One of the biggest challenges in church planting is the transient nature of new plants. I was talking to a friend recently who said this is becoming a big negative in his community. He recently invited a friend from the gym to try out his church, which meets in the high school down the street. “That’s OK, you’ll be gone soon. There was a church there before you, and there will be a church after you leave.”
How can we stop the merry-go-round and plant churches that stick? Here are three ideas:
Learn the community before you plant.
You can’t learn a community from a demographic report, an online article or an interview with a leader. Every community is unique. Neighborhoods just blocks apart have a completely different vibe. You learn the community living, working and shopping there. Church planters who last tend to spend months on the mission field before they even begin to launch a new church.
Build a sustainable model.
When a church planter raises a bucket of money or a denomination plops down a pile of cash, the initial impulse is to build a robust budget. Look at the equipment you can buy! Look at the friends you can hire! Look at the awesome mailers you can mail! The challenge is when the money runs out, so does the planter. Here’s a better idea:
- Only buy the equipment you have to have. Go super conservative. You can get better stuff when you’re on solid ground.
- Hire very slowly. Hiring people with one-time money is a sure way to shut down quickly. Hire people when you can pay them out of the weekly offerings.
- Don’t blow your marketing budget upfront. Save something for the third and fourth years.
Get a job.
I have talked to many successful church planters who said the best thing they did in the beginning was work in the community. Not only did it help them understand the neighborhood, it also meant their family was not dependent on the weekly offerings to survive. When the big tither quit, they could still pay the rent. The advantage of having an alternate form of income sustains many church planters past the time others have sold the trailer and moved on.
Someone said hope is not a strategy. Raising money and hoping you make it as a church planter is not enough. Build a sustainable strategy so you can still be there when the neighbor is ready to try the church in the junior high down the street.