I’m a church planting dummy. I’ve never read a book on the subject. I don’t think that this is a great boast. Church planting, if you enjoy people, understand something of the dynamics of church leadership, and love the Lord and His Word, isn’t the darkest art which needs endless learning and training.
I’ve certainly made mistakes, and would do some things differently if we were starting over again. But here are ten thoughts, in no particular order, which have come to me as I’ve been thinking over the last two years.
1. Never apologise for your plant, but never antagonise as you plant. We know who we are, and why we’re here. That doesn’t mean that we have to be exclusive and reclusive. We want humility and openness to mark our endeavours.
2. Keep it local. The Allens are the only incomers in our situation. Other than us, the church has ‘made in Huddersfield’ running through it. We love it being that way.
3. Don’t fudge doctrine. Noone is served if you’re not clear from the outset the sort of truths you’re building on. Evangelicalish ‘mush’ which steers clear of reformed and evangelical distinctive beliefs won’t make a strong foundation for a real work of God.
4. Establish the shape of your core activities as soon as possible. We prioritised mid-week prayer and two Sunday worship services pretty much from the outset.
5. Refuse to be trendy. Be innovative, and have no sacred cows; but trendy? Never! The only people who can’t see your attempts at grooviness is you.
6. Identify co-workers as soon as it’s feasible. We are so blessed in being able to have two Apprentices, and two Elders alongside me. God raised them up – we simply said ‘yes please!’
7. Establish who you are, why you’re here, and the difference you wish to make. Our Vision document, with our distinctives, priorities, and the shape of the next three years, has been a great help to the life and work we’ve begun.
8. Aim to plant. We’ve got different local places and their needs in our prayers, and plan to make moves to plant in the next two to three years.
9. Refuse to spend endless time raising funds before you get started. What is enough money to start a church plant? That depends on how urgent you think the work is. Anyway, people will always give to where they see the Lord at work. It’s very hard to encourage giving to a vision for what the Lord ‘might’ do. Get started, then get asking.
10. Think strategically about your own ministry context. We’ve put huge amounts of time lately into plans for revamping a town-central retail space to serve the Gospel. That’s one of our strategic investments which makes perfect sense in our situation, and it serves our vision perfectly.
Is this good enough for dummies? Maybe you could be one!