10 priorities for every church planter

There are literally hundreds of things you must do before launch and if you’re not careful you will major in the minors. You must prioritize if you’re going to plant a reproducing church.

I have the privilege of taking to lots of planters around the world. I have helped plant churches. While the to-do lists vary, I believe there are 10 priorities of the planter during the pre-launch phase.

  1. Network! Meet with as many NEW people as possible. I once met a church planter who resolved to meet 1000 people BEFORE he planted.
  2. Build teams and give them real opportunity to get in the game.
  3. Plan as many reach out activities as you possibly can. Getting your teams into the community will pay BIG relational dividends.
  4. Delegate! This doesn’t mean you become a slacker. It simply means you empower others on your team to help carry the load.
  5. Never ever do anything alone. You should be apprenticing people; modeling it. This means you should plant with a leadership resident (church planter apprentice) as well!
  6. Pray. Pray. Pray. Ask others to pray with you and for you.
  7. Find a space and get the word out about it.
  8. Raise enough money. This means you must write a budget that is realistic.
  9. Develop your staff team. Pour into them as much as you can. They will be the key players.
  10. Sabbath

If you prioritize these things you will have a good change of launching a sustainable (and reproducing) church.

How to Make Prayer For Others a Priority

As for other matters, brothers and sisters, pray for us that the message of the Lord may spread rapidly and be honored, just as it was with you (2 Thessalonians 3:1).

Maybe we miss it because it’s so obvious–praying.

When you’re planting a church it seems obvious that you would want to pray for the people who are going to serve and love.

But Launch season is crazy. You are pushing yourself and your team to the limit. And so it’s easy to say you’re praying without really doing it.

No, your project is utterly dependent on God and therefore you must submit it to him in prayer. Moreover, you want to ensure that you’re helping your team pray.

Here are 5 creative ways to make prayer a priority for your and your team.

  • Ask everyone on your launch team to write down the names of 5 people to pray for.
  • Host prayer walks in your community.
  • Gather your team together for 1 hour prayer services (or more) in the weeks prior to launch.
  • Start a 24/7 prayer experience. I’ve known churches to arrange 24 hour prayer on the site of the location where they will launch.
  • Ask members of your team to pray for specific neighborhoods in the community.

What are some ways you’ve built prayer into the rhythm of launch?

I’ve written about Paul’s prayers here. I’ve tried to help you see that church planting must begin with prayer here.

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What Should You Be Doing 6 Weeks From Launch?

A friend of mine is launching a church in 6 weeks.rocket

He and his team have done a fabulous job preparing for launch. My friend has gone through assessment, apprenticed as a church planter, talked to planters, read the books and hit the conferences. He’s a great student of church planting. He and his team have been meeting and praying and serving their community for months. My friend has been training leaders and investing in the people around him.

In my opinion he’s doing all he can to ensure a sold launch.

That’s why I was a bit surprised that he would reach out to a group of us for additional coaching. I mean 6 weeks out the train is rolling so to speak. And he’s already done a great job.

Maybe I am making a little much of this but I was inspired. Even in this last leg of his journey, he’s still teachable. I think we can all learn from his example.

So for what it’s worth, here’s what I suggested he consider 6 weeks out.

  1. Call an “All-Hands on deck.” Encourage leaders and launch team members to make it a priority to attend your gatherings and be on mission to the people around them. Also, cast some vision for making it a priority to attend gatherings even after launch.
  2. Pray. Get teams of people together to pray. Encourage everyone to be praying. Host simple prayer gatherings. You get it.
  3. Encourage your launch team to start identifying the people they’re going to invite to your gatherings. Encourage people to write down the names of people and pray for them.
  4. Time to let team leaders lead. It’s time to release your leaders to own their pieces of the mission.
  5. Turbo train small group leaders to be ready for new people so you have the relational space for them.
  6. Encourage your launch team to keep serving the community.
  7. Ensure any marketing is lined up and ready to go so you don’t miss deadlines.
  8. Ensure you and your team are connecting with friends and neighbors this summer. Encourage people on your launch team to have parties, host barbecues and generally be social in the community.
  9. Ensure your budget is finalized and that you’re living within it now–even before launch.
  10. Keep Jesus the main thing by making space for Him in your life everyday. In this season of hustle and activity its easy to become distracted by the stuff of church planting.

I appreciate my friend and his reminder that no matter where you are in the planting process, we must stay teachable.

What about you? What is one way you’re staying teachable?

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The 5 Season Cycle of Church Planting

If we’re going to create a movement of reproducing churches and missional communities, we must understand that a church plant is a dynamic organization with a cyclical lifespan. We must understand that churches exist in seasons and each season has unique goals and challenges. Understanding these seasons will help you discern what season you’re in, what you’re trying to accomplish and how you’re going to go about doing it. 5 cycle

So what might it look like to understand your church plant as a dynamic entity with a cyclic lifespan?

I’ve thought about this and read from others (namely Aubrey Malphurs and Ed Stetzer) and have developed what I am calling the 5 Season Cycle of Planting. The heart of my model is a gathering and scattering strategy. I contend that if we committed ourselves to the 5 Season Cycle, we would see more healthy reproducing churches planted.

Keep in mind this is a 40,000 sketch of a work in progress. I will fill in more details in later posts.

