5 Things You MUST Do the FIRST YEAR of a Church Plant

By Lane Corley

There are different strategies and philosophies that go in to what you do in the Pre-Launch phase of a church plant. My purpose is not to give you another in this post, but to tell you what MUST happen along with the strategy you adopt so as not to derail success. I mentioned 5 Things you MUST do before you Plant a church here. Here’s my list of 5 Things for the Pre-Launch first phase of a church plant.

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1. Build Your Network.

Ended here last time, start here this time. Your support network is your lifeline. As a leader you should ALWAYS be building your network. But in the first year of a church plant your network must expand into the community. Meet with community political leaders, other pastors, school administrators, apartment complex managers, fire & police departments, business owners. Talk to as many people as possible to gather info, share about the church plant, find opportunities to serve & share the gospel. So many sound bites that instilled vision into our church plants came from these types of conversations in our first year.

2. Gather a __________.

Small Group? Yes! Core Group? Yes! Launch Team? Yes! I don’t care how many or what you call it, but GATHER! Somebody said there three keys to church planting: 1) GATHER, 2) GATHER, 3) GATHER. Whatever the strategy or philosophy, it must include gathering people together around the word of God and the mission of God. We started with two gatherings in each of our church plants. A Discovery Bible Study for seekers & pre-Christians and a Leadership Development Group that went through studies like Experiencing God and The Barnabas Factors. The two groups multiplied and played off of each other culminating in the launch of the new church. If you struggle with gathering people, then get somebody that doesn’t on your team, or expect slow growth, or consider a different role. Gatherings is essential!

3. Make it Sticky.

Our first church plant was in a community with hard soil. Gathering was difficult and slow. I had no experience or coach to help me read success or failure, so I invited a friend with experience planting in pioneer areas to come to a gathering. Afterward I ask him if I should quit and go do something else. He said, “If you quit it will be the stupidest decision you every make, because you can’t get people to sit down & shut up so that you can start and you can’t get people to quit talking and leave afterward so that you can lock up.” He was helping me see the relational stickiness of our gathered group. Several things that I’ve observed that help make new churches sticky:

  • The Gospel. One of the great miracles of New Testament Christianity was the different people groups that were brought together & unified to make up the body of Christ. It’s still a miracle today. Gather around the Gospel and you can expect supernatural glue.
  • Relationships. I love Ed Stetzer’s quip, “People are not looking for a friendly church, they’re looking for friends.” Don’t get organized and programatic too quickly (or at all if you can help it). Build in lots of time for getting to know people, being vulnerable, and caring for each others needs.
  • Mission and Ministry. Tackle a huge project that everyone can get involved in. Get messy if possible. Celebrate what you did together that you could have not done separately. Mission and ministry create a story.

4. Establish clear lines of communication.

“Without communication, you travel alone” John Maxwell. You must develop a plan for how you’re going to communicate to at least six different groups of people: (1) Support network – including sponsor churches, denominational entities if applicable; (2) Prayer partners; (3) Core Group / Leadership Team; (4) the Unchurched Community; (5) Community Leaders; (6) Disciples in the making.

There has never been better tools available for communication than there are today. Some that I’ve found helpful:

  • Mailchimp, Constant Contact, or Vertical Response
  • Facebook Groups – open and closed
  • Facebook Page for the church
  • Email – don’t neglect regular email b/c people are more apt to reply and create conversation
  • Snail mail – never been easier and more affordable to do direct mail than it is today
  • Personal notes – get some personalized stationary. The more personal the touch, the more personal the follow-up response should be
  • Texting – many Church Management tools will have mass texting tools available

The cliches about communication are true! “You can’t over communicate!” “People are down on what they’re not up on.” And you’ve got a great story to tell, so plan on communicating with intentionality.

