For most church planters, the season prior to planting feels much like the engagement season leading up to your wedding. As the “big day” gets closer, you feel the pressure more and more to make sure all your responsibilities have been checked off the list. Whether you’re preparing to move to a new city, or you’re almost ready to launch, here are five ways you can be just a little more prepared to be a healthy plant.
1. Connect with existing planters in your context
If there are other planters in your city—particularly those who are in their first few years—be sure to connect with them and hear how the journey has been. Veteran planters and pastors can also be incredible resources and friends, but there’s something about connecting with someone who is still in the early part of the journey that can be immensely helpful. You’ll learn a lot about the context itself, what immediate challenges you might face as you start and probably a more realistic view of what successes you can experience. They’ll tell it to you as it is, and that’s a real gift!
2. Connect with those who have closed their doors
Sometimes those who have the most realistic view on what really matters are those who have gone before us, but now have closed their doors. Church plants don’t always make it for a whole variety of reasons. It’s never just the money, or the people or the context. But you’ll learn invaluable lessons from those who are a bit more humble and honest about what led to their end. Be gracious and humble before these guys. Recognize that you’re neither an exception or a hero.
3. Identify someone who tells you how it is. Even when you don’t want to hear it.
Church planters, by definition, are always a bit delusional. (I think we have to be!) It’s grandiose faith in a grandiose God that compels us to do what we do. But, sometimes (read: always) we need people in our lives who will ground us just a bit and be willing to help us see reality. Maybe we’re not the most charismatic, visionary, influential leader and teacher we perceive ourselves to be, and that’s ok! The truth is, to be a church planter, you don’t have to perfectly be every one of those things. But, you do need an accurate picture of who you really are and a healthy awareness of where you’re strong and weak. Find someone who is willing to correct you, rebuke you and lovingly draw out the person God has created you to be—not some fabricated version of yourself you think you should aspire to be. Having this insight beforeyou plant can make a world of difference afterwards!
4. Be quick to listen for advice, but don’t feel obligated to take it all.
Everyone loves to share an opinion—some are helpful, some are not. In our journey, there were countless people who insisted we prioritize certain strategies along the way. From church membership to teaching styles to evangelism strategies, we heard it all—and usually some contradictory wisdom from well-meaning individuals! That being said, arrogance doesn’t take you very far in life, but kindness and humility do. Be quick to listen and hear the heart behind the people who want to see you succeed. But don’t feel obligated to implement every piece of wisdom.
5. Pray—legitimately and consistently
You’re probably not going to even read this point because it’s so obvious and assumed, and that’s exactly why we struggle to consistently pray the way we want to. So, for those of you who are still reading, here’s what I’ll say. If you have a legitimate strategy of prayer—prayer for the people you’ll reach, prayer for your future church, prayers of protection for your family—and you consistently discipline yourself to do this, God will continually amaze you with the way He loves to answer our prayers.
At The Summit, we recently revisited a list of seven requests we had asked God to provide during the very early stages of our church planting journey. They were written down on an old tattered 3×5 card tucked away. Now, after six years and much prayer, we’re able to celebrate the fact that God has provided for almost every single one of those requests! For the ones He’s answered, we give thanks. For the ones He hasn’t, we continue to pray.
Published July 26, 2017