9 Lessons I Would Implement If I Planted Another Church

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Recently, I met with 7 successful church planters, now 5-10 years or more outside their initial launch, to design a training strategy for our annual conference in North Alabama. We are committed to starting 26 or more new faith communities a year, so we wanted a dynamic and relevant track for raising up and training future planters.

We started with this big goal and it led to a flurry of discussion and ideas. Here were the best nuggets and questions that came from our discussion about how I would start if I planted another church.

  1. I would focus on building disciple-making communities where we are not content with new believers but seek to develop strong followers living out their faith and into their spiritual gift.
  1. I would start early on with a professional coach who is a good fit for me—not someone the conference assigned but someone who I choose and get approved by our conference office.
  1. I would want to be a part of an ongoing academy for Congregational Development. I learn best from experienced pastors, passionate laypeople and my peers. I would make regular gathering a priority to learn new ideas, and share what is working/not working in my setting.
  1. I would start with clear lines of accountability and have a group of peers where I could be transparent and called out when I neglect my spiritual life, my spouse or family, or let my ego lead me.
  1. I would want to start with a full, healthy team. This is more important than my location, the building where we worship, or my marketing plan. The team contributes to success, makes the planter’s life better, and keeps the planter in check.
  1. I would develop a vision plan, written and approved by the office of church development, and stick with it! Everyone in the launch team would have to buy into the vision! This vision would include written strategies and measurable goals.
  1. I consider this next point to be very important: I would want a strong relationship with a sponsoring, partnering or mother church, who would share leadership, resources and a staff I could call on.
  1. I would intentionally network among social organizations, local churches, other pastors, community developers and local media.
  1. I would learn to be an ongoing, entrepreneurial fundraiser. I would see the big picture of raising money as so much wider than just the offering plate. It could include foundations, other churches, and business ventures like a coffeehouse, cafe, and rentals.

While this is not all-encompassing, it is where I would start. Looks like we need to use the first 12-18 months to simply prepare well for the launch. Amen!

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Richard is the Executive Director of New Church Development in the North Alabama Conference of the UMC. He pastored churches in the Atlanta area for 32 years, while at Hillside UMC, the church birthed 3 churches and developed a successful model used by numerous churches. He enjoys fishing, travel and his new granddaughter. Richard is on the Adjunct faculty of Asbury and teaches with the International Leadership Institute.

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