Trying to please people in order to get them to stay will kill your Church Plant.
Church plants often fail to survive long-term. When church plants fail, there are often clear mistakes that lead to their demise. One of these mistakes is trying to please Consumer Christians in order to get them to join you.
We all want our churches to grow. A church plant that doesn’t grow will not survive for very long. But compromising your vision in order to grow will often come back to haunt you later.
How can you stay true to your vision AND grow as a church?
1. Have a Clear Vision for where you are Headed.
Throughout the life of a church, many people will come along who will have great plans to help you become the church that THEY WANT. Having a clear vision for the kind of church you are going to be is critical. What will you do? What will you not do?
If you have decided not to do certain kinds of ministries as a church, then don’t compromise your ministry philosophy in order to get people to stay. If instead you lead people to believe that you will someday have the programs that they want you WILL likely convince these people to stay. They will hang around expecting that you will change into what they think you should be while all the while building relationships. After a couple of years these people will leave when their expectations are not fulfilled. But at that point, their departure will be painful because now both you and they are invested relationally. Don’t ever soften where you are headed in order to get people to join you. Be honest about the kind of church that you are and are going to be.
2. Realize that Church Planting is not about Pleasing Christians but reaching Non-Christians.
Church planting is not about building a church full of people from other churches because you do church “better.”
People from other churches will often join you, but the reason to plant a church is to reach people for Christ, not to do church better than everyone else. I see this affirmed verbally much more often than I see it actually lived out. Your goal is not to attract every Christian that you can in order to build a big church. Your goal is to reach people for Christ! Changing who you are in order to get people who are already Christians to stay in your church is missing the point. (BTW, this applies to existing churches as well.)
3. Recruit Missionaries rather than Consumers.
When planting a church you are looking for a band of missionaries to come alongside you rather than people who are looking to be “fed” or have their needs met. The commitment to recruit missionaries rather than consumers might cause you to grow a bit more slowly but will bring healthy growth. For more on this read Three Ways to live on Mission every Day.
4. Don’t go overboard with your Idealism.
Church planters are almost always idealists. But don’t use these first three principles as an excuse for unbalanced idealism.
Here are some examples:
- Promising you will never own property. (Because the church is the people not the building)
- Guaranteeing you will never have a youth ministry. (Because families should be together)
- Swearing that you will never pass an offering plate. (Because God will provide without you passing it)
You might hold to some of these kinds of ideals today but may change your mind concerning some of these things later. Don’t put yourself in a position to have to publicly apologize for your earlier idealism. Instead of conceding to the whim of every church consumer or swearing that you will die before you ever do something like own a building, get used to saying something like: This is where we are headed. We might change our minds on this someday, but not now.”
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