Shawn Lovejoy and David Putnam, co-founders of churchplanters.com, recently shared these 5 church planter mistakes on Rick Warren’s Pastors.com. Shawn is the lead pastor of Mountain Lake Church (Atlanta area), a church he planted in 2003. David serves the same church as strategic and operational leader.
Mistake #1: Rushing ahead
Most of us quick-start church-planter types are driven by the urgency of the calendar. We tend to focus on a launch date, and regardless if we are ready or not, we launch. Instead of being driven by the calendar, it would serve us well to be driven by milestones. Milestones focus on the accomplishment of strategic actions.
Here are some to consider:
- Vision is clear and communicated.
- The staff team has been recruited.
- The core group is in place.
- Worship leader and team have been recruited.
- The meeting place has been secured.
- A marketing plan has been implemented.
- Pre-school and children’s ministry plans have been made.
- A small group and volunteer system is in place.
- An assimilation strategy is in place.
This list is not intended to be comprehensive, but to get you thinking. Failure to reach critical milestones prior launch is a key reason churches plateau or decline early in their life cycle.
Mistake #2: Underestimating the cost
If you haven’t planted a church, you can count on three things: It’s going to take longer, require more money, and be harder than you imagined! As church planters, we are often guilty of getting “drunk on vision.” We’re so “intoxicated” with the desire to plant that it clouds our good judgment. When we’re intoxicated, we fail to listen to others, think clearly, and make wise decisions. Jesus tells us to count the cost. It always pays to listen to him.
Mistake #3: Violating the Sabbath
Planting a church comes with a high price. First of all, let’s dispel the myth that you can plant a church without paying the price. Because of this you have to make taking care of yourself a high priority. A church planter must nurture his vitality. This requires taking regular time to refuel your emotional, relational, physical, and relational vitality. Paying close attention to these gauges can add longevity and impact to your life and ministry.
For the last 10 years, we have been part of a church plant that has grown from a vision to over 2000 in regular attendance. Unfortunately we are just learning to pay attention to our own gauges. Fortunately our wives have been incredibly patient and honest with us. We are yet to find a church planter worth their salt who doesn’t have to work hard at this. As church planters, we’ve got to embrace what the Scriptures teach us about our time. There’s a time to work. Work hard! However, there’s also a set aside time to rest. Rest hard! As a leader, if you don’t nurture your own vitality and monitor your own pace, no one else will.
Mistake #4: Hanging on too long
When you give birth to a new church, it’s your baby. The church you planted begins with the vision God put in your heart. When you first plant, everything begins with you. You have to do everything. However, as the church begins to grow, the longer you hold on to everything, the more you become the bottleneck. There simply comes a time when we must let go and empower others.
Church planters who don’t develop the skill of empowering others seldom grow beyond 75 to 125 people. You may launch your church. You may reach people; but you usually end up stuck. The most effective church planters understand the importance of raising up leaders and building teams.
Mistake #5: Not having a coach
Church planting is the R&D department of ministry. Planters understand that we learn our way into the future. As we move forward, we assess our failures and successes and we build off of them. Like Churchill, we understand that “success is moving from failure to failure without losing momentum.” Church planters surround themselves with other leaders and learners. I was reminded of this when Will Henderson, our Australian church planter, returned from an ACTS 29 learning experience where they advocated that every church planter needs a minimum of five coaches in their lives. Those who grow in their leadership surround themselves with coaches.
As church planters we’re going to make mistakes. No one gets it right all the time. We can avoid many of these if we’re willing to be teachable and surround ourselves with people who have been where we are going.
Rockbridge Seminary students who have completed the online course “Introduction to Church Planting” or “Next Steps in Church Planting” may want to check out churchplanters.com for additional resources.