Starting churches is sometimes gone into with insufficient preparation. I know I have made several mistakes that were costly in starting churches by not having an adequate preparation period. I believe failure can garner greater insights more than success. I want to talk about three major areas of concern that need to be addressed before getting started on any church venture.
Post-mortem assessment is very common. We usually think of reviewing our success or failure after the event or venture has wound down. I like to do what I call pre-mortem assessment. It works just like post-mortem with the exception that it precedes the start date.
I now do pre-mortems on my messages. I also like to preview and consider upcoming events. It can be fun. Basically it means drawing your team together to ask how this thing fail. It means looking at what will bring us down. Obviously once you have done this exercise you will find ways to improve even before you start and likely avoid painful post-mortems.
Here are some questions that might help your pre-mortem:
- What will stop people from returning?
- What could go wrong with our message presentation?
- What will make it difficult for people to hear about us and show up?
- How could we waste our money?
- What parts of our presentation are week or substandard?
- What could make our worship terrible?
Choosing your first leaders properly is a vital effort. Sometimes we recognize people just because we need some help. It is true that you will likely within the first three years see a complete turn over of your initial leaders. But nonetheless your chances of succeeding can be greatly increased by calling the right partners.
This is an area where I have been weak. I have often not taken the time to recruit and deploy the right people. I have invested money in the ill prepared and under qualified leader and have not only wasted resources but cost myself a great deal of pain.
Where do you find leaders? Almost always the best leaders are going to come via referrals. It is true you may need to recruit leaders from places they are already being productive. I have come to believe that you shouldn’t start if you can’t convince some friends to join you in the venture.
The following are six traits of leaders you will need to be successful:
- They are willing to invest money.
- They are influencers and bring other people into the journey with you.
- Are willing to put in time on the extras.
- Do they evangelize?
- Are they optimists?
- Are they there when its time to pray?
Friends of the Start
I have heard for years planters complain about little or no support from their denominations or sending church. It sounds to me like the people who join your church and want you to hand them some friends. You have to take responsibility for building your own support network.
I think finding a coach and being willing to pay them is a great step. Yes they may be a paid friend but they are still a friend. You may have to go outside your particular organization to find connections.
It is well worth the effort to make some appointments with church leaders that have been successful and ask to share your dream. Don’t ask for money. If they are impressed with you and your plan they will offer on their own. What you need are friends. Often these friends will connect you with resources you need.
I think a network of ten key mentors and friends is essential. Be a listener and learner. Offer to take them to lunch or meet whatever fits their schedule best. Be certain to ask for future meetings after your first meeting. I have had many church planters ask me to mentor them or hire me as a coach. I am always flattered. Often I will work to help them find resources.
Come prepared when you seek to collect friends. Have a list of four or five questions you would like to ask them. They can be anywhere in the country, they don’t have to be in your backyard.. But don’t be vague. Describe your concerns. Ask them to pray for and with you. Send them a note of appreciation after your meeting.
Some of my best friends in the ministry were made this way. I often asked them to speak at my fledgling churches and I was amazed how many were takers. And when you have them speak prepare an honorarium no matter how poor you are. They may give it back but it shows you value their input.
These are the areas that should get a great deal of your attention. This is why I think a church plant or new plan for a church should be preceded by six months of hard preparation time. Happy preparing!