5 Action Steps for Frustrated Church Planters

Are you a frustrated church planter? Will Mancini gives five tips to get you out of it.

If you have planted a church in the last three years, know that you are one of my heroes. What you do day-in and day-out requires more courage, sacrifice and perseverance than 90% of the roles in ministry (at least in North America).

I just had breakfast with a friend who has almost 200 people meeting on Sunday mornings after three years. He is a strong leader, a great communicator with a unique and compelling vision. But he wishes he were further along. He feels the frustration of many obstacles right now. And he is not alone.

For many planters in similar situations, here are some things I would recommend as “must dos.” I would hang all of these action points around the metaphor used by a new friend, Tom Tapping. Tom said, “Planters can so easily focus on the hole and not the donut. Who walks into Krispy Kreme and asks for 12 donut holes? We must stay focused on the donut.” Think of these actions as donut-refocusing steps.

1. Spend time with people who will show you the donut. 

These are the people that breathe life and energy and perspective into your soul. They remind you how far you have come and how much you really have. When was the last time you intentionally scheduled some dedicated time with the most positive people?

2. Take three days away (especially if it requires a step of faith). 

If you feel like you can’t step away right now, this piece of advice is really for you. But first, you must repent of taking yourself so seriously. Get away to get see the donut again. Spend one day doing nothing. Have only a half-day agenda on the second day. And make an agenda for your third day at the beginning of the third day. Give God control of the time and relax.

3. Spend a day dedicated to saying “thank you.” 

Consider all of the people who have given time, energy and money to get you where you are now. Yes, I know there are people who didn’t give or failed to give what they really could have. But stop thinking about all of the “what ifs” for a change. Drill down into the goodness of the present moment. And then express it. Consider spending the entire day either writing notes or making phone calls just to say thanks.

4. Schedule a barrier-breaker brainstorm session. 

Yes, you are facing obstacles, and some of them have been around for a while. In fact, you have been thinking about the same obstacles for so long you’re probably in a rut. So schedule an entire day to get out of your “mental ruts.” Invite some totally new people to the table who bring an objective, outside perspective. Look at your challenges differently. Do a creative problem solving session. You want to get on the solution side of some of your challenges with fresh ideas to stop you from focusing on the hole of the donut.

5. Believe that weakness and limitation are real assets. 

Receive the direct reminder that God is jealous for the glory. Why do you want to muscle through this thing with earthly strength and fleshly power? Put the monkey back on God’s back. Your dream was His dream first. All of your weaknesses and limitations are real. You do have holes. But God doesn’t. So believe again that God wants to infuse weakness with great power and smash your limitations with great creativity and innovation. Whatever way you must, preach to yourself again the great gospel that God has called you to preach to others. It’s God’s project. Let Him have it, and don’t stop dreaming big.

Will Mancini
Will Mancini emerged from the trenches of local church leadership to found Auxano, a first-of-kind consulting ministry that focuses on vision clarity. As a “clarity evangelist,” Will has served as vision architect for hundreds of churches across the country, including such notable pastors as Chuck Swindoll and Max Lucado. Will holds a Th.M. in Pastoral Leadership from Dallas Theological Seminary and has authored Church Unique: How Missional Leaders Cast Vision, Capture Culture and Create Movement; he also co-authored Building Leaders with Aubrey Malphurs.