You’ve been dreaming about planting a church for a while. You’ve been through assessments, decided where to plant, maybe even moved to a new city. What happens next? What do you do after the boxes are unpacked and the dust has settled?
While every church plant is different, there are some basic things you can expect as you get started. It’s time to get to know people, love the city, and practice hospitality. Think coffee! I believe all these things must happen before you can gather a group who will worship with you.
What to expect when getting started
Get to know people
Think coffee–sitting and sipping a beverage while you get to know new people.
At the very beginning stages of planting a church you should expect to spend a lot of time getting to know people. City officials, store owners, people who hang out in the same places you do…anybody you can connect with in and around the community where you’re going to be planting your church. This is why it’s important to move to the area where you want to start a church. This kind of reaching out to get to know people should continue beyond getting started as you spread the good news about Jesus and continue to grow. If the thought of getting to know lots of new people is intimidating, just focus on one person at a time. This is the best way to do it anyway. If you focus on one new person at a time the relationship will be more authentic.
In order for people to get to know you, it’s critical to get exposure for your new church plant. The best way to get exposure is to develop a quality website, clear signs, and social media campaigns. Encourage your team to make exposure important right away. I can’t tell you how many times John and I have tried to visit new churches only to end up showing up late or at the wrong facility. We’ve passed by churches because the signs didn’t stand out. If you want people to join you, make it easy by providing accurate details about meeting times and places and clear signs. If you’re not sure how to create a quality website or get good signs, talk with other church planters to get tips. If you’re going to spend money, I’d suggest this is an important place to spend money up front.
Love the city
One way to get to know people is to find ways to love your city.
From my experience, cities are delighted when church groups offer to volunteer or host events. Get involved with food banks, local events, or holiday celebrations. Of course your little group can’t do everything, but you could set up a table during a street fair. You can’t feed the entire city, but you can collect food items from around the community and deliver them to the food bank. The idea is to participate in what’s already going on so you can get to know people and they can get to know you too. Once again I’d like to point out any involvement in city events is an opportunity for exposure. If you’re going to be handing out water bottles at a city marathon, make sure to put stickers on your water bottles with your church logo and website information. In loving your city, I have found your city will love you back!
If you find that your city loves you too much–meaning they give you overwhelming opportunity to serve, consider getting more city members involved. I’ve seen church plants have great success at doing large scale community events because they get other businesses and churches involved in the daunting task. Don’t be afraid to ask others to help. It’s an opportunity for them, too.
In getting to know new people and serving the city, it’s clear hospitality is an essential skill in the early plantings of your church. First and foremost hospitality is loving people. A well decorated table means nothing if the people who set it aren’t happy to see you arrive and eat. Make sure your team understands what hospitality is, and how to be hospitable to strangers. Consider having your plant team come up with standards or rules surrounding this skill.
I used to panic before events because I was worried the details wouldn’t be perfect. Now I’ve found a way to be more hospitable at events. There are several things I do to free myself from expectations about being the perfect hostess…
- Get others involved. Don’t be the only one providing food or decorating. The people on your team need opportunities to serve, so let them help you prepare for events. Make a list and have people sign up to bring things.
- Know the people are more important than the food. We love to serve delicious food, but the people eating the food are more important. It’s better to focus on getting to know someone new than worrying over the food. Of course you can assign people to stock the table, but make sure most people are focused on getting to know people’s stories rather than worrying over food details.
- Allow for messes. Have you ever been scared off because someone had a few messes in their house? No? Me neither. When I walk into someone’s house I don’t expect perfection. I’d rather have a friendly greeting than a sparkling house. Of course it’s nice if I can tell the hostess tried to get ready for my arrival, but if there are a few messes I actually feel a bit more comfortable. I’m not worried I’ll mess up their pristine house. So allow for a mess here or there because in the end it doesn’t matter.
So that’s what to expect when you begin planting. Lots of time spent getting to know people, loving the city, and practicing hospitality. It’s an amazing time of fun and fellowship, so get ready to enjoy yourself. If you open your heart and mind to the experience, you’ll be grateful you did.
Please help us as we begin a new work in your name. Help us to love others, the city, and learn to be more hospitable. We are grateful for each new person you bring into our lives and into the life of the church. Please bless us on this journey. May your name be made great among the nations.