Advice for Church Planters

Sometimes it feels like I meet with a new church planter every week.

Most want counsel, and I am happy to give it. But I don't think the counsel I give is what they expected – much less wanted – to hear. It's not that I try to discourage them. I was a church planter. I believe in church planting. I love church planters! I love their courage, enthusiasm, commitment and vision.

But it's as if no one is speaking much-needed truth (translation: reality) into their situation.

So I try. Not that the Holy Spirit can't do whatever He wants to do against such "truth," but I have been around long enough to observe He doesn't often go against it.

So here are twenty of my bullet points (without much expansion):

  • don't go where you will be the tenth McDonald's in a row of nine – you're not as different from other plants as you think
  • don't pick a city for its curb appeal in relation to your sensibilities, or because it's a hot demographic – that's not a true calling
  • open your eyes and own it if there are already 50 plants starting where you want to plant, and go where there is a bigger need
  • don't justify going to an area well served with new and existing outreach-oriented churches on the basis of the number of lost people in that area (that's always a rationalization to go to a heavily churched area) – if that's your basis, go where there are no new churches
  • think down the road – is there still land to be bought that will allow you to leave rented facilities?
  • make sure you are sent and called (both are important), meaning sent by a church, and called by one or more local churches (or representative of local churches)
  • don't give in to the temptation of pride or ego which may try to convince you that your new church will now bring Jesus to the city; be mindful that Jesus is already there and well represented
  • whatever amount of money you've raised, you're going to need more
  • stay true to your missional vision of reaching the lost and unchurched, instead of getting sucked up in a few months in the transfer growth game
  • you sought out pastors in the area when you came – keep those relationships alive and well and healthy, instead of beginning to see them as the competition
  • you're probably best suited to reach people in the culture you are most indigenous to – which means the South if you're Southern, the North if you're Northern, and so on
  • if your spouse is not fully on board, and ready to roll up their sleeves and work – hard – by your side, rethink things quickly
  • make sure you have a vision for the other six days of the week
  • rarely do co-pastor, co-leader structures work – determine on the front end who is going to be the point communicator/leader
  • when you think about where to plant, think about long-term growth of a city – the best place to plant may not be where the people currently are, but where they are going to be in the years to come
  • spend time – lots of time – on your church's structure and decision-making process; it's the greatest opportunity afforded church planters, and you want to get the blend of accountability and leadership freedom right
  • do not – I repeat, do not – sacrifice your family on the altar of your church plant
  • be leery of your initial transfer growth – much of it will come from people who are fleeing (wrongly), want to be a big fish in a small pond, want to impose their vision on what they think is wet cement, or are just plain toxic
  • you're going to have to work really, really hard
  • you don't have to plant to give yourself fully to the cause so be sure – very sure – that you are called not simply to pastor, not simply to serve in or lead a particular kind of church, not simply to preach, but to plant (in other words, don't use planting to create your ideal ministry situation – be called to it)

Got it? Good. If you still go and plant, then God bless you.

No one will be in your corner more than me.

James Emery White