First Year Features

first-anniversary1Having felt called by God to plant a church since June last year I have read widely about church planting.  There are numerous books about church planting, and many of them are excellent.  They almost all talk about the principles of church planting – they don’t want to say “you have to do it like this…” but try to say, “this is the principle – apply it to your circumstances.”  I appreciate that approach, but at some point someone has to get practical.

I have found one and only one practical book about church planting.  It’s called Launch and is written by Nelson Searcy, a church planter in New York City 10 years ago.  We have found it very helpful.  One of the things that I have appreciated the most about it is his emphasis on not doing too much too soon – that is walking before you run.

Like any living thing, a church has various systems within it.  I can vaguely recall a high school teacher telling my class that the human body has a respiratory system, a reproductive system, a circulatory system, and so on.  Of course organisations also have systems within them – accounts, human resources, management, and so on.

Searcy says that there are some systems that need to be in place straight away, and some that can be developed later rather than sooner.  He gives 8 systems that you need to have in place by the end of your first year.  They are:

  1. Sunday services;
  2. Evangelism and assimilation;
  3. Website;
  4. Baptism;
  5. Church database and record keeping procedures;
  6. Accounting;
  7. Corporate / legal structure;
  8. Leadership Development.

Everything else can wait.  In fact if you try to do much more you run the risk of overextending yourself.  But those are the things that need to be done during year one.  When I read that it was such a relief to get an indication of what is highest priority and what is not.  I thought, “We can do that”.

I realised that there are even systems within systems.  So I broke “Sunday services” down into:

  • Bible teaching
  • Music
  • Children’s Church
  • Ushering
  • Communion
  • Salvation counselling
  • Prayer ministry
  • Set up and pack up

The idea is that focussing on making those systems excellent is much more fruitful than adding new systems and programs that the church might not be ready for.

So when Catherine and I start our new church our first year will be all about establishing these systems.  It will be about getting them working, and then getting them working well.  People will come to us and say things like, “We should have a (insert good idea) ministry.”  They will be right in the sense that there is probably merit in starting this or that ministry.  But the crucial issue is timing.  The last thing that you want to do is overextend the church by running too many programs too soon.

Then, just so I would not miss the message, I was having a look on Rick Warren’s blog the other day, and his most recent article was headed, “Church Planters: 5 Steps to Take but Take Them Slow”.   His conclusion is, “I can show you how to grow a great church – but I can’t show you how to do it quickly!  It takes time.  Your church won’t be built overnight.”

We are going to Halifax to build a great church.  Slowly.

John

One Comment to “First Year Features”

  1. The early Church grew, across the known world. The one thing they all did was go to the people. The modern concept of wanting/expecting people to “come” (unless it is to Jesus – Matthew 11:28-30) is a business model, not a spiritual one. So whether it was Paul attending a women’s prayer meeting in Philippi or the philosophers’ meeting in Athens, the marketplace anywhere, the disciples went to the people (Matthew 28:19). May you always go out among people. As human we need a process to follow; we are finite. But only a person can go out as the light of the world; no system can shine the love of Jesus. We have supported Church planting in Thailand, Indonesia, and even out own little house Church, so I am behind you, for the Realm of God is our arena of ministry – anywhere/everywhere. (I practice what I preach on this one, always “getting out there into the community” and I know it follows Biblical principles of service).
    Blessings as you read/study/prepare.

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