5. Start with Integrity.

Don’t wait to establish a framework for integrity in financial, personnel, & other matters of integrity. Don’t mix personal and church finances. Get a partnering church involved in oversight. Seek accountability. Establish job descriptions. In matters of integrity you can’t hope so. You must do all that you can to protect yourself and others from temptation & accusation. To get started:

  • Open a separate checking account. A partner church might do this for you at first, but get a separate place from which money can be received and spent.
  • Use a Counting Sheet for donations. Helps keep track of cash and checks and records gifts for year-end contribution statements.
  • Get a Cloud based Church Management System. Popular ones are Fellowship One, The City, ACS, Church Community Builder. These are costly but worth it. You sponsor church may allow you to use theirs for a while. Starting out from scratch they may be overkill. Our new church has used ChurchOfficeOnline.com. Designed with smaller churches in mind. Very functional. And not near as expensive or training intensive.

Design a strategy to reach your community and DON’T NEGLECT these 5 things. What else would you add to this list?

Lane Corley is a Church Planting Strategist for the Louisiana Baptist Convention. Visit his website here for other helpful articles.

5 Things You MUST do BEFORE You Plant a Church

By Lane Corley

“I think I want to start a church one day, where do I start or what should I be doing now?” I get this question a couple of times of month and it’s awesome that so many are interested in church planting these days. Here’s my typical response:

1. Confirm Your Calling.

You can’t just “think” you want to start a church, you need to KNOW that this is what you’re called and cut out by the Holy Spirit to do. The best way to confirm calling is to let others do it with you and for you. There are a variety of sources that offer Church Planting Assessments that start online and move to an interview where experienced church planters can help you confirm your make up & call to plant. Being disgruntled about the church(es) you’re currently attending can be part of a calling, BUT should not be the only part. Planters are shaped by God. Check out my post “You Might Be A Church Planter if…” to see some typical innate qualities of those who plant.

2. Confirm Your Spouse’s Calling.

Your spouse may not be the church planter, but will need to have a sense of calling none the less, b/c so much of the early years of planting a church will encompass your home life. And your call to MARRIAGE, if you are a spouse, will ALWAYS supersede your call to plant a church. If your spouse is not on board, wait!

3. Deal with the Cracks in Your Character.

Church Planting can be like a pressure cooker. The stress and heat of the moments in the beginning of a new church will bring out whatever is in you, good and bad. So, if you’re struggling with addiction, anger, insecurity; church planting will most likely not help you in this struggle. Have a plan that includes accountability, rest, closeness to God, and emergency response by others as you feel pressure rising.

4. Get Equipped.

Read, attend church planting conferences, and seek out at least one good school of church planting or Basic Training. Listening to the podcast of a famous church planter is good, but it’s not the training you need to plant a church in a particular context. That planter is successful because of systems that are in place that you’ll never see just simply by listening to a podcast. Find a workshop type training in your area that will help you plan for evangelizing & discipleship in your context.

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5. Build Your Network.

There are very few “self-made” church planters. To be successful you will need others. Start by seeking out Prayer Partners and do this as soon as possible. Start an E-Newsletter or send personal emails to everyone you know who MIGHT pray for you and be interested in what God’s doing in your life. Let them know what you’re praying about and seek their partnership in prayer. You’ll also need financial partners, on mission partners to be part of your core team, and a network of other planters/coaches/mentors who will advise you along the way.

So, you think you want to start a church?
  • Are you called by God? or by disgruntlement? Desire for fame? or something else?
  • Who is helping you confirm your calling?
  • Is your spouse & family on board?
  • Have you dealt with cracks in your character?
  • Do you have a network?
  • How many prayer partners do you have?

And one BIG honorable mention:

  • Consider being part of a church planting team. Nothing prepares you for planting like experiencing it first hand as a team member. If you’re able, find a new church to become a member of for a year and get to know real life church planting. You can use this time to work on the 5 MUSTS. And maybe that church plant will be a big part of your growing network!

What would you add to this list?

Lane Corley is a Church Planting Strategist for the Louisiana Baptist Convention. Visit his website here for other helpful articles.