13 Keys from One Church Plant’s Story

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Credit: EllysaHo / Thinkstock

Recently I visited a 5 year old church that is growing, healthy and about to launch a second campus. In this short time, they have grown from 10 to 1500 attendees, purchased, renovated and moved into a closed church building, and built a new sanctuary. They have a reputation in their community as helpful and open, attractive to families, and willing to address community concerns. On Sundays they flood their neighborhood of older homes with cars on every street and clog the intersections between services. Yet the neighborhood is glad they are there.

I sat down with the founding pastor to listen to his story and pepper him with questions about how they got to this point and what he learned along the way. This is what I gleaned from worshiping with them, listening to the founding planter, and speaking with enthusiastic members (like my daughter), city officials, and neighbors who do not worship at the church to get their impressions.

Here are 13 keys to their Kingdom Success:

  1. A small, streamlined leadership structure made up of only 11 people – 8 members and 3 pastors. Its function and roles are based on the New Testament church.
  2. “No debt” is their rally cry. They raise the money, do the work themselves, and wait for the rewards. This is a very young church made up of people from every economic spectrum, and obviously not wealthy.
  3. They started and continue without ecclesial baggage. They have the guidance and support of their parent body yet without imposed traditions, history, styles and denominational conflicts. They are allowed to call themselves a “community church,” that is part of the worldwide body of Christ and their parent church.
  4. They offer a few well-organized and significant missions that are specific to this church and for which they are famous for. Rather than a buckshot approach to touch every need, they use rifle-like precision.
  5. The church is constantly visioning and re-visioning and renewing to reach the next untouched group in their community and mission area. Their older members have a passion to be relevant even if their tastes are not the primary focus.
  6. Congregational meetings are held twice a year for sharing big news; they function, also, as a church pep rally.
  7. The church leadership refuses to beg for volunteers, money, time or space. There is a dependence on the Holy Spirit to lead that is shown by wait for needs or simply saying “No” to a desire that is not forthcoming.
  8. Everything in worship, classes and mission is easy to understand and communicate to newcomers. Communion and baptism is worded for educational purposes to the recipient and congregation.
  9. The church is not political. They have clear moral teachings and discussion of cultural issues. Yet there is a clear line from pastor and all leaders that they are not about endorsing particular secular leaders or parties.
  10. There are clear expectations for members and leaders that are captured in covenants. Potential members must attend a membership class and subsequent meeting with one of the pastors.
  11. The church is committed to upholding biblical truth and congregational expectations.
  1. The lead pastor is strictly focused on message preparation, vision casting and leadership development. Because of the work of volunteers and staff pastors, the lead pastor does very little pastoral care, conflict management, and event attendance. Has ample time for prayer, rest, family and study. This has been a major key to the growth of the church and there is faith it will lead to longevity in leadership, too!!
  2. The church embraces their local culture and seeks to influence as part of this local culture as good, loving neighbors, and friends.Take some time to reflect on your own church plant’s story–whether it is ongoing or in the past. Which of these 13 keys pertain to you? What others would you add?

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