Church planting is a difficult but rewarding assignment in ministry. So is church revitalization. I’ve been trying to make the case we need both—planting and revitalization. All pastors and planters should operate under a calling of God, but it does appear to me that there are some unique qualifications for those who want to start a church or transition it to grow again.
I’ve been blessed with both experiences. In fact, having only been in ministry about 15 years, my only experience is in one of the two. I’ve been in two churches needing to revitalize and two church plants.
And, from this experience, here are five characteristics I believe it takes to be effective in both worlds:
An entrepreneurial spirit
There is an element of enjoying risk—certainly of being willing to assume risk—in most church planters and church revitalization pastors I have met. You have to love things that are new and growing. There needs to be an entrepreneurial spirit about them, embracing change readily and becoming bored with status-quo. This characteristic can bring its own problems, which leads to number two.
Willingness to be patient
Effective planters or revitalization pastors are willing to be patient for God to do His work. The balance between these first two is a constant challenge because church planters and revitalization pastors are wired to want continual growth, but to be effective they must develop a good plan, surround themselves with the right people and then wait as God does His work among them.
Have people who believe in you
Church planting or church revitalization is not to be a lone ranger activity. Without the structure of an established church, church planters must depend on people to help develop ministries and systems. Effective church planters learn to rely on volunteers for success and are willing to share leadership and responsibility with others to plant the church. Revitalization pastors are changing an establishment. This can be brutal. There must be some key leaders in the church who will back them in their work—and be there through the hard decisions where it will sometimes seem they have more enemies than friends.
Healthy family life
Church planting and revitalization is a family activity. In both worlds, to be effective, he or she must have a healthy family life. Ministry is tough—this is true for all ministries, but church planting and revitalization, because of the unique uncertainties and risks involved, places additional stress on a marriage and family. Effective church planters and revitalization pastors must begin with and maintain a healthy families.
Close, intimate walk with God
Church planting and revitalization will test a person’s faith many times. Church planting is not always popular in some church communities and can make a planter feel like an outcast in the church community. Revitalization brings challenge to leadership from within. The risks involved and the waiting process challenge both. Like all ministries, these are acts of faith and require constant communication with God. Effective church planters and revitalization pastors must continue to build and draw upon a strong relationship with Christ throughout the process. When I speak to pastors these days, I close with one word of encouragement: YOU MUST PROTECT YOUR SOUL. No one will do this for you. There will always be more demands on your time than you have time. You’ll have to discipline yourself to regularly sit with the Creator of your soul.
Again, many of these are not unique to church planters or revitalization pastors and are shared by others in ministry—even in many secular settings—but my experience as a planter and revitalization pastor leads me to believe these are critical needs for these ministries.