5 Things Church Planters Should Avoid in Their First Year of Planting

Life is both exhilarating and discouraging when you plant a church. Exhilarating as you get ready and launch. Discouraging when you look back a year or more after launching and realizing you are not the planter you thought you were. To realize there were things to avoid.

I recently was with fellow pastors from the Great Commission Collective (our church planting network) for a sermon planning retreat. I asked what they would have avoided in their first year. The below list isn’t the top five or the best five ,but they are five things we would do differently if we could do our first year over again. Hopefully our pain will be your gain.

1) Don’t do it.

I am partly serious. If you don’t want to die to yourself, discover all your weaknesses, and be disappointed, don’t do it. Plant marigolds or apple trees but don’t plant a church. (I know there are some of you that think you don’t have weaknesses and that your church will be different, but you have no idea. Trust me, there are days you will think it would be easier to take out your own appendix than plant a church.) That said, there is grace to be Christ’s bondservant if you are willing to walk the road of suffering he walked. Look to Jesus, my friend.

2) Don’t expect you know anything.

Ask lots of questions. Then ask more questions. After that ask more questions. There is so much you don’t know after reading all the books and going through all the training. Trusted counselors that have gone before you will be invaluable. Pastors who have planted. Pastors who have run the race for 30, 40, 50 years of ministry. There aren’t many, but find them. Ask them questions until they tell you to go home.

3) Don’t do secondary programs

Less is more really is true. You don’t have the bandwidth to be a 10-year-old church or even a two-year-old church. You are a baby church. To use a food analogy, stop trying to grill steak. Pureed carrots and pureed prunes don’t taste awesome but they will keep you regular when you are just cutting your teeth. Do the basics: preach the word, welcome people well, disciple your future elders, get small groups off the ground (don’t get discouraged if they don’t get off the ground ’til year two), etc.

4) Don’t have “wanna be” father-figure leaders

For sure you want to have men who are godly examples and men who are older than you who love Jesus. What I mean is be careful not to have a leader/elder who feels ordained by God to be God’s voice into your life. Have a mentor. Choose one or more of them wisely. The best guys often are the guys that aren’t asking you.

5) Don’t ignore red flags

Don’t ignore red flags. Don’t ignore red flags. Don’t ignore red flags.

A red flag could be someone you think could be a leader but there is just something you can’t put your finger on. Or it could be a ministry opportunity that you don’t realize will suck up your time like a black hole. Or it could be the person who serves you for the purpose of being in your “inner circle.” I don’t know what your red flags will be, but I know if you take time to stop and think that they are there. In your first year you are ready to get things moving after years of anticipation. You are told to play the cards you are dealt; work with what you have. But sometimes you have to say no to something or someone that you think you need.

In your zeal, you will be tempted to overlook red flags thinking the issues will work themselves out . But they won’t.  They will consume your time and suck the life out of you.

Fast and furious tries to win the race. But, we are not called to win because Jesus has already won. Slow and steady finishes the race.  Resist the temptation to overlook red flags and us be eager to hear the one voice that will say “well done good and faithful servant.”

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