Vineyard Church Planters Tell What They Wish They’d Known Before They Began Their First Church Plant
It’s been said that hindsight is 20/20. When you look back on any project or endeavor, you get a better idea of what was important and what wasn’t.
This same thing is true with church plants. After working at planting a new church for a year or two or more, you have a much better idea about what was worth worrying about and what wasn’t that big of a deal.
And since no one is more qualified to give other church planters advice about beginning a new church, we decided to simply have a few of our planters share about the number one thing they wish they’d known before they began. And as is true with most of us, they weren’t content to only share one thing…Enjoy!
Wilmington City Vineyard
Here’s my best shot:
After working through a process to plant in a diverse city community for a few years, it has become clear that as much as I worry about technical details, Sunday service specifics, website stuff, etc-my clearest and most spirit filled direction comes when I am listening to God and caring for his people. The Steve Nicholson tip of being a chaplain wherever I go has served me well as I follow Jesus and join Him at work in my city.
West Asheville Vineyard
“Eat at Home!”
On the more boring, logistical end, I would advise any planter to figure out what is required of you in your state for non-profit status. Determine if that status and other documentation is needed to open a checking account and get that up and running BEFORE you start gathering people and BEFORE you have people supporting you financially. If you are going to be a 501(c)3, know that it costs money and requires lots of paperwork. You don’t want to get stuck covering the costs of the church for 3-4 months before you are able to have an official checking account, plus you want to look legit when receiving financial gifts and support.
On the more exciting, spiritual note, I guess I have two points to consider:
1. Don’t be afraid to plant outside the box. If you sense the Holy Spirit asking you to break the mold and plant using a different model, do it. The best advice and the best coaching can come from your personal, one-on-one time with Jesus. Two weeks after moving to North Carolina, we felt God asking us to pastor the largest pub in our zip code. That, surprisingly, wasn’t written anywhere in our 2-year plan, but God has shown us what to do, step-by-step as we have followed his lead.
As much as you dream of preaching to thousands, when you plant, people (surprisingly) aren’t going to come out of the woodwork to hear you speak. People want to be known and they want to know you. Focus on building relationships and in those relationships, make sure you are willing to receive from those folks. As church planters, it’s easy to think we have the answer to everyone’s problems. Maybe we do have something to offer, but people don’t want a sales pitch; people want someone to care about them and invest in them. Listen before you speak and when you speak, tell of your story and your life with God; avoid rattling off apologetics and things they should or shouldn’t do. We waited to launch our Sunday services until unchurched people were literally telling us they wanted to come to some type of gathering to learn more about Jesus. They knew us, trusted us, and wanted something they had seen from our lives.
The major thing would have been that I don’t have to do it alone, build teams, learn to Identify, Recruit, Train, Deploy, Nurture and Monitor (IRTDNM – http://www.vineyardchurchplanting.net/showthread.php?263-IRTDMN-Leadership-Model-Training-Manual)I missed that whole piece in Vineyard’s history. By 1998 when I officially came into the Vineyard the movement had just blown through the Toronto stuff, lost its founder, would soon lose his successor to a post-modern house church Anglican trek, and we were starting to push into new realms of the practical implications of Kingdom theology (Creation care, women in ministry, justice for human trafficking, faith & science, etc.). In all of that some very basic training got missed. I know as a planter my wife and I would have to go it alone for a while and be a jack of all trades (worship leader, teacher, small group leader, admin, marital counseling, graphic design, bulletin printer & folder, etc.). The problem is that mindset stuck and I was still leading that way at 200, 300, and 400. I now realize I can’t be that guy anymore. In fact looking back I think things would have been a whole lot more healthy had I been trained in IRTDNM early on and embraced it. So I wish every planter knew that “yes there are times you have to be the guy who makes this thing happen” but “no its not normal or healthy to make your whole ministry that way”.
River Rock Vineyard
Enjoy the Ride
We have been part of 3 different church plants and each one had its own characteristics that God was using to draw a culture to Himself. These are some of the things we have learned over the years. Remember that God has a specific plan already planned for you. As one “old” Vineyard man said years ago, “enjoy the ride.”
Go at the Father’s pace
He knows you better than you know yourself. Stay in His presence, walk in step with the Spirit may be our best advice. Many will see your gifting and suggest you go here or there, do this or that and Father may ask you to wait here until His timing is right.
The Presence of the Father
His presence needs to be your “yes” to plant a church. Your relationship with Him is paramount, out of relationship with Him we live and move and have our being. As people start to gather with you (in home groups, house church, or a Sunday) wait on the Father’s presence, allow it to be real. You being real with the Father will bring a humility to others that encourages them to wait and seek His presence.
Go slow, but sure and steady with the gifts of the Spirit
As the Spirit moves gently reach out with His hand and touch others. He said that He will grow the church. Growth must start with you then inside of others before it happens on the outside. The Gifts will draw a culture of people that are comfortable with His presence, in turn He will form a team of people looking for Him and giving away what he has given them.
Worship, Keep it Simple.
Don’t try and be something you are not. If your worship “team” is one vocal with a guitar, rejoice in that. God will use that to draw others. Keep your eyes on what you have not on what you don’t have.
My wife and I still work other jobs along with the church, so time can become limited for study, quiet personal time, and work. For me, going through a book of the Bible keeps me on track, one less thing to think about (what am I going to teach on next week) by following a book where that question has already been answered i.e. Chapter 6:4-18. Keep them short. With God’s presence He will fill the people with revelation.
Don’t start Ministries (kids church, youth group, missions, outreaches, etc.) until God opens the door. It might be best if you waited until God spoke to the person and then they come to you and say, “Could we start meeting with the teens?”.
People will Leave
Realize this from the start. Don’t get offended when people leave, don’t take it personal, it’s just the lay of the land for church planting. Their timing, gifting, expectations of you and the church don’t match what you and the Father have been talking about. Bless them with open arms and stay in friendship with them, love them unconditionally. They may want to come back!