Managing Expectations in a New Congregation

Churchgoers tend to have certain expectations for a new church plant — don't let those expectations dictate your plans.

We are in the midst of one of the best transitions of our lives.

My wife and I are privileged (in our mid-60s) to plant a new church. Actually, it is more of a transition than a plant. We are moving an extension service from our mother church into a free-standing congregation.

The Transition

We handed off leadership of Hope Chapel Kaneohe Bay a year ago, but stayed on to pastor two services. One of them was an extension service meeting in a movie theater 25 miles away. A week ago, we stepped out of the mother church altogether and are planting Hope Chapel Honolulu from what was the extension service.

As soon as we announced the decision about the new church, we started growing. The past few weeks have been especially gratifying and our “opening day” as a new church was a blast.

Managing Expectations

Along the way, I’m seeing things a little differently than in my two previous church plants. The first go around was in a building already belonging to our denomination. From the get go, my wife and I were responsible for everything. Delegation was difficult because people expected us to do most everything. We broke out of that cocoon or would never have grown, much less multiply churches. But it took some effort (and conflict) in order to do so.

The second church we launched was 2,500 miles from home, but we brought a team of over 30 people with us. Delegation was much easier, though some team members found it difficult to “let go and let local people do the job.” We worked our way through that and found that the very existence of a team caused everyone in the church to anticipate the need for their own participation. It was much easier to recruit because we had a team intact.

Fast forward to our current experience, and it seems like we are learning from our history. Admittedly, we already have a team in place; however, the transition brings us a lot of back-office tasks which our mother church previously did for us. The temptation is to rent an office and hire someone to do the work while depriving a lot of people of an opportunity to serve their church.

The temptation is more than that; for many it is an expectation. And it is an expectation we want to manage. I just passed along a marriage counseling opportunity to a veteran who joined us, a week ago, from the mother church. We’re managing a large “virtual office” with nearly 20 people staying in communication electronically — it’s working wonderfully. We want to keep the pioneer spirit and willingness to volunteer that we currently enjoy. We need to manage expectations in terms of getting the job done.

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Ralph Moore is the founding pastor of both Hope Chapel in Hermosa Beach, Calif., and Hope Chapel Kaneohe Bay, Hawaii. Beginning with just 12 people in 1971, the fruit of this ministry now spans over 700 churches around the world. Many of the churches run several generations deep as each succeeding pastor raises disciples, releasing them to the harvest. Ralph travels extensively, teaching pastors and church leaders the biblical models for healing the nations, spreading the Gospel and church planting.