Category Archives: Church Planting
Location! Location! Location! It’s not everything, the GOSPEL is, but the location can make a huge difference for the growth of a new church. Here’s some questions to ask as you look for the right location for your church plant:
1. Do we have room to grow?
Grace Point Church in Destrehan meets in a community center with plenty of room for future growth. They use pipe and drape to make the room smaller for now.
Better to have more space that you can section off in the beginning than too little space for future growth. And if you’re signing a three-year lease, it had better be a place that you can grow toward sustainability over that period.
2. Do we have the proper government approval to have church here?
Never sign a lease until you’ve gotten complete assurance from local and state government, fire marshal, etc., that a church can meet there. We’ve had a few churches in Louisiana find out after binding agreements have been signed, that it would cost big money to bring the building up to code.
3. Is this a visible, familiar location?
If you save $300 per month on a poor location, but have to spend $500 per month on advertising, it’s not a great deal. A sign out front can cost less than $200. And having a location near a major intersection or community landmark can be a huge money saver as well.
4. What will it take to transform this space into a place of worship each week?
Can you leave equipment or will you have to store it off site? How early will we have to start each Sunday? Do I have the volunteers available to pull this off 52 times a year?
5. Where will we put the kids?
One of our church plants hit a growth barrier because we ran out of capacity for kids very quickly. Most church planters tend to under value the importance of adequate kids space. Assess the capacity – i.e. how many babies, preschoolers, elementary kids can we get into this space? What about the noise? Will the kids areas be affected or affect the worship service?
6. What about ambiance?
Does the facility match what you want people to remember about your church? I like off the wall places. My church plants have met in apartment complex offices, fire stations, parks, gyms, and homes. Our vision has always been simple, outward focused, relational, so decor wasn’t a make or break. Does an off the wall, less than appealing location match the vision your sharing with the community? Or do you need to make sure the facility communicates excellence, beauty, style, etc.?
What other questions are appropriate to ask as new churches approach potential locations for gatherings?
The difference between a new church and an established church can be described like this:
In an established church, the staff goes about their day with the mindset, “They’re coming, how do I get ready?” In other words, Sunday will be here soon. The people are coming. Let’s prepare the building, the slides, the sermon, etc., etc.
In a new church, you have to start out with the opposite mindset, “They’re NOT coming, how do I get ready?” In other words, few people know about my church. And if they did, they are not predisposed to attend. How do I get ready to bring in the unchurched in my community. So,
- We must get out of the office into the community.
- We must find ways to invite people through invite cards, postcards, signs.
- We must look for open doors in the community for relationship and influence.
- We must scatter seeds of the gospel in all we do. (Proven ways to Scatter Seeds and Influence People in Your Community)
Now, every church and church staff SHOULD have the second mindset to some extent. The church exists for those who are NOT there yet. In church planting though, you feel this pressure every day, and it is a good thing. Jesus lived with this pressure and burden to be ready to go and serve and preach to those who were NOT already reached (Mark 1:38; Luke 4:43; Luke 19:10).
Church Planters often make the mistake of getting satisfied with a crowd and quit preparing like they are NOT coming too quickly. Live like they’re NOT coming for as long as possible. The church is for those NOT here yet.
Jesus answered, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance.”
Our first Greenhouse 2.0 is a wrap. Thanks to Alan Briggs for sharing his passion for multiplication with us. A few big takeaways:
>> The Western Church is suffering from a sense of suburban homelessness, never at home in its local neighborhood.
>> We worship IMPACT, but the gospel calls us to FAITHFUL PRESENCE.
>> Do I have any long-term meaningful relationships with not yet believers?
>> Love your neighbors. Not the ones you pick out for yourself, but the ones you actually have.
>> We will reap the harvest of the habits we build into our regular rhythms.
>> Don’t try to boil the ocean, just do the next right thing.
>> What lies are you believing about those in proximity to you?
I enjoy gardening. Even though I’m not very good at it. Why? I don’t always have the time to do what’s necessary to grow and multiply plants to their fullest extent. The best gardeners know how and put in the time to create the right conditions for growth and multiplication. The very best gardeners will start with a greenhouse to nurse the plants in early stages before they are ever put in the ground. A greenhouse is a tool where you can create the perfect conditions for multiplication & growth of plants at all different stages and with various needs.
I enjoy gardening in part because of the many parallels it has to church planting and ministry. I’ve began to see church as a greenhouse – a tool to create the right conditions for multiplication & growth OF DISCIPLES. Here are five truths I’m learning on church as a GREENHOUSE:
1. Disciples must be nurtured.
Like plants, like a garden, like a greenhouse, disciples need time and attention. One of the greatest books on discipleship has in its title a reminder we constantly need – Disciples Are Made, Not Born. While we are not completely responsible for the growth of a disciple, part of our commission from Jesus requires time and attention and energy and prayer, etc., etc., etc. One of the greatest disciple makers, the apostle Paul, said it like this in Colossians 1:28-29,
“We proclaim Him, warning and teaching everyone with all wisdom, so that we may present everyone mature in Christ. I labor for this, striving with His strength that works powerfully in me.”
