We're deep into year seven at Christ Church, the church we helped plant in 2006. We are particularized, which in Presbytery-speak means we are viable. The church is financially stable, has a full slate of church officers, and is continually growing. I could lay down some pious thoughts on church-planting but here are some brass tacks that some might find helpful:
There was a plan
Long before the church was ever launched there was a plan, a literal business plan. I know that probably rubs some people the wrong way but a business plan forces onto paper a dose of reality. Why does this community need a church like ours? What will the church look like? How much financial resources does the project need and how do we expect to obtain it? These are just some of the questions a business plan forces one to ask and execute.
There was a motivated core group
We started the church with 22 people including kids but this group was committed to hospitality and the vision of the church-plant project laid out in the business plan. We knew exactly what we were trying to do though we didn't know exactly how or when it would all come together. You can't plant a successful church without genuinely joyful and giving people who are committed to inviting people into their church, and their lives.
There was crazy faith
We had five families and $10,000 in the bank when we started. It was very tight but I was committed to serving full-time as church-planting pastor. Time is the number one factor (apart God's graciousness, of course) in starting a church. We were all convinced we were in the right place at the right time so we took a calculated risk. The extra funds needed came in, often right on time and in the exact amount needed. It was thrilling to see God answering our prayers in such a personal way.
There was discipline
We are a liturgical church so we did things in a very precise manner. We learned how to sing hymns in parts which required hiring a singing coach and it took months to get good at it. We practiced our liturgy. We prayed, we made meals and invited visitors over, we feasted and worshipped with joy. We always acted like a church that was much bigger and older than we were and then we were. The Christian life should take dedication and hard work...it's our way of life after all!
There was time
Church-planting takes time. Most church-plants fail before the five year mark. There were Sundays when there were only a dozen adults in the worship service. There were months when the offering plates were slim. There was a recession that was instrumental in causing almost half our congregation to move elsewhere for work. But you have to keep your eye on the buoy in the distance. You're not planting for next month or next year. You're planting a church that one day will be just a church and not a plant anymore.
You have to press through the disappointments, tears, frustrations, and hair-raising financial shortfalls. Church-planting is not for the faint-of-heart but it is one of the most thrilling and rewarding things a Christian can do and God loves to bless his people.