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View Church Planting Mistakes

Church Planting Mistakes

Mike Brown, Director of Church Planting, Northwest Conference of the ECC

1.  Too little time spent developing a core group or launch team.
•  You can never have too many people in the core group or launch team.
•  Host lots of dessert meetings, dinners, lunches, coffee meetings, informational meetings, especially in the early stages.  You can’t over-communicate the vision God has laid on your heart. 
•  Many people will need some one-on-one time with the planter before committing to this new church.
•  Moving too quickly into weekly worship can stunt the growth of the new church.
•  Allowing controlling or needy people to take over the core group can cause the new church to lose sight of the original mission and vision.

2.  Not following the plan.
•  Follow the schedule you set.
•  Don’t give in to the pressure to begin worshipping on Sundays ahead of schedule, no matter how hard your launch team lobbies for it.
•  Host as many events and meetings as you possibly can.  Get creative.
•  Have a crystal clear ministry plan in place as you move forward or you will wander and get lost.

3.  Neglecting to clearly define mission, vision and values.
•  Always have a strong Biblical basis for everything you do.
•  A vague idea of what you hope to do is not adequate.  Your God-given dream must be clear and understandable.
•  A key question to ask is: “What will this new church look like?” or “Who are we as a church?” 
•  How will we know if we’re on track?  There must be some way to determine if your church is still moving in the right direction.  Acts 2 offers several benchmarks.
•  Filter every decision through the mission statement.

4.  Underestimating Spiritual Warfare.
•  Prayer is not preparation for battle, prayer is the battle.
•  The evil one doesn’t want you to succeed.
•  The evil one will try to distract, confuse, or derail you with an endless array of activities or options along the way to starting this new church.  Not listening to God and taking a fork in the road will result in a crash.  The evil one is subtle, he rarely comes at you in his red jammies holding a pitchfork in a full frontal assault. 
•  Prepare yourself for criticism.
•  Two other key ways that spiritual warfare is waged are through leaders becoming prideful and stubborn.  Both of those attitudes will destroy community.  The Bible says that God hates both of those attitudes.
•  Don’t forget to lean into God’s power and stay dependent on Him…especially when things seem to be going well!
•  Develop strong dependency on prayer throughout the church.  A church community is built on its knees.

5.  Ignoring the needs of your family and friends.
•  It’s easy to get so wrapped up in doing this new work that we forget that our first mission field is at home.
•  God gave you key relationships in your life and it’s critical you keep them in the proper order.
•  You will be completely ineffective if your own house is not in order.
•  You will lose your passion for this new work if you are fighting battles at home.
•  Isolation opens the door to moral failure.

6.  Ignoring your personal relationship with God.
•  Church planting is first and foremost a spiritual exercise.
•  Read, meditate on and memorize God’s Word.
•  Receive forgiveness…you will need it.
•  Listen to the Spirit and follow His leading even when it’s risky, scary, or seems a little on the edge. 
•  You can’t take the church anywhere you haven’t been yourself.
•  While you may have a vibrant relationship with God, it’s easy to let it slide in the busyness of doing church.
•  Remember the Sabbath.
•  Get away and be quiet so you can hear from God.  This world is a noisy place.


7.  Not taking care of your personal well-being.
•  Dr. Bobby Clinton, professor of leadership at Fuller Theological Seminary says, “Many start well, but few finish well.”  Don’t be one of the casualties.
•  Be careful not to rationalize behaviors that can end your ministry.
•  Work on maintaining emotional health by loving, giving, and resting. 
•  Take care of your physical body.  You can’t lead if your body is fighting you.
•  Get adequate sleep and down time.
•  Protect your personal and family time.  Build a wall around it.
•  Be a life long learner…you’re not that smart.  Don’t start believing your press clippings.

8.  Not developing relationships with the other churches in your community.
•  Talk to all the pastors and meet with them regularly to pray for their churches and ministries.
•  Assure the other churches in the area that you are not into “stealing sheep”.
•  Partner to do Kingdom work with other area pastors and churches.
•  Share your passion and vision with the other pastors in the community. 
•  Pray each week in your worship time for the other churches in your community.
•  Develop strong relationships with the other Covenant Churches in the area. 

9.  Keep working on Agenda Harmony.
•  Focus on being a healthy church.
•  Spend lots of time as a church being quiet and listening to God.
•  Practice being a church that admits that it’s only by God’s grace that any of us can gather.  Fight legalism and the urge to pretend. 
•  Be authentic.  Nothing creates tension faster than phoniness.
•  Nothing will derail a church faster than competing agendas.  Lead when necessary, listen when you should.
•  Recognize when there seems to be a drift in the focus of the church and address it.
•  Prepare yourself for criticism.  Receive the loving, honest critique of friends, but reject the legalistic, divisive, gossipy critique of those who can’t get along unless things are done their way.
•  If you’re a strong, visionary leader prepare to be called a control freak, manipulative, a dictator, or worse, by those who have agendas not in harmony with the church.
•  Vision leaks…repeat it at every opportunity.
•  Don’t compromise on key values.
•  Work with those who don’t seem to be on the same page, but don’t be afraid to invite people to move on if they can’t get on board with where the church is going.

10.  Develop key leaders.
•  You can’t do it all.
•  You shouldn’t be doing it all.
•  You aren’t gifted to do it all.
•  Ephesians 4:11-12 tells us our job is to equip God’s people for works of service. 
•  God has gifted others to lead in various areas…let them.
•  Offer training to those who have gifting and potential.
•  Learn to let go.
•  This isn’t about getting from point A to point B as fast as you can.  It’s about taking as many people with you as possible on the journey.  To do that you will need a team.