If we’re going to make disciples, we must expect to give much time and attention to people from sharing the gospel, teaching basic truths, responding to questions, correcting, forgiving, etc., etc.
2. A Disciple’s needs change over time.
A greenhouse or a garden is organized based on maturity and needs of the plants. Expectation are based upon time and stage of growth. Just like this, as churches, we need to provide a variety of opportunities for growth for people at different stages of maturity. And we need to teach our leaders what you can expect from people as they grow. The best tool I’ve seen that helps with this is Jim Putman’s great book Real Life Discipleship and the Real Life Discipleship Training Manual. Putman guides readers to understand where people are spiritually based upon what they say, and then how to respond and what to provide for them at that stage. (See my post Things Spiritual Infants Say for a run down).
3. Disciples will eventually need to be sent out from the greenhouse to multiply themselves.
The Greenhouse is not the final destination for a plant, nor is the Sunday worship service the climax of maturity for the disciple. Just like plants are meant to be outside, producing fruit and multiplying, disciples should be trained, equipped, and released into this world for maximum fruitfulness and to multiply the gospel in their sphere of influence.
4. Not all disciples will respond to the conditions you create.
A hard reality to face for the gardener, and much harder for the disciple maker is the truth that some plants and some people just won’t respond to the conditions you create. It hurts when a disciple doesn’t respond to God’s word. It hurts when a disciple leaves your church, but maybe they needed conditions you couldn’t provide at the time. Jesus even said that perhaps only 25% of disciples would become fruitful (Matthew 13). It’s important to remember that we’re responsible for our faithfulness, not everyones response.
5. The church is the perfect tool to create the conditions for multiplication & growth of Disciples.
The church, with all its imperfections, does provide a perfect environment for growth of disciples. A church offers opportunities to learn from those walking with God for years, opportunities to get involved and serve in various capacities, opportunities to have relationship wins and losses. These and other conditions help us grow. A lack of desire to learn, serve, love, and forgive REVEALS a lot about where we are spiritually and our potential for fruitfulness, maturity, and multiplication.
Does your church function as a Greenhouse? How are plants maturing? Are you providing opportunities for people at different stages of growth? Are you training your leaders to know what to expect as people grow? Are you moving people out to multiply in their world? Are you spending time with people that just refuse to grow & may need different conditions or to be let go?
Sustained leadership development requires intentionality. Churches stall many times because they lack an intentional plan to continue reproducing leaders beyond the core group development phase, if they do it then. Here are three questions to get leadership development started.
1. How many leadership roles have we developed?
You won’t expand the capacity of your church without a growing number of leaders. You won’t develop leaders if you don’t see a need for them. Expanding the capacity of your church requires enlarging the organization through leadership roles. Our current church plant has basically followed the Acts 6 moments in our history to start new ministry teams and thus creating new leadership roles. When we had a need arise, like in Acts 6 with the need for widows to be served fairly, we’ve created a new team. Or when we saw God giving us leaders of a certain gifting, we took the opportunity to create opportunities in that area. In 7 years, we’ve gone from one launch team, to now eight ministry teams, with leaders multiplying to fill roles required by the needs of the church and community.
Is your church setup to expand capacity through new leaders and expanding roles for leaders? If not, start with obvious needs in the church and community, and begin to cast vision for a new ministry or team or individual to fulfill that ministry.
2. How many leadership training opportunities have we promoted?
Leadership training for the church is more than just seminary training. Every church can offer an array of training opportunities and in so doing, develop a culture of leadership development. Here are a few opportunities available to all of us:
- Online training options like Ministry Grid. Training can be shared on Facebook Groups or by email. You can even do your own video training very easily these days through Youtube.com or Right Now Media.
- Invite other church leaders in your region that are killing it in a particular area of ministry that you hope to develop. Put on a luncheon after church and pay their mileage and most will jump at the chance to serve your church.
- If you’re close to a seminary, invite a professor for a day of training with your church in a particular area.
- Denominations and local Associations of churches offer trainings throughout the year that are usually free and close by.
- National conferences can be more expensive when you factor in travel, but can still be powerful events to train, equip, and inspire your leaders and potential leaders.
Plan 4-6 opportunities next year. Watching who shows up for these and takes them seriously will help you see who your leaders and potential leaders are.
