You and your husband were assessed to determine whether or not you are ready to plant a church, and you passed! This means based upon your history, personalities, faith and giftedness, you have been told it is right for you to take the leap and start a church. It’s time to celebrate, because you are about to embark on a journey personally designed for you, by your creator. Open yourself up to the experience, because through the good and the bad, you will grow. Most importantly, you will be used by God to spread the good news of Jesus Christ to a world starving for salvation.
What comes next?
Once you decide you’re going to plant a church, several things happen next. Simply put, you pick a location, raise funds and/or get jobs, gather a team, and start to have regular meetings (maybe on Sunday, or maybe not).
But, you might wonder, what does this look like?
The moving phase
It’s time to search for loads of free boxes on Craig’s List, pack your life up into cardboard cubes, and relocate. This can be tear-filled as well as thrilling. It depends on what you’re leaving behind.
The first church we planted was in our hometown. When we left (after five years) to plant our second church, there was much heartache in leaving behind our family. However, we felt the call to go plant another church with a couple who was ten years older than we were, in California.
I took comfort in Jesus’ words when he called His disciples.
As they were going along the road, someone said to him, “I will follow you wherever you go.” And Jesus said to him, “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.” To another he said, “Follow me.” But he said, “Lord, let me first go and bury my father.” And Jesus said to him, “Leave the dead to bury their own dead. But as for you, go and proclaim the kingdom of God.” Yet another said, “I will follow you, Lord, but let me first say farewell to those at my home.” Jesus said to him, “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.” Luke 9:57-62 ESV
During the moving phase, consider taking a break in-between ministries. You will need to have energy for the changes that await you in your new city. Also, this is time to address any issues that came up during your assessment (possible challenges based upon your results). Make a plan for learning and growth. Arrange for a coach or a mentor.
The greeting phase
Once you have moved to the location where you will be starting your church, it looks a lot like the world’s largest meet-and-greet, where you are the one learning everyone’s names. You’re going to be putting yourself out there to your new city, gathering names, hanging out with interesting groups of people, finding ways to serve your city and neighbors.
One way to meet people is to use the “I’m new to the area,” card. We have had varying success with informational desserts, and get-to-know-you-barbecues. Our most successful get-to-know-you-gathering happened in Escondido, when we invited our neighborhood to our house for a luau. We invited the entire street, imagining only a couple of people would attend. We were thrilled when over 75 people came to our house, and filled the tables we set up in our backyard. We ate kabobs, rice and meatballs, and desserts. It was great! Out of this party, one family joined our church.
I consider it a success each time one person joins us. It’s a slow-building process. Just like Twitter. One follower at a time, you can gather a group.
Your goal should be to make friends and acquaintances, and without compromising the gospel, be all things to all men. Set a goal, and try to make a large number of friends in the first year in your area. Be authentic about it. These are people, not numbers. Rather than focusing on what you can get these people to do for the church, focus on how you can be there for them. When they are comfortable and ready, they may join you for a church related event. If not, at least you have a friend (and you can pray for them).
For though I am free from all, I have made myself a servant to all, that I might win more of them. 1 Corinthians 9:19 ESV
The meeting phase
We believe it’s important to begin by meeting in your own home, although your church doesn’t have to start that way. Why do we start in our home? Several reasons. It’s free. It’s cozy and not too loud, and people can get to know the real you when they come to your house. During our church plants, we only began meeting on Sunday mornings (in our house) when the group longed for it. Before then, we had mid-week meetings to cast vision and make plans for Easter, Christmas or launch events. You can fit a lot of folding chairs in a house.
How will you know when it’s time to rent a facility? When people are spilling out of your house and you can’t fit anymore. If this happens, you’ll look for a facility that has good visibility and location. Also, the price needs to be right. Don’t rush it. You don’t want to end up in a weird lease (like one we ended up in where we had to remodel the place after two years – ugh). Sometimes you can develop a relationship with another church and use their facilities.
On this journey, you can expect victories, some big and some small, where you are brought to a place of faith you have never experienced before. Prayers will be answered. Doors will be opened. Lives will be changed because of the gospel.
On this journey, you can expect challenges, some big and some small, where you must rely on God to get through. The answer to some of your prayers will be, “No.” Doors will be closed. People will not understand what you are trying to do, and won’t care about the gospel.
My advice to you is to focus on the good things God has in store. When a challenge arises, lift it up to God in prayer. Be patient and know He will work all things for good. In my next post I’ll address more issues related to other phases in church planting.