11.  Not making evangelism a priority.
•  Remind yourself continually that this is about a relationship with Jesus first and foremost. 
•  You must lead by doing evangelism yourself.
•  You might not have the gift of evangelism, but you are called to do the work of evangelism.
•  Teach others how to love and care for others.
•  Teach your people how to share their personal stories of faith.
•  Don’t stop doing the things that got you started.
•  You can’t build a strong church without seeing people come to faith and grow in that faith.
•  Focus on holistic evangelism…we’re called not to make converts, but disciples.  Make sure your church is ready for new believers.
•  Be intentional as a church about spending time with those who don’t know Jesus yet.  Get out and worship by serving others, loving, and giving yourselves away.
•  Establish from the beginning a culture that places a priority on others and not on meeting the needs of those already there. 
•  You can’t build a healthy church by “shuffling the sheep.”  The majority of growth should come from people who are new to church.

12.  Not addressing the issue of money.
•  Don’t obsess about it, but talk about it early and often.
•  Let people know what it takes to do church and live in community.
•  Find someone to handle the finances as soon as possible. 
•  You need to become self-supporting, so communicate the need.
•  God has promised blessings surrounding how we handle our resources…don’t let your church miss out on a blessing God wants to give them. 
•  Make sure the church doesn’t miss a blessing by honoring the church’s giving commitment to the denomination and the conference. 
•  Model faithful giving as a church family.
•  Give and support missions from day one.

13.  Letting mediocrity slip in.
•  Always bring in the best leadership for worship, etc. that you can find.
•  Buy the best sound equipment you can afford.
•  God doesn’t ask us to be the best, but to give Him our best.
•  Time is short.  Go for it with a passion.

14.  Staffing without a careful plan.
•  Don’t hire staff when volunteers can do the job…you steal an opportunity for someone to serve. 
•  Be careful in handing out titles.  Not everyone is ready for leadership. 
•  Never place people who are deeply wounded in any position of leadership. 
•  Always set clear time limits on positions of volunteer leadership.
•  In key areas, hire the best person you can find.  Spend as much as necessary to hire people more gifted than you.
•  Hire generalists first and then specialists as growth and finances allow.
•  As one pastor wrote, “Hire slowly, fire quickly.”  Don’t allow a bad fit to become a divisive situation.  Lovingly confront, correct, and if necessary let them go.

15.  Not asking for Commitments.
•  Don’t be afraid to ask people to join you.
•  Ask for big commitments.
•  Invite people to dream big dreams and walk with you on a God sized adventure.
•  Get people used to taking a “leap of faith.” 
•  Write budgets that are only possible if everyone steps out in faith.
•  Focus on what God can do, not what you can’t.
•  “You have not, because you ask not.”

16.  Forgetting the Mission.
•  Build intention from the beginning for your church to plant more churches.  Set time frames and stick to them.
•  Meet the community, visit local government, schools, police, fire departments and drop in on local business leaders.  Find out what the needs are in your community and then select a couple that God has uniquely equipped your church to meet.
•  Be an active part of your community.  If your church were to close would anyone grieve? 

17.  Allowing breakdown in communication.
•  Share what God is doing constantly.
•  Celebrate what God is doing each week.
•  Recognize volunteers often and publicly.
•  Meet often, not to conduct business, but to talk and share what God is doing, how He’s leading, and what others are hearing from Him.
•  Share stories of what God is doing with the local media. 
•  Create a way to dialogue with your leadership on a regular basis (at least once a week)
•  Communicate frequently with the local Chamber of Commerce, Service clubs, etc. and see if you can partner with them on projects.

18.    Not celebrating the wins.
•  Publicly celebrate every time a life is impacted.
•  Find time to celebrate as a staff.
•  Publicly recognize your volunteers and do it often.
•  Have fun!
•  Play together.
•  Be the church where good things are celebrated.
•  Look for the God-cidents that happen every day.
•  Give God the glory every day.

19.    Making poor decisions in structuring the new church.
•  NOT BUILDING ADEQUATE PRAYER SUPPORT!
•  Trying to plant in the wrong location.  Just because you have a passion for a neighborhood or community doesn’t make it the right place to plant.
•  Picking a church name that is overly cryptic, or that communicates something you weren’t really trying to communicate.  Don’t try to be too cute.  It’s better to clearly communicate.
•  Using overly churchy language as you try to reach out.  The Christian community has it’s own sub-culture and language that most people don’t understand so don’t use it. 
•  Not having adequate children’s ministry from the beginning.
•  Not placing adequate emphasis on evangelism.
•  Placing the wrong people in leadership.  Go slow…and be careful who you entrust with leading this new baby church.
•  Expecting your coach to do things for you.  You were called to plant, your coach is called to coach you as you walk through the process. 
•  Developing a vision that appeals only to people who are already believers.
•  Trying to be just like some other church.  Imitation may be the most sincere form of flattery, but in church planting its suicide.  Be who God is calling you to be.
•  Not understanding the people you’re trying to reach.  You can’t reach everyone, so know who it is you can best reach and then go for it.
•  Not dealing with conflict.
•  Trying to be too edgy or innovative.  This may seem “cool”, but it will make things unnecessarily complicated.
•  Too much time planning and not enough time doing.
•  Trying to start too small or without adequate resources.
•  Having the lead pastor not commit adequate time to the new church during development.


Avoiding these mistakes can simplify new church development and may allow you to be a part of a healthy, thriving new church plant.  Don’t neglect the details.  God has called you to lead, pastor…so lead. 


Category:Fruitfulness - Years 2-3

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