The single greatest mistake that you can make when you plant a church… Plant with an equal partner.
Seriously? The single greatest mistake? Isn’t that a bit dramatic? What about all of the other fatal mistakes that a church planter can make?
In the twelve years that I have been involved in church planting, I have seen more church plants go sideways because of a failed partnership than any other reason. I have personally been called in a dozen times to help mediate between two men who planted a church together but ended up secretly praying for the other’s demise.
Why not plant with an equal partner? Why does it not work? Here are two reasons:
1. Get ready for the split
Church Planting partners almost always start out in love with each other. Each appreciates the gifts of the other, and each is excited to have another person alongside them. The two are drawn together by a common church planting vision. But most of the time men who plant a church together only have a few years of relationship. The relational honeymoon period fades away when the pressure cranks up in the first three years of a church plant. A common reality in church planting is that two partners who were excited to plant together come to find out that they don’t work together so well. Idealism fades into reality and conflicts arise. When this crisis happens, Church Planting partnerships often produce splits that wreak havoc on a young church. Many church plants don’t survive this trauma. People hurt through this split may walk away from the church permanently.
2. Welcome to the “Barista Tithe”
Imagine a world where resources are plentiful in church planting. Keep imagining. Sorry, that world doesn’t exist. Finances are one of the greatest challenges in a church plant. In a church planting partnership, it is common for both men to raise outside support so that each can work full-time at planting the church. The goal in this arrangement is that after 3-4 years the church will have grown to the point where both partners can be supported by internal giving. The problem with this plan is that financial giving in a church plant is normally much lower than a comparably sized established church. Church plants are usually populated by young people, new Christians, and lost people – none of whom walk into a church writing large checks. New Christians have often not learned to give. Young people are still working at Starbucks. In a church plant it often takes several years to completely support the salary of even one full-time pastor. Pressure to pay two full-time pastors can be crippling and create conflict. Planting a church and planning to pay 2 full-time pastors in 3-4 years is a mistake.