In 2003 we planted a church. In 2004 we closed the doors. Here’s 10 things I would have done differently.
1. I would taken a more rigorous church planter’s assessment – I often joke that if someone would have just looked at my checkbook they would have stopped me from my attempt to plant a church. I’m sure other indicators would have surfaced as well, but a good assessment would have either helped delay us until we were really prepared or prevented us from doing one of the hardest things I’ve ever done.
2. I would have been more patient and processed more with my Senior Pastor - I guess looking back I laugh a lot because I joke about this to with my lifelong Pastor and friend, Greg Simas, “why didn’t you stop me?” I would have taken more time to ask him more questions like:
- Do you think I’m ready?
- How hard has it been for you to plant?
- Is the timing right?
- Where should I plant?
- Can the church send us?
My impatience of feeling like I was done with youth ministry only gave me a couple options and since I felt that God gave me a desire to plant a church that’s what I pursued.
3. I would not planted with the domination I was affiliated with. In 2002 the denomination we were associated with at the time had not developed a proven church planting strategy. We received what I call a “pentecostal pat on the back” and their blessing which at the time that’s all I thought I needed. A church planter needs more than required approval. They need real assistance. I would have sought out a church planting organization or movement that was better equipped to equip me and had the vision and knowledge on how to plant a church successfully.
4. I would have spent a year on just getting supporters and raising support. I would have focused more time on learning how to raise funds and would have had definite goals in place of how many supporters I needed to fund the plant so that I could give my undivided attention to the work. As you may know a church planter that has to work an additional job is less likely to get the church established. At one time I was working 3 jobs!
5. I would have gathered a much larger team with closer friends. I think in order to gather a team you have to have to things working for you. Your timing has to be right and your location needs to be strategic. I think I missed the best timing when we didn’t plant after being 9 years at a church we loved and what was ultimately our first ministry transition in 1998. Because of missing the timing I think we missed the best opportunity to gather a team with our closest friends that would have followed our lead.
6. I would not plant two hours away from my hometown or home church. We planted 2.5 hours away from my hometown and the church that sent us which meant no one went with us. I read some bad info in my twenties that said a church planter should plant a minimum of 100 miles away from their home church. We know today that was written by someone who was territorial not apostolic.
7. I would not have quit. When I meet with church planters today I encourage them not to quit like I did. Good things will happen if you are persistent, but you have to stay encouraged. I allowed myself to become discouraged.
8. I would not have launched prematurely. Our family experienced 5 major life changes in a 1 year period. We moved to a different city, we purchased our first home, we got new jobs, the kids went to different schools, and we decided to pull off the biggest challenge of all on top of that in planting a church. Dumb. I should not have launched right away and in fact that was the plan, but I got impatient. I’m pretty good at that.
9. I would have partnered with a church that had a real vision to plant churches. I can’t stress how important this is. There is a big difference between a supporting church than a sending church. A supporting church keeps you afloat, a sending church buys you the boat! You need a church behind you that’s all in. If you fail they fail, if you succeed they succeed. There are many ways to approach partnership, but your sending church should have a vision and proven strategy to plant churches.
10. I would have asked my wife more questions. Amy has been a constant supporter of me the last 22 years of our marriage and 20 years in ministry. There is no way anyone can last in ministry without a spouse who is called to ministry. Somehow I think I took on more responsibility than was required. I should have shared more of it with her. Not that I didn’t include her, but I think when things got tough I isolated myself and tried to do it all by myself “come hell or high water.” Pride doesn’t always boast and shout, sometimes it isolates and manifests itself in a spirit of independence. I may have had a form of pride in my life that caused me to internalize too much.
After we closed the church plant I went through the two most difficult years of my life. I think if I would have done some things differently we either wouldn’t have planted or waited until we were better prepared. I’m still a planter at heart and I’m excited to be a part of my 3rd church planting team experience with Jesus Culture Sacramento. I’m sure I’ll be writing a post in the future about 10 things we did right!
If you are a church planter what is something you would have done differently?