cannot expect them to join your efforts. For many reasons (e.g., comfort, familiarity, relationships, children, etc.), they will maintain their membership at their present church, all the while continuing to drive by your congregation each Sunday.
4. Numbers boost morale.
While we ought not to ride the waves of attendance, when visitors attend, it boosts the morale of the congregation. They have prayed for visitors, invited others to join the work and evangelized in the community. When they see people visit the church as a result of any of the aforementioned, it gladdens their hearts.
The pastor should not maintain responsibility for everything. He needs to learn that, while everything under the sun may not be done exactly like he would do it, the saints need the opportunity to exercise their gifts and take ownership, so-to-speak, of the church. Many churches, it seems, struggle with the 80/20 rule. Eighty percent of the work is completed by 20 percent of the people. Therefore, let all those who are desirous to serve in the church serve.
6. God’s church can be unified.
Despite the recent events in the U.S. (e.g., Tamir Rice, Eric Garner, etc.), God’s church can be unified across ethnic, cultural, political and socio-economic lines. Crown and Joy is a perfect example of that.
At Crown and Joy, we classify our musical selections into several categories (e.g., contemporary, traditional black gospel, psalms and hymns). While it is my desire to continue using a variety of music, which is a part of the ethos of our congregation, it is also my dream to utilize a variety of instrumentation. We recently added a bass guitar. Prior to that, our musicians included a pianist and drummer. We also sometimes have a cellist and guitarist.
Where do you find talented musicians if they do not reside within your congregation? I presently know of a church that is simply looking for a pianist. It does not matter, therefore, if your vision for music is to utilize multiple musicians or just one, multiple genres of music or just traditional hymns, church planters should have both a direction for the music and the people to help accomplish it prior to starting Sunday services. You may have to look outside the congregation for help. Consider asking sister churches to assist you until the Lord brings musicians into membership. You may also need to inquire into the music department at a local university. In other words, there are ways to ensure your vision for music is accomplished. It just may not be as simple as using those within your church.
In the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA), church planters most often are required to raise a portion or all of their financial support for a three- to five-year budget. Whatever the total amount for fundraising, consider raising a bit more. You should take into account those who will leave either before the first service or those who may leave shortly thereafter. With the absence of people comes the absence of money. If you have raised just enough to cover your costs, and that included congregational giving, when people leave, internal giving decreases. As a result, you may end up in a financial predicament. Church planters have a lot occurring in their lives. You do not want to be concerned about money, too.
Church plants attract a variety of people. Some are bitter about their previous church experience. Therefore, in an attempt to make the church into their own image, they join you. Others are simply attracted to your vision and desire to join you. They are in good standing at their present church. In fact, they might even be sent by their church to join your efforts.
Knowing that church plants attract all kinds of people, church planters need to be studious about those whom are allowed into the work of a new church. One way to do this is to call the elders or pastors from the previous two to three churches of your potential members. Ask those church officers to share their thoughts about those who are seeking to join you. Sometimes, past performance indicates future acts. For example, if a person or family has been a part of one church for eight or nine years, that may indicate they will be with you for some time. On the other hand, if you discover that a family or person who wants to join you has moved around from church to church, that may indicate they have little commitment to the local church. And they may just as easily move on from your efforts just as they have at previous churches. To establish a strong base as your core group, you want those who are not bitter, as well as those who have a good reputation of longevity at past churches.
Pastors in established churches have many duties. Church planters sometimes have more because we do not have the resources that established churches sometimes have (e.g., music directors, ministry leaders, associate pastors, etc.). One area that church planters should consider having managed is administration. Administrative duties, regardless of the size of one’s church plant, can take between eight and 15 hours per week. That time could be spent elsewhere (e.g., evangelism, community involvement, prayer and study, etc.). Consider, virtually from the beginning, hiring an administrative assistant. Train that individual to relieve you of certain duties so that you can place your efforts elsewhere.