I was recently asked for any suggestions I have for planting a church in a different community from where you currently live and know. There is a group of 25-plus people who are leaving the comforts of home in California and traveling to the state of Idaho to plant a church. I love that kind of faith.
If you don’t know, Grace Community Church is in my hometown, so I am very familiar with our community, but I planted a church before this one in a city in which I didn’t know anyone well, so I have some experience in this area. Still, as I thought about these suggestions, I really believe they are shared for any church plant (perhaps even any church).
Of course, these are given assuming you have a clear calling as to where you are to plant, but here are some of my suggestions for planting a church in another community. There are probably hundreds of others, but these were the first seven that came to my mind:
Learn the culture—Every city, every village and every group of people have their own unique identity. What matters most? What do they celebrate? Where do people live and play? What do they do for fun? What’s their language? What are the traditions unique to this area? What history do they value?
Learn the market—Are schools an option for a building? Is the community in a growth mode or a declining mode? What are the major problems, concerns and needs of the community? Who are the leading employers? What are the demographics?
Learn the competition—Before you get too excited … it’s not other churches. It’s anything that has the people’s attention you are trying to reach besides a church.
Buy into the community—Immediately find ways to get personally involved in the community with volunteer investment. That could be through the Chamber of Commerce, schools, festivals, etc. Give back … believe it or not, that gets attention.
Have a prayer team—There should be a group of people praying for this community, the church plant and the leaders on a daily basis. Who are those people?
Develop patience—It is harder than you think it will be. It just is. Church planting … really, any ministry … takes a tremendous toll on you physically, mentally and even spiritually.
Protect your family—Just as church plants are stressful on the planter, they are equally challenging for the planter’s family. This may be especially true in a relocation since much of their support system is being replaced. Protect your family by disciplining your time and not losing them as your primary focus. As much as possible, involve them in the work so they understand its value and get to share in the rewards.
Church planting is tough, but like all actions of faith and obedience, God uses the sacrifices to reach hurting people and change their life for His glory.
Planters, let me hear from you … what would you add to my list?