As a result of planting two churches, I’ve spoken with dozens of people wrestling with a call to be a church planter. They want to discuss the biggest challenges they will face in planting. The challenges of a church planter are the same almost every time.
These are usually transferable to all church pastorates, but especially planters.
3 challenges for every church planter:
I am often asked if our established church will be a “strategic partner” in a church plant. Of course, I get it. I really do. Church planting takes money. It is great if a “mother” church can support your budget or you get numerous churches to contribute. Don’t turn down cash. You’ll need it. Lots of it.
Yet, I always offer a reality check here. The money will always be tight. There will never seem to be enough. It’s in very rare circumstances this is not true.
My word of “encouragement” is to strive to rely less on outside help and more on those God has called you to minister with in the church plant.
This won’t always be possible, but both times we planted we challenged the people building the ministry to fund the ministry. And it is a challenge. It means you’ll often be discipling people to give who aren’t accustomed to giving.
You’ll need disciplined and fully invested people. If they have their money on the line they’ll do almost anything to make the plant work. As much as possible, build your ministry around the people in the room. Their generosity will often determine your ability to grow a healthy church. Plus, it’s good discipleship to build into the church’s DNA.
I know. That’s a hard word. Yet, look at it this way, the time you spend jumping through hoops for a few dollars from a denomination that often come with multiple strings attached, you can spend building maturity in your people who will support you financially.
Men and women often react differently to the stress of planting. I’ve found it can be an excellent balance if the two are in sync with each other and communicating well. You should both be equally called, but your initial enthusiasm may not be the same.
One thing I’ve noticed is that the spouse’s emotions may respond differently. For example, I’ve found Cheryl to be slower to acclimate emotionally to the new place of service. She can know it is where we are supposed to be. Her faith is often even stronger than mine. Yet, her heart is more likely to be tender longer towards the place we left. I have to be careful not to assume she’s as excited everyday as I am.
Another example, I’ve observed many male planters with young children, while they are experiencing the thrill of a new calling, their spouse is changing diapers during the day. If the planter isn’t careful, totally unintentionally, he will appear to over-emphasize his role and diminish the wife’s role. (That could be vice-versa depending on the roles in the plant.) Don’t get so distracted by the plant that you aren’t equally excited when your 6 month old learns to roll over.
Many who feel called to church planting, can’t discern where they are supposed to plant. Some are looking for a location. A specific address. The exact right building, in a certain city, on the right side of town. I get that too. You want to know where God wants you to be.
Unless you have clear direction or clear indication not to go somewhere, my advise is simply to plant where you land. Seek opportunities that appear to be open doors, pray for clarity, but if God doesn’t intervene or interrupt, plant. Plant where you land, where you see a great need, where your heart seems to take you.
You can follow your gut if you’re following Jesus closely.
I learned this principle in a practical way. At one point, I felt that perhaps my “calling” was to plant a church in New York City. Cheryl and I love the city. We had heard the great need. We visited the city to pray. I walked the streets of the upper West Side of Manhattan and talked with God. I said, “God, if you want me to plant a church here, give me an overwhelming love for these people.”
In a rare time of hearing clearly from God, I sensed God say, “Ron, (I love that He knows my name) as long as you have a heart for me you will have a heart for people; wherever you are.” I believe God released me to plant – and pastor wherever there are people who need to be reached.
God may call you to an exact location.
He may even give you a clear address and have an exact building in mind. Many times, however, He may give you some latitude in your selection.
People seem to need Jesus everywhere I go.
We switched sides of town this way – in both plants. An opportunity for meeting space came available we didn’t expect. With this previous “New York” encouragement, as a planter, I felt free to follow opportunities as they came rather than wait for God to write something in the sky. We moved quickly. It changed our focus area, some of the church demographics, but both proved to be definite wise moves in the years that followed.
What challenges would you offer to future church planters?