Recently a friend e-mailed me asking advice about church planting. He and his wife are looking at eventually planting a church. I told him that a lot of my thoughts on church planting were here on this blog, but on a more philosophical (?) level I offered the following five:
1. Be called. This means you are willing to plant in that area even if you received no financial support. Because the reality is that any support you receive will run out quickly. This may also require finding a second job in order to accomplish the dream God has given you.
It also means that you know God wants you to do it because church planting will beat you up some days. It is not easier than "regular" pastoring. (In fact, it isn't tougher either they are just different.) It isn't some place you should go because you want to get away from the trouble people; trouble people flock to new churches. You need to know that God wants you to plant the church.
2. Have a mentor. Not just a pastor with experience, but one with experience reaching the lost and starting new congregations. There is a big difference between someone who reaches lost people, and someone who does it with a new church. There is also a difference between a mentor and someone who is your "superior." Mentors are friends with experience. They listen to your frustrations, but also kick you in the butt when you need it.
3. Have a team. Recruit people who buy-in to your vision, and have a call to ministry. This is more than just a core team or pool of volunteers. You need someone who bleeds this stuff with you. If you can't get someone, then the next best thing is a group who have bought into the vision and are willing to work. It is VERY difficult to do this alone.
4. Find your niche. You can't be all things to all people. You have to be willing to take a stand for a few things. When I start the new church I am going to have only 3 priorities: Outreach, the Sunday morning experience, and small groups. Those encompass more than just 3 things, but they are the primary ways you will grow and sustain your church.
But people will ask about youth programs, women's groups, prayer programs, etc. I use the imagery of a plant. You have to have a strong root and tree system before the limbs and leaves are able to survive and flourish. Focus on what you need to do to build a healthy functioning root system (church), and then start stretching out the vines (ministries).
5. Take care of yourself. Spend time with your family, exercise, rest, relax, get someone to preach for you every few months, etc. You are not what holds it all together; God is. You have to work hard, but you also have to rest and recharge.
What other advice would you give to someone planting a new church?