I was asked yesterday to prepare a talk to a group of church planters. The topic that I was assigned was this: COMMON MISTAKES CHURCH PLANTERS MAKE. Now, I have never personally planted a church. But I have been a part of helping (parenting) ten other churches to get started.
Here are seven observations:
#1 - LAUNCH TOO SOON
We made this mistake during our first plant. We began to hold public services before we had enough established. We needed a worship leader, so the church had to suffer through some very poor worship experiences. We needed more people. We needed to leverage this one time opportunit to have an effective grand opening.
Now, we use a three to six month PREVIEW SERVICE process, where the church meets only once a month, to practice, build team, and ramp up to a larger grand opening.
#2 - PRAY TOO LITTLE
It is a subtle temptation in every area of life and ministry to depend too much on strategic and technical excellence. Nothing of any lasting value can happen without the work of the Holy Spirit.
#3 - ACT TOO BIG - TOO SOON
Sometimes smaller churches try to act like mega churches and therefore work against thier own uniqueness. What makes a small church attractive is the availability of relationships. When a church gets to be larger than 250 people, they will need to develop levels of great excellence and organization in order to keep that amount of people engaged.
But in the early stages of a church - the most important thing we can do is LOVE PEOPLE and make room for them in our lives. It should be stated that LOVING PEOPLE is always the most important thing, even as the church gets larger. But being focused on relationships is the even more critical for a church in the early stages.
#4 - COMPARE TOO MUCH
This is a common trap in life. We compare ourselves to others and when we come up short, we get discouraged. Every situation is unique. Every community has a varying degree of difficulty associated with it. Planting a church in the Bible belt is different from planting a church in Iraq. We should anticipate that the size of a church and the size of the launch may vary.
If your process is slower and your start is smaller, THAT DOES NOT MAKE YOU A FAILURE!!!
#5 - LOSE TOO MUCH MOMENTUM
A key to growth is something I like to call 'leadership speed.' The speed of leadership involves the ability for the leader to avoid lags in vision and execution. Sometimes leaders put a huge amount of effort into the start of something, they acheive success, and then they take a long break from 'vision.'
There is nothing wrong with resting.
What we cannot afford to do is lose clarity and urgency about the next 'win' that is on the horizon.
#6 - PREPARE MESSAGES TOO MUCH
Another mistake that pastors can make is that they spend too much time trying to make the message they are preaching... perfect. So they spend 30 hours preparing a 30 minute message. The thought behind this is that, 'If I preach well, my church will explode.'
Yes, solid preaching is important for spiritual and numerical growth.
But if you spend 18 hours in prep, and the level of quality goes from 95% great, down to 88% great, that is totally ok. This is especially true, if you use those additional 12 hours to spend discipling and investing in people.
#7 - WIN TOO FEW
The final mistake I will comment on has to do with personal evangelism. There is often a 'if we built it, they will come,' mentality about a new church. But church planting is all about winning people to Jesus who have not yet experienced him. We are not trying to build a better service than the next church so that other christians will want to join us.
People follow the example of a pastor. What you do, people will follow. People do not follow what you describe. (some do). Most people follow what they see. Leading the way in making invitations, building relationships, and sharing your faith - is a major key to effectively building a new church.