Monday, October 3, 2011

Ten Tips from a Failed Church Planter: Part 3

The last four insights I gained from my attempt to plant a church. I hope they help you as much as they have helped me.

Play to your strengths...
Only do what only you can do… This is a line that I’ve heard Andy Stanley say a dozen times. The more I get into this project the more it rings in my head. If you have accomplished item #2 you should have a group of competent people who can help you in the places where you are weak. I am a horrible administrator. I despise paperwork, making sure I get payroll amounts to the accountant, etc. but I’ve had to do it because I haven’t effectively handed it off. That means it’s usually at the last moment and I’m struggling to get checks cut and paperwork in on time. This also means that the areas where I am gifted suffer because I’m spending valuable time doing things not in my giftedness area.  Certainly there are times you have to do things because they have to be done, but I’m learning that more often than not somebody else can do them, often better, than I can.

Do your homework...
Research, research, research… I often tell people that I have made 52,716 mistakes during my first six months as a church planter.  After researching my market I did two things that absolutely failed. First I did a 38,000 call automated phone campaign. While the results were modest, I did it too far ahead of my public worship launch and was never able to connect with the people.  Secondly we had an artist design a beautiful brochure that highlighted the core values of Morningstar Church in a non-threatening way. The piece is attractive and unique in that it is 5”X 5” square…that was the mistake. This was to be the final piece of our launch puzzle. I got it to the post office, labeled and sorted in plenty of time to make our launch but the postmaster refused them because they were square and not rectangle. After two weeks of negotiating between the mail house who lableled them, the printer who designed and printed them and the local postmaster, they agreed that they should have been accepted with a .02 service charge (which we had already budgeted) and not the .20 service charge they tried to charge me but it was too late. By the time they had agreed that who was wrong, the launch date had come and gone by two weeks….I now have 14,176 brochures in boxes in my office waiting to be used in other ways.

Necessity of self-care...
Take time for yourself… Remember, these are mostly things I should have done but didn’t do. I am performance driven. I have been since I was young. I try to manage my needs to excel and my unhealthy determination not to fail, but at the end of the day I have usually worked far more hours than I should have. If there is ever a ministry where you are certain it will fail if you aren’t on your game 24/7 it is church planting. Your entire self-worth gets wrapped up in the effort and you feel like you are disappointing God, your family, the friends who gave you money and assistance and the denomination or organization that is sponsoring you if you don’t meet your ideas of success. What this usually means is that you neglect yourself, taking time off, exercising, practicing spiritual disciplines, etc. in order to make one more phone call, get out one more letter or do one more task. Church planting by its very nature is a recipe for burn out.

Authenticity is essential...
Be real… Authenticity is far more important that acceptance. The tendency for those of us who are performance driven is to give “pie in the sky” answers to questions about our work. We optimize the positive, downplay the negative and gloss over the struggles. This, of course, makes our inner struggles all the more difficult and doesn’t allow people to come along side to help. I have tried in my correspondence to my denominational sponsors and supervisors to be positive and truthful. To let them know when the frustration was building up to overwhelming proportions, to share the positives and the negatives honestly so that they will not be blindsided should things turn out poorly.

My prayer is with you as you begin your journey.
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