I am consistently asked for suggestions I have for moving to another city to plant a church or revitalize a church.
I planted once in my hometown, so I am very familiar with that community, but I also planted a church in a city in which I didn’t know anyone well, so I have some experience in that area too. In my present church, I moved to a city where I knew only one other couple.
Recently someone who was about to move to a new city to minister asked a very good specific question.
What advice would you give me that people don’t always give?
Good question. It made me think. I don’t know that any of these are original, but I don’t hear them talked about as much as other suggestions.
And I think the things I would do would be the same in any ministry position.
Here are 7 suggestions for moving to another community to minister:
Have a prayer team There should be a group of people praying for this community, the church, and the leaders on a daily basis. I have a personal prayer team and organize teams to pray for special events. Bathe every move in prayer.
Learn the culture Every city and every group of people have their own unique identity. What matters most? What do they celebrate? Where do people live and play? What do they do for fun? What’s their unique language? What are the traditions unique to this area? What history do they value most? You’ll have to ask lots of questions and observe.
Learn the market Is the community in a growth mode or a declining mode? What’s the quality of the school system? If you’re planting, are schools an option for a building? What are the major problems, concerns and needs of the community? Who are the leading employers? What are the demographics? How would a church address some of the issues? These matter for numerous reasons, but mainly it will impact the people you are trying to reach.
To learn these things I try to meet with the highest level leader I can in each area of interest – Schools, city government, police, business community, etc.
Learn the competition Before you get too excited – it’s not other churches. It’s anything that has the people’s attention you are trying to reach besides a church. Sunday sports events. Major festivals. Community traditions.
Support the Community Immediately find ways to get personally involved in the community with volunteer investment. That could be through the Chamber of Commerce, schools, festivals, etc. Give back. Believe it or not, that gets attention. Currently, we volunteer several places around town, including at our local visitor’s center. And, if you really want to show you love the community support the sports teams they support.
Develop patience It is harder than you think it will be. It just is. Church planting, church revitalization – really any ministry – takes a tremendous toll on you physically, mentally and even spiritually. It doesn’t happen overnight. Prepare for the journey. Commit to the change you bring to the ministry – even knowing how difficult it might be at times.
Protect your family Just as church plants are stressful on the planter, they are equally challenging for the planter’s family. That may even be more true in revitalization. And it’s true in all ministry. These issues are multiplied because of relocation, since much of their support system is being replaced. Protect your family by discipling your time and not losing them as your primary focus. As much as possible, involve them in the work so they understand it’s value and get to share in the rewards. Protect your personal down time and your soul. Don’t burn out by trying to do too much too soon.
Ministry is tough, but like all actions of faith and obedience, God uses the sacrifices to reach hurting people and change their life for His glory. Thanks for Kingdom-building.