4 Things You Must Do for Your Church Plant to Grow

A church plant is a Kingdom startup, and like all startups, it runs on momentum. To succeed, you must keep moving, and moving in the right direction. There are things you can do as a leader to generate and sustain momentum, and there are also things that, if left unchecked, will sap your momentum.

Here are 4 key do’s and don’ts for maintaining momentum in your church plant. If you would like to read more about planting and building a Spirit-filled church, check out my book The Encounter Based Church.

1. Build excitement and momentum. Churches grow because they have momentum. They are doing stuff that people want to be involved in. People are getting saved, healed, and delivered. They are encountering God through worship. Exciting things are happening that make people want to get in on the action.

A key to getting a church plant off the ground is to host parties, pre-launch events, and other activities that generate excitement and publicity. At our most recent church plant in Kansas City, our lead pastor David Perkins cast a vision that people could really grasp. We marketed to the community we were targeting, and also held events where interested visitors could come. As a result, we opened our doors at 500 attendees and only went up from there. Don’t be afraid to use “secular” methods of marketing to communicate your vision and excitement. As Paul says, “How will they believe if they have not heard?” Your role is to get the message out, so that people can come and encounter God.

2. Don’t confuse followers with ministry recipients or friends. To successfully plant a church, you need to build on your followers: people who are excited to build the vision with you.

Many leaders with a pastoral gift mistake ministry or friendship for followers. Ministry is when you are coming alongside someone, adapting yourself in ways that create relationship so they will be open to truth. Those you are pastoring are generally not following you, they are receiving ministry from you. Friends are those who like you and enjoy your company. The other person appreciates who you are, and you appreciate things about them. Friendship is fundamentally a relationship of equals. If you try to force a friendship into a leader-follower dynamic, you may end up losing your friends.

To build a church, you need to build on your followers: those who will follow your lead because they respect you. Jesus did not chase His followers – He invited them to “Come follow me.” As a leader, you need to stay focused on your goal and continually invite others to join you.

3. Stay positive. Avoid conflict when possible. The best way to head off most problems and problem people you will encounter in planting a church is to simply ignore them. Giving any energy to them just feeds a fire. Instead, focus on building a culture of positivity. Proactively create an environment of openness. Oftentimes, people resort to backbiting and gossip because they don’t feel like they have a channel to communicate grievances. If they feel comfortable sharing their concerns with you directly, they will be less likely to vent their frustrations with others. Even when you do get attacked, resist the temptation to escalate the conflict by gathering your own band of supporters, or preaching a Sunday sermon on gossip, for example. Most conflicts will fizzle out on their own if you stay positive and refuse to take the bait. Most people who cause problems will eventually disappear if you don’t try to “fix” them. They will be just as happy as you are to avoid a blow up and all of the drain it occurs.

4. When necessary, face a conflict head-on. Be positive but firm. Sometimes conflict is unavoidable. In such cases, it is important to excise the cancer. To build a church you want people who are pursuing God. These are the only people you can actually help. People who are actively destructive and want to stick around will hurt your sheep and slow you down a lot. Helping these people to exit gracefully is one of the arts of a great pastor. The memorable story of one of America’s most famous pastors goes that when he reached the end of the line with a particular person, he put his arm around him and said, “John, I’m resigning as your pastor today.” Both of them understood that the pastor was not going anywhere, but was artfully asking that difficult man to leave.

If you’ve found these principles on church planting helpful, you may want to read my book The Encounter Based Church. In it I go into much greater detail on how to grow and build a Spirit-based church.

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5 Comments

  1. Hey Will, I appreciate your comments. They seem to really come from your perception of past experiences. However, I find them pretty surfacy. Churches don’t grow because of momentum, they grow because God ordains it. I think we need to change the score card regarding what good healthy growth looks like. With this comment, I’m assuming your referring to numerical growth. A HUGE misconception of church leaders is because a church isn’t growing numerically they assume it’s not growing. I promote organic growth that starts within the heart of the individual, developing a burden for the lost and supernaturally loving unlovable people. The church will grow eventually. Also, there are usually stages of growth within a church just like any living organism. The church may go through a season of character growth before the Lord Jesus adds to them.

    I’d also like to know your references for the “Apollos principle”.

  2. Rusty,

    Thanks for reading and your comments. We’re not obsessed with numerical growth here ourselves, but part of the internal growth process is stating what you are learning. These are learnings/reflections on my experiences and readings. Apollos principle is discussed on p32-33 of “Church planting landmines” and drawn from Acts 18:24-26.

    I don’t think we should look at it as if God “ordains” it in a sense that is passive on our part. He gives us plans, wisdom and the Holy Spirit. They grow because of what we are doing with them. You could come up with a more spiritual term for what I have called “momentum” but it’s a real phenomenon. People come because something is going on that they want to be a part of. That something includes God showing up at your meeting, you doing outreaches, etc.

    I do agree, however, that growth starts inside of individuals and then teams. If you count church growth in terms of salivations, though, most churches, regardless of attendance only have a few people in them. A new “church” is a combination of Christians who are excited about and growing from what you are doing, and hopefully lost people that you are bringing to Christ.

    Do you have church planting experience yourself?

    1. Hi. Just noticed your reply here today. Yes I’ve been involved as part of a team of church planters in the Chicagoland area. I understand where you are coming from. Thanks for posting your insight and what you are learning. I think it would be of great help to others in church planting efforts.

  3. hi, i stumbled into this blog a couple months ago and have casually visited since. just wanted to say that i think it’s great. this post in particular is fantastic. been church planting for 5 years and can personally testify that each of these principles are true. keep up the good stuff!

  4. ThinkingRiddles,

    I really enjoy your comments (as well as the others that respond)and I’m thrilled with the theology that you are writing of. I would love to read more of your insights.

    Mitch

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