What I wish I knew: Part 1

By Heiden Ratner

When I think about the things I wish I would’ve known prior to launching WALK Church in Las Vegas, Nevada, there are four primary points of wisdom that come to mind:

1. Understand the importance of connection.
Leading up to our launch Sunday at WALK Church, our core team intentionally focused on creating an attractive, missional and enjoyable worship service. We made sure our signs were just right, our screen on the stage worked well, our kids ministry was a safe environment and the sermon was prepared, prayed over and powerful. We were amazed, humbled and thankful for the two hundred people God brought,however, the one thing we didn’t spend much time strategizing was our connections process.

The connection pathway may be the single most important piece to the puzzle, outside of preaching the gospel. If you fail in the area of connections, you demonstrate poor stewardship over the people God has sent you. If God knows you can’t connect His people to your fellowship, He will send them to a different church that can. Make sure…

…your connection card is simple and strategically highlighted at every weekend service.

…your assimilation process is seamless for leaders in your church to follow up with those who fill out the connection card.

…everyone on your core team knows and understands your church’s process for connecting with people.

2. Develop a practical, reproducible discipleship strategy.
Within the first year of our church plant we were blessed to see several people respond to the gospel in faith and follow Jesus in believer’s baptism. And while we were overjoyed each time a lost person come to know Christ, we later learned that we didn’t have a practical discipleship strategy in place to help these people grow in their walk with Christ. We knew where we wanted to go with these new believers, but we didn’t have a step-by-step process as to how we could help them get there.

As we’ve made strategic changes in the area of how we make disciples, our leaders have grown in their confidence and effectiveness in disciple making. Before you launch a public worship gathering, develop a practical, reproducible discipleship model that one disciple can take the next person through.

3. Seek personality over skill.
I once heard it put that trying to plant a church without a team is church suicide. The truth is we’re better together, and we can get more accomplished together than apart. Whether that’s developing a core teamof leaders or recruiting a launch team of believers—you need a team. Yet, one mistake I believe planters often make is they allow every single person that has a pulse to be a part of their team. Not everyone is the right fit for church planting—even if that’s just joining the launch team.

I advocate for church planters to have a strong vetting system that people must go through before joining their team. In this vetting process, a key component one should look for is the personality fit and work ethic of the person over the gifts and skills one may posses. If a person has all the skills and intangibles, yet doesn’t fit the culture your church is shaping, lovingly point that person in a different direction. You don’t need every person to be on your team, you need the right people to be on your team.

4. Value your wife over your church.
One of my church planting coaches once told me, “If you take care of your bride, Jesus will take care of His.” This was life changing for me as I realized during that season of ministry I was demonstrating more passion and value toward our church plant rather than my own marriage. If you’re not married, this will be good food-for-thought if God one day brings you a spouse. Yet, for those who are married, I can’t emphasize this point enough. You never want your spouse to feel like she is in competition with Jesus’ bride. The truth is she’s not, and you must fight against the temptation of spending more time and energy working on your church, rather than your marriage.

Here’s how you can honestly evaluate if you are truly taking care of your wife while on the journey of church planting. Prioritize asking these two questions to your spouse monthly:

Are you feeling valued over our church? If not, what are some things I’ve done that tend to make you feel devalued? What are things I can do to make sure you are feeling valued?

Do you sense my passion levels are higher for our church plants health, rather than our own health? Take time to develop boundaries that the two of you agree on together.

These four factors are far from the only variables that shape the health of a church in the early years. But, I hope my experience will aid others in not making the same mistakes I did along the way.

Published October 3, 2016

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Heiden Ratner

Heiden is the Sr. Pastor of WALK Church in Las Vegas, NV where he and his wife, Neena Ratner live with their two sons, Epaph and Asa. Heiden holds a B.A. degree in Religious Studies from Mercyhurst College and a Master of Arts degree in Church Planting from Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. Heiden also enjoys playing basketball and traveling with his family.