What’s the hardest thing to do as a church planter?
GIVING THE GREEN LIGHT
You’ve cast a vision for the kingdom to flourish in your community. You’ve gathered people around that vision. You’ve empowered people to own that vision and to improvise off of its loose script. People begin dreaming and doing things that your visionary mind couldn’t have even conceived. It worked. You’re thrilled.
There’s nothing more exciting about being a church planter than giving people the green light when they expect a red one. Even better is when you’ve convinced people that they don’t need to go through you, as if you were a traffic light—they can just do stuff. You’re around to help or to provide guidance as needed.
But then there are those times when
(a) someone comes hard-charging with their vision for an event, program, or ministry;
(b) it meshes poorly with the rhythms, ethos, and intentionally simple structure that you’ve established in order to support the original vision of the church; and
(c) they want you to use the Sunday morning announcement time to publicize their initiative.
MARKETING TO THE CAPTIVE AUDIENCE
I’ve been in churches in which the 4-minute announcement time before the Sunday service was the most coveted time slot of the week, and the 5 1/2″ X 8″ back cover of the bulletin was the most coveted piece of real estate in the entire church infrastructure.
Why? Because there were a thousand dis-integrated ministries and programs and events happening, and they were all clamoring for air time to publicize them. Each group or individual leading each program or ministry or event, naturally, thought that theirs was perhaps the most vital to the kingdom of God.
Everyone doing their own thing. Everyone insisting that the pastor and staff support and promote their thing. People not taking their own initiative and building something organically. People using the church mailing list and the captive Sunday morning audience to market their thing.
ALIGN IT OR AXE IT
What I’ve learned is that a church planter’s vision must be cast, sure. But perhaps even more importantly, the church planter needs to be incredibly clear and simple about the structures that are in place to enact that vision. Most importantly of all, the church planter needs to get over his people-pleasing self and insist that any fantastic ideas that will be supported and publicized by the church as a whole fit squarely within those simple structures of ministry. Otherwise the time, energy, passion, focus, and follow-through that are required to enact the church’s vision through the church’s simple structures will be diluted through the dozens of events, activities, programs, and ministries that begin to compete for your people’s commitment.
All this to say, one of the hardest things you’ll need to do is to kindly tell a hard-charging visionary who wants to use the mailing list and the bulletin and the announcement time to publicize their “thing” … no. Or maybe not always no. But at least you’ll need to be brave enough to explain to them that people’s time and energy are finite, your church structure is simple and is demanding of people’s time and energy, and that they might need to reconsider how the ministry goals they’re wishing to pursue might be accomplished within the simple structures that you’re committed to sticking to.
The next-to-last thing you want to do is to throw cold water on someone’s passion for a kingdom-advancing ministry.
The dead-last thing you want to do is to undermine your church itself, and dissipate its focused, kingdom-advancing power, all because you want people to like you so badly that you cough up your mailing list and bulletin space to every person with an ill-fitting ministry idea.
Keeping things simple means saying “this doesn’t fit” or at least “this will need to conform to our simple structure in order to go forward.” It’s a hard thing to say, but the effectiveness of your church plant as a kingdom force depends on it.
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