Research has varied when it comes to the number of churches planted that don’t survive. I have seen reports that suggest failure rates as high as eighty percent and as low as ten percent in some networks. Regardless of what the actually number might be, one failure is too many especially when it’s your church plant. In a recent conversation with one of our church planting residents here are several of the common mistakes we discussed.
One of the defining moments in my life took place about twelve years ago. I was spending the day with Lyle Schaller. Coming off a recent church plant I couldn’t wait to hear his critic of our church planting methods and processes. I will never forget his comment, “David the problem as I see it is most of you quick start church planter types are driven by calendar when you ought to be driven by milestones.” That one statement turned my little church planting world upside down. What I’ve learned through my own experiences is when you don’t achieve certain critical milestones prior to launch you can end up with a premature church plant with tons of unhealthy systems. When this happens your plant can often stagnate and take years to overcome (more on milestones in upcoming blogs).
Underestimating the Cost!
When it comes to church planting it most often is going to take longer then you think, require more resources then you imagine, and you are going to pay a higher cost then you anticipate. Often as church planters we are guilty of what we often call at churchplanters.com as being intoxicated by vision. When you are intoxicated you fail to listen to others, think clearly, and make good decision.
Not Taking Time Off!
First of all let’s dispel the myth that you can plant a church without paying the price. I can think of nothing that comes with a higher price. Church planting comes with a high price tag. Because of this you have to make taking care of yourself a high priority. Taking regular time off to refuel your emotional, relational, physical, and relational gauges is essential to longevity and impact. For the last nine years I have been part of a church plant that has grown from an idea, to a vision, to a church of 2000. Unfortunately I am just learning to pay attention to my own vitality. Fortunately I have a wife that has been incredibly patience and honest with me. I am yet to find a church planter worth their salt that doesn’t have to work hard at this.
Hanging on too long!
When you give birth to a new church it is your baby. The church you planted begins with a vision God put in your heart. When you first plant everything begins with you. However, there comes a time when you must let go of control and empower others. Church planters that don’t develop the skill of enabling and empowering others seldom grow beyond the core group. You may launch your church. You may reach 50 or 60 people, but you usually end up stuck. If you fall into that category you are likely hanging on to tight and to long. The most effective church planters understand the importance of raising up leaders and building teams.
Not having a coach!
Church planters are the R&D Department of our current missional movement. They understand that we learn our way into the future. As we move forward we assess our failures and successes and we build off of them. Like Churchill we understand the importance of “moving from failure to failure without losing momentum. Church planters surround themselves with other leaders and learners. I was reminded of this when Will Henderson our Australian church planter returned from an ACTS 29 learning experience where they advocated that every church planter needs a minimum of five coaches in their lives. Years ago when Ed Stetzer and I worked together on a major church planting initiative called the Nehemiah Project he conducted some research that indicated that our best church planters were involved in a mentoring relationship with others on a weekly basis. The interesting thing was at the time all of our mentoring programs were set up on a monthly system. Yet those who were leading at a higher level and having greater impact surround themselves with multiple coaches.
Take a moment and check out our upcoming Best Practice Coaching Network that addresses all of these issues and more. We are seeing phenomenal results as church planters are breaking through barriers leading to greater growth and missional impact.