Well, it’s been nearly 6 years since Christ Church, Santa Clarita (was Saint Andrew’s Community Church the first 2 years) was planted and it’s been an interesting journey. There have been at least 4 prior attempts to plant a Reformed church here in town over the last 25 years but we are the one that stuck. Here are some nuts and bolts observations (so they won't be super spiritual) that may or may not have any application outside our immediate context:
- Perseverance is indispensible. At the end of the day, perseverance in church-planting is an act of faith. You see, by faith, what the church could be but what’s in front of your eyes is a little, tiny, fragile, seed. Along the way challenges arise. We grew from 22 people to 75 in one year only to lose over 40% of those parishioners over the summer because of dislocations caused by the recession. It took another whole year to claw back to 75.
- Steady Growth is good growth. We’ve never had a huge “bump.” Because of this we have been able to absorb people and inculcate of our culture in them without being overwhelmed. Thankfully, we have also been able to grow our leadership organically which perpetuates the cycle.
- Business Plans are not unholy. We wrote a business plan 4 years prior to the church-launch and have referred to it and revised it frequently over the years. The plan was simple (it started at about 20 pages and is now 12 pages) and included tangible goals and benchmarks. The business plan has given us great perspective on where we came from and where we are going.
- Keep good records. We have kept detailed records of church attendance and membership. This data can be tracked and graphed. It gives one a bird’s eye view of what God has done and in the case of a slow and steady growing church, reminds you that much progress is being made.
- Stick to your philosophy of ministry. This may seem a little co-extensive with the first point and it is. While having our peculiar liturgical philosophy of ministry likely prevented faster growth, our church is extremely strong. We also have a strong identity going forward which enables further growth. Many of the churches in town that have had rapid growth in the church plant stage have had identity crisis' of various types. I can’t point to any particular identity crisis in our history.
- Force yourself love God through the Body of Christ. Our core group started with the idea that loving God in the church meant commitment. Because of that, most of our core group is still here which is very unusual for a church-plant. We’ve had people come and go who hadn’t fully imbibed our culture but one thing that has surprised me is how resilient our congregation has been when differences and controversy have hit us. This love (commitment) has enabled us to quickly move through difficulties often being able to laugh at them.
- Expect God to do great things and give him the glory. It has been magnificent watching God work through our flock. I’m amazed at times watching how our church functions through ministry and friendship apart from me. When the church first started I had to be at the center of things but now I’m quite peripheral in many ways and that’s a good thing. Jesus has healed relationships and lives in our midst and he has more great things planned.