People matter and hence relationships matter to the success of a church plant. Every planter has to cultivate relationships with key people in order to succeed in accomplishing the mission and vision of developing a new church. Jim Collins offered the following advice to leaders in his book Good to Great: “Get the right people on the (organizational) bus, in the right seats.” He was relaying that as a leader, you have to surround yourself with great people in order to succeed. Church plants are no different than other organizations in that respect. Church planting is relational work.
Every church planter can enhance the success of their church plant by cultivating and prioritizing the following four most important relationships:
1. The Church Planter’s Relationship with God
Don’t skip this one. This relationship seems like a no-brainer but in the busy life of a planter, it can be the first relationship to suffer neglect. If you are a planter and you have not experienced the warmth of God’s love and acceptance lately, do not proceed to go, do not collect $200; instead, stop and do whatever you have to do to renew your relationship with our loving God. This requires humility and repentance. As an old preacher used to say, if you and God are not currently close, it wasn’t God who moved away from you. Thankfully, we serve a loving God and Father who waits for us with open arms just like the father in the parable of the prodigal.
2. The Church Planter’s Relationship with Spouse and Family
When I assess church planters, this is what is called a knockout category. I can be looking at the most talented person in the world in terms of the skills necessary to launch a new church but if the relationship with the spouse is not solid and if the spouse is not committed to the project, the answer will always be no. This relationship is not just vital in the beginning days of a plant, it becomes crucial in the months and years following launch. It was only my spouse’s love for Jesus, for me, and the church that kept her engaged in seasons of ministry when I was demanding too much of her for the success of the ministry. I was blessed to have a coach along the way who helped me to see the error of my ways and slowly I was able to understand that my spouse always had to come ahead of the church plant if there was any hope of the plant to be all that God wanted it to be, not to mention our marriage being all that it could be! If you are a church planter and married, you are most likely going to confront significant marriage stress. This is normal but must be dealt with honestly and openly. I encourage you to seek help from a Christian counselor in order to prioritize this relationship!
3. The Church Planter’s Relationship with Prayer Partners
Every church planter will talk about the need for prayer but not every church planter understands the battle is won or lost in prayer. You need hundreds of people who will pray for you. This includes people who pray occasionally, monthly, weekly and daily. You also need a trusted cadre nearby who will pray with you. John Maxwell calls this group, the MVP’s for the pastor: Most Valuable Pray-ers. As a planter, you are a warrior for Jesus on the front line of mission. Prayer will open doors; prayer will protect you; prayer will enhance your effectiveness; prayer will see people come to Christ. All of this happens through prayer. Communicate regularly with all levels of people who pray for you and do everything you can to recruit your MVPs prior to the launch of the church.
4. The Planter’s Relationship with Financial Donors
Bill Hybels made a simple statement at a church leadership conference that has stuck with me ever since, “Ministry costs money.” It takes resources to accomplish the work of God in the world. God uses financial challenges to shape our faith and the faith of our people. It is a spiritual responsibility of the planter to develop a relationship with people who are called by God to support the work of ministry through their financial gifts. I have observed many planters who struggle with this reality because of a false perception that people are supporting them personally. This is not the case. In order for the mission to go forward, the frontline leader must receive sufficient compensation in order to undertake the work required to launch a new congregation. Develop relationships with donors, inform donors, thank donors and challenge donors to become prayer partners and share in the amazing adventure of planting.
There are innumerable relationships in addition to these four but planters must have these firmly addressed in order to develop the solid foundation necessary for the mission to move forward.