While much of my attention is often on clergy who have been serving in the ministry for several years, one of the privileges I have had is to rub shoulders with a number of young church planters. (It is humorous what many non-Christians think of when you use the term “church planting.” They often don’t get what you are talking about).
Church planters have their own unique set of issues. On top of the normal issues that all clergy face, church planters are often working with financial, personnel and experience disadvantages.
There are ten issues that often face church planters: (most of these come from “Coaching Leaders for the Harvest” from ChurchSmart Resources).
- Inadequate Assessment-as someone who has been involved in the lives of with multiple church plants/church planters as well as having served for the past ten years on the board of a church planting organization, I have seen that the #1 problem with church plants is inadequate church planter assessment. Passion and need are not enough to insure a successful church plant. The church planter must be assessed in basic church planting skills, emotional & marital stability as well as theology & philosophy of ministry. Too often assessors have been “too nice” or have “not wanted to dampen their enthusiasm.” Countless people have been wounded & countless millions of dollars have been squandered because of inadequate assessment. (A church planter who says, “Who are YOU to tell me whether or not I am called to plant a church” is a first sign of someone who isn’t ready).
- An Inadequate Planting Proposal-one of the (many) business skills we were never taught in seminary was putting together a business plan. A Planting Proposal is just a religious word for business plan. Items to be covered include:
- Why start a church? (There are good AND bad reasons for wanting to plant a church).
- Who is my ministry focus group? Is that group sufficiently present in this geographical area? Who is reaching that group currently? Who has failed to reach that group and can I state why they failed, so that I can learn from their errors?
- What kind of church are we trying to plant? Does it fit not just with the type of church that the church planter wants to plant, but with the needs and interests of the target group?
- With whom will we plant this church? Is there a mother church? Is there a covering organization? Is there a multi-gifted launch team?
- How & when will we plant the church? (see #45: Premature Birth below!)
- How much will it cost? Where will those funds come from (besides “God”). Who will OK or administer the spending of funds. (The church planter or his wife are not good ones to do this).
- How can one be involved?
- Funding & Support-another inadequate taught skill is finding funding sources & “asking for the sale”. Prayer partners are essential, but there must also be regular financial donors. Too many churches are planted when the planter has raised 75% or 80% of the funds, and “We’ll raise the rest after launch.” No you won’t. You won’t have time OR energy. You’ll be busier than you ever dreamed possible in your life.
- Premature Birth-this can happen because there has not been an adequate plan put in place or inadequate funds have been raised. It can be because there is too small of a core group (at least 30-50 adults are needed). There are also team dynamics that must be worked through before the team is able to function adequately to insure a successful launch. (The church planter saying, “It’s my vision, just do it my way” is not adequate).
- Post-launch Syndrome-Just as post-partum depression is a real condition, so post-launch syndrome is quite real. There is often a loss of momentum. All of the excitement, energy & (and funds) are focused toward a large launch event. Now what…..? If the church planter and team think that they can shift from evangelism to just planning programs and events, disaster awaits. 30% of the church planters time after launch still must be focused on evangelism and people gathering. Additionally, if the church planter cannot keep the vision adequately before the people, people will forget & focus on their own agendas and visions.
These 5 are enough for today. I will finish my list of ten issues in my next post and also give four ways you can be a support to a church planter even if you are not a part of a church plant.