1. Residency Season (Preparation)
Somewhere between 1 to 2 years before your launch you should be participating in an active residency with a church that plants churches. Here, the planter is preparing himself for launch, identifying location and fundraising while learning both the strategic and tactical elements of planting from the sending church. This is a season of active learning and reflection.

2. Pre-Launch Season (Planning)
This is somewhere between 6 and 12 months out from your hard-launch date. You’re on location and the details are starting to come into focus. This is a time of intense preparation and team development. Your building a launch team, developing leaders, casting vision, fundraising, serving the community and building a ton of relationships with people in the community.

3. Launch Season (Execution)
This season includes your hard launch date and the subsequent 6 to 8 weeks immediately following. During this season your executing the plan and making things happen. You’re starting small groups and serving the community. Your goal is to launch large in order to build momentum to sustain the cycle. During this season you are also identifying your first leadership resident.

4. Post-Launch Season (Consolidating)
This season starts 1 to 2 years after your hard launch date. This season should end with your plant being financially self-sustaining and the next generation of leaders emerging for mission. Your team should be serving the community and building lots of new relationships. You are also training and developing your leadership resident.

5. Reproducing Season (Sending)
This season is approximately 2 to 3 years after launch. It’s the season during which you move from 1 to 2 services or reproduce a network of small groups or missional communities. It’s the season of consolidation before you start preparing for the next launch (or missional community) and doing it all over again. It’s the season when you send out a new planter (hopefully your leadership resident) and a team to start another church.

Repeat!

I suspect that if every new church followed the 5 Season Cycle faithfully and consistently, we would get closer to a movement.  And that all starts, church planter, when you understand the cyclic nature of a church plant and embrace it.

What are your thoughts? Does this help you think about the life-cycle of your church plant in a new way? What have I missed? What have I got wrong?

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Calling Out Foolish Things Church Planters Do (And How to Avoid Them)

Foolish: lacking in sense, judgment, or discretion.

Happy April Fool’s Day! No, I am not going to play a joke on you nor am I going to perpetuate some hoax. But the fact that we celebrate the fool on this day got me to thinking. Fool

I’ve been reading through Proverbs and fools and foolish behavior are called out—a lot. This is my favorite:

As a dog returns to its vomit, so fools repeat their folly (Proverbs 26:11).

The fact is, church planters–just like anyone else starting new things–do foolish things. They’re not mistakes. They’re just foolish. And they can cost you and your team dearly.

Here are some foolish things planters do:

  1. You’re planting too soon. You know it and you’re still keeping firm to the magical launch date that you have in your head. Your launch date is arbitrary unless it accurately reflects the reality of your pre-launch project.
  2. You haven’t raised enough money. I am sorry. I wish it were different but there are some minimum fund-raising standards for launching a church. God can do anything he wants, including planting your church. But if you aren’t raising enough money and/or you’re going to launch broke then please hit the pause button and re-evaluate.
  3. You haven’t done a residency. Just because you’ve been in ministry for X years doesn’t mean you have what it takes to plant a church. The best place to start preparing to plant a church is to do a residency in a church that plants churches.
  4. You aren’t praying. Oh you’re telling us you’re praying. But you’re too busy reacting to the dumb things that you’re doing that your prayer life is a mess. Take a break. Take a retreat. But don’t make another move until you start hearing from God again.
  5. You haven’t built enough relationships. You don’t know enough people in or outside the community to help you plant this church
  6. You don’t have a coach. I am not talking about a friend who pastors a church. I am talking about someone who has planted a church and can speak into your life and help you avoid foolish mistakes.
  7. You aren’t building a team. You haven’t been able to hire staff or you’ve tried and people have told you no. The true test of leadership is to look over your shoulder.
  8. You’re not honest about our leadership abilities. You haven’t lifted your leadership lids. You know it. And everyone around you knows it.
  9. You have sin in your life and you’re not repenting of it. This is all about integrity. Leadership flows out of your personal integrity. Sin will doom you and your project.
  10. You’re not listening to other planters. You aren’t asking for feedback from those who’ve gone before you. You’re too crazy focused on your plant and you’re not listening to the collective wisdom of other planters in your area.
  11. You’re not delegating. You’re doing too much and it’s killing you because you either don’t know how to lead a team, are afraid to ask or you have control issues. inviting people to play at high level.
  12. You’re not contextualizing the Gospel for our community. If we do anything we must strive to keep the gospel relevant to the culture we are planting. You need to understand the people who live in your community—the demographics; the assets and the needs. This requires time and thinking and evaluation.
  13. You’re not resolving conflict on your team. People are getting pissed at you or others and you’re avoiding it.
  14. You’re ignoring your spouse and kids. You know it. Your spouse knows it. But you insist on pushing on. So stop it.
  15. You’re denomination is controlling your project. I mean this with all respect but top-down church planting is a relic of the past. Church planting is not something dictated from above. It’s got to grow organically.

Church planters should seek wisdom to avoid foolishness…

I do hope there is some collective wisdom in Mission Glue that you can tap into.

What are the other foolish things you’ve done or witnessed other planters doing? How have you pursued wisdom? What wisdom can you pass along to the rest of us? I’d love to hear from you.

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