Lessons learned from new church launches
The following are responses to questions asked of persons who started a new church in the past several years and continue to serve as the pastor of that congregation:
One thing you learned that has been most helpful:
• First - pace yourself. Planting a new church is a long term commitment. It is a marathon rather than a sprint. Secondly, surround yourself with others who will cheer for you and encourage you.
• You will be exhausted, overwhelmed, frustrated, elated, and you must do whatever necessary to safeguard your marriage.
• Don't be shy about money. It's an issue of discipleship not donation. Teach folks biblical principles for giving and give them confident opportunities to respond to God
One thing you wish someone had told you before:
• “Be yourself” and to “bloom where you are planted.”
• Depth is more important than width. Be careful to balance the focus of numbers and spiritual formation/growth.
• Have an assimilation program from day one and a stewardship plan.
• It is important to get the right/best space nailed down… and stay ahead of the curve on space needs (per the growth of the church).
• Technology and creativity can pour fertilizer on something that is already healthy, but cannot serve as a core system, strategy, etc.
• Financial Issues
• Obstacles from the institutional mindset that "can" exist in our denomination. Do we want to grow our church by reaching people and employing all means to do so? OR are we simply interested in new churches getting chartered quickly as UMC's and falling into line with the way we function/work?
• Discipling new Christians
What has been your biggest “mistake”?
• Not hiring staff, especially an administrative assistant early on. The culture became too focused on me doing everything, and now that is a hard habit to break on my part and on the part of the congregation.
• Putting the wrong people in positions of leadership. I assumed that someone’s passion for the church would equate into great leadership.
• Putting the wrong people in leadership too early
• Not doing a Financial Campaign within the first three years of the life of the church.
• Building a culture that lacked "money confidence". I am working double time to fix that right now.
• Lack of coaching.
• Developing personal/deep relationships with “strong and mature” Christian leaders, only to see them bail.
• That ten years of hard work only equals 500 in attendance instead of 5000.
• Don’t try to emulate another pastor, preacher, or church.
• God will accomplish what He has called you to do. Work as hard as you can at the plan, but be willing to lay it aside as the Spirit leads.
• Be sure of your call. If you are only looking for freedom and autonomy and think this will be an easy gig then please, do something else.
• Get your vision clear.
• Money follows mission, but you must develop giving disciples not donors.
• Make digital the default…offer online everything early, fast, and often. Invest in a dynamic web presence that allows for sign-ups, interaction, and giving. Not flashy, trendy, cool… but highly functional.
What would you do different?
• Celebrate more of the small victories and milestones
• Spend the first year focusing on finding the right people - instead of creating a "vision" and then trying to find anyone to help make it happen.
• Work to find a space that might serve as a permanent facility before ever launching.
• Do the campaign within the first three years.
Anything else you want to share?
• Planting a church has completely changed me. God used this experience to get my attention and wake me up to the Kingdom purposes for my life and for others.
• We need a model in the UMC of church planters planting churches over and over again.
• It takes money to plant churches… money from somewhere. We don't need to waste money on new churches, but we don't need to pretend it's free either.