In a year’s time (especially the first year of planting a church), the pastor and his family become very attached to members of the congregation. When one of the sheep strays from the flock it is a source of much pain. When members who have helped you start the church fall to the wayside it brings grief to the preacher and his wife.
Some new members begin to grow initially, but after a while they fall away from the Lord. Others start to grow from the beginning and continue to grow until they become strong believers. At the end of the first year every new church is likely to experience some attrition of the initial members.
A positive aspect of the first year is the emergence of future leaders. Many times these potential leaders are right before our eyes, so it is important not to overlook them. A large amount of the preacher’s time should be spent training these potential leaders. The pastor must be careful not to fall into the trap of spending all his time solving problems for people who, after receiving godly counsel, tend not to follow the advice they are given.
The first year also affords the opportunity to go soulwinning constantly. But as the church matures, more time will be taken to feed the flock and care for the flock. Training members requires time and that time is taken from personal soulwinning. Therefore, it is essential to spend every possible minute witnessing and visiting during that first year.
The number of people attending the church may increase during the first year, but many times it is necessary for the church to grow spiritually before it continues to grow numerically. Men and women should now become tithers and soulwinners. These new members will begin to think of the church as their church, but many years are required before most members accept the responsibility and feel the same burden as the pastor and his family.
Another aspect of grounding new believers in the Lord is to train them to be faithful to all the services of the church. It is important to promote the Sunday night and Wednesday night services. These evening services should be promoted and special activities planned. Some suggestions are: preaching a series of special sermons, a special children’s night, a food fellowship following the service, and a host of other ideas should be implemented to encourage faithfulness to all the services.
As one preacher said, “There are many preachers, but few pastors.” Learning to become a pastor is essential and after one year of ministry the burden and joy of pastoring should become consuming. There is no greater title than for your people to call you “Pastor.”
The church’s reputation is established during the first years of its existence. A church that is known for poor planning, poor organization, and sloppy appearance is a bad testimony for the Lord. A church with a good reputation will always have the best printed material, function smoothly, and become known for doing things right. The attitude of the pastor will ultimately affect the members so that the church as a whole will reflect the spirit of the pastor.
There is only one first year of the church, and every effort should be made to establish a strong foundation and set the sails for its future. Looking back over the first year should bring many lasting memories. The end of the first year is a good time to heed the instruction of the prophet Isaiah: “Enlarge the place of thy tent, and let them stretch forth the curtains of thine habitations: spare not, lengthen thy cords, and strengthen thy stakes.” Isaiah 54:2