Best Ways to Kill a New Church Plant

I spoke at a church planting luncheon at Riverview Church today on “duh moments” as a church planter.  Most of what I shared is based on mistakes  I made sometime during my 7-year church planting journey: (these tips are for those looking to pastor a new church as their full-time paid vocation)

  • Sometimes the church planting textbooks are right (even if you’re a person like me who hates doing things by the book)…I learned this the hard way
  • You need organizational systems and life-on-life ministry to fuel each other.  You can’t emphasize one over the other or you’ll run out of fuel.  They need to be like interconnected engines.
  • There needs to be a balance between strategy and (Holy) Spirit.  Analogy: A doctor uses strategy to put a broken bone together, God does the miracle of fusing the bones back into one.  Can God heal a broken bone through prayer alone and no doctor?  Absolutely.  Is this the norm?  No.  Should you go to the doctor if you have a broken arm?  Yes.  We are accountable to using the doctor’s strategy and we are accountable to using strategy in church planting.  We do the strategy, the Spirit does the miracle.  If strategy is overemphasized, you get a sterile commercial business.  If Spirit is overemphasized, you get irresponsible, non-sustainable, chaos.
  • Do not start out by doing worship services with your initial team.
    • You will waste precious time on sermon prep that you should be using to be missional and to gather people
    • People who show up to your “worship service” will not be impressed and will not come back
    • You will condition your people that the definition of a church = a worship service
    • You will have no way of creating momentum for the public launch of your Sunday worship services as it will be more of the same —you need to lead up to a successful public launch with at least 40 people on your launch team
  • Use your pre-launch time to gather a launch team
    • Do Vision Dinners.  Include response cards to find out people’s interest for follow-up.
    • Do service projects and other events in the community
    • Cast your vision to local pastors, see if they’ll give you permission to recruit their members, either permanently or for X amount of months
    • Promote and do preview services
  • You need a coach who will kick your butt & you need a (separate) mentor who will make sure you are healthy and keeping your priorities straight
  • Don’t appoint elders too quickly
  • Finish your fundraising before you start gathering people and fundraise enough to get you through 2-4 years.  Otherwise 1.) you’re asking people to join your church, then guilting them into feeding your children!  2.) Once you begin doing ministry, you will never finish fundraising.
  • Plant with a network or denomination, otherwise people will think you are a cult.
  • Have a very nice, very professional-looking nursery and kids’ ministry.  I highly recommend – only $20/mo. for extremely professional kids’ check-in. (and have safety / security measures in place)
  • Discern between church burnouts and actual non-Christians.  Do not cater your church to church burnouts.  Name your church something that isn’t weird; use greeters; use Connection Cards (have an assimilation strategy); use a teaching style appropriate to the size you want to grow to (if you do non-traditional teaching styles, you will likely not grow to sustainable numbers) –non-Christians still have American culture expectations of church
  • Meet on Sunday mornings
  • Have your own building if possible (look for a cheap place to rent)
  • Get as much permanent signage as possible
  • Don’t meet in a huge room with a small group of people
  • Pass offering plates
  • Use ACH (automatic deposit, ask your bank if they offer this, otherwise switch to one who does)
  • Don’t be sloppy

You are bound to make mistakes in church planting.  Don’t let it discourage you.  Allow God to use them to humble you, mature you, and make you stronger.  Depend on the Spirit, be a good steward, and walk by faith!


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