Friday, April 12, 2013

An unsustainable plan is not a plan (if you're a church planter or will be, please read this)

It's the truth.  Don't call it faith.  Don't call it calculated risk.  Just call it what it is.  Foolish.  If this helps one church-planter, I would be thrilled.

I read a great post from Seth Godin this morning and it highlights this principle all the more.  He's talking about books and publishing.  I'm talking about church-planting.  It works for either one.  You can read Seth's blog here.

In a nutshell, here's what I did.  I bought into the notion that a big church launch is the biggest key to a successful church.  That a big launch would allow me to bypass a stage or two of development in my church, thus catapulting my new church to higher levels of effectiveness much more quickly.  That sounds great.  And it has been the case for some churches.  There are some very notable cases where this happened, but even in those cases, the launch was not the whole story.  It wasn't even the real story.  The real stories in most of those cases, was that the pastor of those churches was a world-class leader from day one.  Or that his idea of how church should look was brand new to that community.  Or that God just did a serious move in that instance for whatever reason He saw fit.  If it's one of the churches you read about in the church-planting books, it was probably all three.  There's nothing wrong with all that.  But we have to face that this is the exception, not the rule.  

I did not face that.  I thought that it was the launch.  So I built as many strategic partnerships as I could and raised all the money I could and did all the marketing and build up my team and I knew how to do.  In short, we launched a church that required about $10K-$12K per month to run but we only had a plan to sustain that for about six months.  The "plan" was, launch as large as we can and hope that it takes off quickly enough to sustain what we started with.   Can you guess what happened?  Sure.  The wheels fell off, financially, after about six months.  Less than a year in, we were changing locations, changing over to all-volunteer staff and having to face reality.

Before my wife and I got married, a prof at my college (He and his wife were doing pre-marriage counseling with Sara and I) said this to us, "If you live like you're in college while you're in college, then when you get out of college you can live like an adult."  If you don't get that, what it means is that if you live within your means at one stage of life, you will have the freedom to move on to the next stage when it comes.

I lead our church to act like we were much bigger and much more mature than we really were in the early days.  This was unwise for a number of reasons.  I already hit the financial reasons, but it also was unwise from a mission and maturity perspective. It is a good thing to work through the developmental stages, not skip them.  It is a good thing to face reality and embrace it.  In my opinion, you ought not build a grand launch plan, scramble around til you find someone who will front the money to pay for it and then call that faith.  That's what I did.

I hope you don't do that.  Find someone who will coach you through a more realistic and sustainable plan.  If you can't find anyone who will, I will.  An unsustainable plan is not a plan.  

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