10 Church Planting Mistakes and the Lessons Learned

Launch_BOOKWhen Kerrick and I wrote Launch a couple of years ago, our goal was to share the process that we saw God bless at The Journey and in countless new churches around the country – it’s a book full of lessons learned.

Some of the best Church Planting lessons are learned in the form of the mistakes made along the way. To that end, it’s prudent to listen as people share what they’ve learned in their journey of starting a new church.

Here’s a re-print of a recent post from Shaun King, church planter & Pastor of Courageous Church in Atlanta, where he shares just that:

Every day I get people to ask me for secrets and tips and pointers for things that I’ve done well as a church planter and pastor of Courageous Church.  My wife and I giggle because so many people treat us like we’re experts, but we usually feel like bumbling, idiotic amateurs most of the time!  Don’t get me wrong, we’ve done some things well and the grace of God has really been on us during these first three months, but I’ve made a ton of mistakes! A TON!

If you are as bull-headed as I am, you church planting types will probably makes these exact same mistakes in spite of my warnings because church planters are notorious for having to learn from mistakes they were warned against (and for reinventing the wheel), but you won’t be able to say that I didn’t try to help save your sorry butt some heartache.

10. I completely, totally, absolutely (did I say completely) overestimated how much money we would be raising from week to week.  50% of the people that are a part of our church are unemployed.  A huge percentage of the employed adults that attend are either in a financial crisis or are a bit skeptical about giving to churches.  We’re working on solutions for all of these things, but I made many decisions based on these estimates and soon found myself in a bit of a leadership crisis without the financial resources to support the decisions I made.

9. While I would give our team a big ‘ol A+ for creating buzz and momentum leading up to our Grand Opening on January 11th, I channeled nearly 100% our early attention to creating this buzz and gave almost no attention to putting in place the programs, systems and structures that would keep our momentum going. While I am glad that we had a huge grand opening, I regret not putting in place simple things like information cards, follow up emails, a clearly defined system for baptism or membership/partnership, etc.

8. I was told by a few gazillion people that launching and pastoring this church would be like working two full-time jobs.  I thought that was stupid.  Turns out I was a bit stupid!  I did not properly plan for just how much time and effort it would take to plant and lead this awesome community.

7. I made a few really bad hires and put some people into leadership positions that I would not wish on my worst enemies.  Because we are a brand new community, we just didn’t have time to get to know some people that we put a lot of trust into.  This is very, very tricky.  From this point forward, I will make sure that we are very, very picky and much more intrusive before we make any hires.

6. I underestimated the need for office space.  I have heard a lot of different opinions on this and regularly read that it is not advisable to jump right into having an office, but we need it.  With a family of 6 in a small urban townhouse, my home is a terrible makeshift office space.   We will still make use of public space, our house, other homes, etc., but a dedicated office space is pretty essential in my opinion.

5. I really regret not having a very clear, well conceived definition of what it means to be a member/partner of our church.  Some of this really stems from my own personal hangups on the idea of membership.  However, I am thinking that I through out the baby with the bathwater on this and we are now working hard to define what this means in our context.

4. We spent way too much money on our first Sunday morning facility.  Nobody in the world could have convinced me of this. Nobody.  Even though we have some very legitimate reasons for creating poor projections for our income, I still think that our first facility simply cost too much money.  If we were raising more money maybe I would be thinking differently, but I doubt it.  With all of this said, it was really the only choice that opened up for us in January and we had to do what we had to do.

3. We didn’t launch with a functional assimilation system that would really channel excited attenders into committed volunteers.  We are just now starting to get this together, but I think we burned out a few volunteers in the process.

2. We weren’t courageous enough and being courageous is essential to who we are as a community.  Atlanta really doesn’t need another church doing the same old stuff that reach old people.  When we started to have some stress and systems challenges after our launch, I started to fall back on default church mode and lost touch a bit with the unique call that God has for us. I feel strongly that SERVOLUTION helped us get our mojo back!

1. I wasted way too much time either thinking about & engaging my critics.  This not only got me distracted from the work of God, but really put me in an unhealthy place emotionally.  I think I was surprised that the public criticisms started so soon and regret even caring in the first place.

I hope you can learn something from these mistakes!  I’ve made more than these and will definitely make more in the future.  The key, in my opinion, is not to make the same stinking mistakes over and over again.  My hope is that making these public will cause me to fix these and move on!

These are some great thoughts from Shaun.

Are you a church planter who has learned a thing or two along the way?  Click the “Ask Nelson” button on the right side of this blog and share some of your lessons learned – I’d love to read them!

P.S. If you’re starting a new church, I’d like to give you Over $85.00 in Church Planting Resources for FREE – Click Here to Download Yours Now.

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About Nelson Searcy

Nelson Searcy is an experienced church growth strategist, pastor, church planter and coach, consulting with churches around the world. As founder of Church Leader Insights and the Renegade Pastors Network, he has personally trained more than 3,500 church leaders in over 45 denominations through live events, seminars and monthly coaching. Nelson is also the Founding and Lead Pastor of The Journey Church, with locations across New York City and in Boca Raton, FL. Nelson and his church routinely appear on lists such as “The 50 Most Influential Churches” and “The 25 Most Innovative Leaders.” He is the author of over 100 church growth resources and 18+ books, including The Renegade Pastor: Abandoning Average in Your Life, Ministry and The Difference Maker: Using Your Everyday Life for Eternal Impact, and At the Cross with the People Who Were There. He and his wife, Kelley, have one son, Alexander.

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