Church planting has been the most difficult, challenging and incredibly rewarding thing I have done in my life!
My journey over the past two years of planting Coastal Community Church has been an incredible learning and growing experience for me. I had the privilege of being part of a phenomenal church plant, Bayside Community Church, for seven years. Over those years I grew as a leader, husband, friend and pastor.
My years at Bayside helped prepare me for planting our church in September 2009. Venturing out to plant a church was not something I took lightly. I sought counsel from those I trusted, who I knew would tell me the truth and give me wisdom on my journey.
Tip #1: If you can do anything else, do it!
My pastor, Randy Bezet, said, “If you can do anything else, TJ, then do something else.” He said, “I believe in you, and I know you will be successful, but I know the road ahead of you, and believe me it’s not easy.”
Today, I would give that same advice to anyone considering planting a church. If you are being called to plant a church, ensure it is your calling. You will face more trials than you can ever imagine. On the upside, you will also experience some of the most rewarding times—and that makes the pain worth it.
Tip #2: Give yourself time to build a launch team and, if possible, plant in an area where you know people.
Once my wife, Shayla, and I made the decision to plant Coastal, we had to find a location!
We knew we wanted to stay in Florida and thought we would go somewhere that would be easy, a place where we knew people. We had three places in mind: Tampa, Cape Coral and Port St. Lucie. We already had relationships in these areas and knew it would make it an easy transition … but God had other plans.
In a series of “God” events, we ended up deciding on Coconut Creek, a suburb of Ft. Lauderdale. We knew one family (and not very well). We moved to Ft. Lauderdale in June 2009 and launched our church in September 2009. Not a time frame I recommend. We were able to scrape together a team of 30 people (including kids and probably family pets).
Luckily, we came from a church plant and a portable church environment, so we kind of knew what to expect. But it was still chaos.
Tip #3: You should always be slow to hire or put people in positions.
In an effort to get our church launched in a short period of time, we put people in positions quickly. Not the way to go!
Make sure your “people” have the same heart and vision as your church. It will save you long term. This one thing was a detrimental mistake we made.
A great piece of advice we received was: The people you start with will probably not be the people you end up with. I learned it is OK if people leave.
Tip #4: Under-promise and over-deliver!
Do not ever over-promise and under-deliver. You will set yourself up to fail.
Tip #5: Celebrate the wins (large and small).
People need to know what to celebrate and what is important to your ministry. Share what you see as a “win,” big or small.
Tip #6: Don’t try to be someone else.
It’s OK to be you! In the beginning, I thought I needed to do everything like Pastor Randy and Bayside. I thought to be good I needed to preach like Pastor Randy and grow my church to ___ number of people because that’s how they did it. But God was breaking me, stripping me of pride.
Tip #7: Let God lead.
(I know this sounds like common sense.) It is good to have a plan, but let God lead.
“Many are the plans in a man’s heart but the Lord directs his path.” – Proverbs 16:9
On our launch day, we had 357 people show up at church. We were so excited! We led our church so well that over the next few months, we grew to an attendance of 63 people. Guess how we were feeling …
I learned that activity does not lead to growth; leading people to God leads to growth.
I needed to let go of my thoughts and plans and let God do what he wanted to do. Have a plan, but allow God to change it. I believe the first two years of our church plant was more about what God wanted to do in us rather than building the church.
Once we learned those lessons, God began to grow our church. We got the right people on the bus, and that made a huge difference. We began to cultivate a culture of serving, authenticity and loving people (no matter where they are in life).
After launching Coastal Community in 2009, we have doubled in size each year. Going into 2012, we averaged more than 300 people in attendance. This year alone, we have seen more than 75 people give their lives to Christ. Seven-thousand people from our community enjoyed our Community Easter-Extravaganza. Our volunteer base has doubled. People are connecting in an authentic community and growing in their relationship with God through small groups. Lives are being changed!
This is only the beginning of our amazing journey of church planting.