A church plant is an awesome adventure, an important calling, a needed endeavor, and much more. However, for all the things church planting is, there are many things that it’s not. For one, church plants are not mature churches. They often have very few resources, inadequate facilities, few to no programs, poorly performed music, and (if you are like we were) very uncomfortable seating.
The average un-churched and lost members of your community (your target audience) will undoubtedly think that all of this is terribly lame. To make things worse, there will probably be in your greater metro area at least four or five large, flashy, well-equipped, seeker-sensitive churches.
So, what are we to do? How do we stand a chance of being effective when we are so lame? I hope, in this article, to encourage you about getting past some of the perceived weaknesses of your new ministry and to get over being “lame.”
Identify What’s Controllable
There will always be things in a church plant that you will not have control over. Whether it is decor, musical ability, or sound some aspect of your ministry will inevitably start out lame. It is important then, to identify all of the areas that can be controlled and those that cannot be controlled. After you identify these areas, plan how you can emphasize your strengths and minimize your weaknesses.
In the beginning of our ministry, music and sound were real challenges. Instead of having a normal song service, we would shorten it and emphasize more fellowship time during the beginning of the service. We would sing just a few simple songs and choruses. We also had uncomfortable seating so I did my best to make my messages more concise and engaging. I poured myself into the message because it was something I could control.
In the beginning it seemed that there was a lot out of our control, but I knew we had preaching, friendliness, and a true love for the people of our community. We emphasized these strengths over our weaknesses.
Expectations Are Crucial
Don’t give the people in your community a false impression of what your church is. It is one thing to portray a positive vision of where you are headed, but it is a whole other thing to bait and switch. If people come to your church expecting to find a fully functional, well established, thriving ministry, and they instead see your church plant, they will think your church is lame.
Your website should be professional, and your tracts and fliers should be beautifully designed. However, they should also accurately reflect the stage your new church is in. Play up the fact you are new. There will be people who will want to go to a new and growing church. Let your community know your church has new people, new energy, and new focus. This is a strong point—don’t waste it.
Don’t Go Crazy
Have you ever heard the phrase “less is more”? That phrase will never ring truer than in the context of a church plant. I am not encouraging you to be lazy, but adopting the annual calendar of a church 800 times your size might be over the top. By scheduling too many functions or making them too grandiose, you are setting yourself up for lameness. Begin doing a few simple things, and do them really well.
In the beginning, your events and functions should be more personal and relational. Your events should build up—not blow up. By trying to do too much to compensate for what you don’t have you will almost always cause the opposite effect. You will magnify your weak areas.
You might think to yourself that the church down the street always seems to have some major thing going on. They are super cool, super flashy, and super entertaining. From concerts to community events, they always seem to be able to create an amazing draw of people from the surrounding area. Remember apples and oranges. You are different then they are. They have a different philosophy, mission, and mentality than you. So don’t bother trying to compete with them. Don’t get sucked into that whole waste of time.
A seeker church plant started the same time we did right in the neighborhood I live in. Every Sunday we would drive past the school they met in on the way to the school we were using for our services. I would watch as hundreds of people arrived for the latest concert or event. I would think to myself, “We don’t have nearly the amount of cool stuff they do.” A year and a half later we are still growing while the new church had to close its doors. You see, people were going to their concerts and entertainment events, but few were getting saved and joining the church.
Don’t bother trying to compete with these other churches. You are different. They are going to do what they do, and you need to just be faithful doing what you are called to do. You will appear lame to the community and your own congregation if you start trying to compete with them instead of letting God complete you.
Rise to the Challenge
As the pastor of a church plant, it is your responsibility to lead through challenges that arise. All of the lame stuff that comes along can be overcome if you will have the vision and the faith to encourage your people through these times.
It is not always easy. You must be creative, engaging, proactive, and Spirit-led. Be contagiously optimistic and resolved to see all that God has for you and your church. Constantly remind your people of your vision, and have a fun and patient attitude regarding the shortcomings of your church.
You will grow, and one day you will have all the things you thought you needed. The truth is you’re not lame now as long as you have the power of God.