3. How many small steps up the leadership ladder have we developed?
Each year I update a spreadsheet for our church called “Who Does What?” It lists everything required to pull off what our church does every week. Dozens of task go on that list. As a church planter, many of them have been done by me or by staff. But our work is to get more and more of that list, especially the leadership roles, done by the people in the church. BUT PAY CAREFUL ATTENTION TO THIS: It’s not about getting stuff done! It’s about getting people done! Giving people responsibility in the overall mission of the kingdom is a way to help them develop as disciples. Watch for obedience and faithfulness, coach and encourage, and watch many of them climb up the ladder to fruitful ministry in the church, neighborhood, and beyond. You should see even making the coffee as a sacred role that invites someone to a life on mission.
Does your church have small steps of responsibility and life on mission for new disciples and potential leaders to take this week?
Developing leaders is about offering opportunities to lead, to learn, to take small steps along the path to maturity.
Twelve Louisiana parishes touch I-20 & is home to 16% of our states population. Two of Louisiana’s nine Metropolitan Statistical areas are on I-20 – Shreveport-Bossier & Monroe-West Monroe. About 83% of the population of I-20 live in these two areas. This area is also home to around 30,000 college students each year, in four great universities – La Tech (12,014 students), Grambling University (4,553 students), University of Louisiana-Monroe (8,800 students), LSU-Shreveport (4,383 students). This part of Louisiana is more true Bible belt than south Louisiana, with evangelical populations near 50% across the I-20 corridor. But many churches in this area are in decline & in need of change to reach younger generations. Church Planting & church revitalization strategies are greatly needed moving forward. Here’s some data for us to get the strategy wheels turning:
- Population of I-20 Corridor is 737,504. Up 1% since 2010. Fastest growing parishes were Bossier (7% increase), Lincoln – where Louisiana Tech is located (up 2%), & Ouachita – West Monroe & Monroe (Up 2%). The other 9 parishes are projecting drops in population from 1%-6%.
- There are 364 SBC churches in the parishes that touch I-20 for a church to population ratio of 1/2,026.
- 47,989 residents worship in an SBC Church in 2015. Only 6.5% of the population. Worship attendance dropped by 7% since 2010. Only three of the 9 associations across I-20 experienced an increase in worship attendance since 2010 – Madison, Concord-Union, & Webster-Claiborne.
- Only 4.4% of the population attended Bible Study in an SBC Church. 32,604 residents. Bible Study attendance dropped by 10% since 2010. Only one of the nine associations along I-20 experienced an increase in Bible Study attendance since 2010 – Madison.
Current Louisiana Baptists Planters along I-20:
- Cleto Perez – Iglesia Bautista Nueva Vida – Arcadia
- Miguel Barrios – Filadelfia Baptist Mission – Bernice
- Barnabas Son – Monroe Korean Baptist Church – West Monroe
- Richard Thomas – Gethsemane Baptist Church – Shreveport
- Carranza Johns – Hip Hope Church – Shreveport
- Trandy Wade – New Life Journey Baptist Church – Bossier City
- Ivory Jackson – North Star Baptist Church – Shreveport
- Roy Thomas – St. James Baptist Church – Shreveport
- Greg Shyne – United Outreach Church – Shreveport
- Daniel Hernandez – Broadmoor Hispanic Mission – Shreveport
- Miguel Guillen – First Hispanic Church, Haughton
- Mt. Kham Nang – First Zo Baptist Church – Bossier City
1. Pray, Pray, Pray to the one who governs the nations. (Psalm 22:28, 47:7-8, Jeremiah 10:7, Acts 17:26).
2. Write notes to any local election winners pledging your churches prayer support.
3. Go share the gospel. Our battle is not political, but spiritual. Our kingdom is not of this world, but eternal. (Ephesians 6:12, 1 Corinthians 9:25).
4. And maybe go to the gym. Healthcare expenses are still going to be killer on the church planting budget. Lol!
What else are you doing this DAY AFTER?
Louisiana has 9 METROpolitan areas and 9 MICROpolitan areas. The only difference, according to the Census Bureau is proximity to a large city.
“Micropolitan cities do not have the economic or political importance of large cities, but are nevertheless significant centers of population and production, drawing workers and shoppers from a wide local area.”
These are some of my favorite places in Louisiana – Natchitoches, Ruston, Bogalusa, Morgan City, DeRidder, Fort Polk, Bastrop, Jennings (actually not a favorite place b/c they knocked my team out of the High School baseball playoffs my Sr. year. Yea, I’m bitter. Lol!) And the largest of these is the Opelousas-Eunice Micropolitan Area. It’s also the least churched of these nine as well, with Morgan City close behind.
How do you plant a church in a Micropolitan area? Well, Christ Church Opelousas is doing great job at showing us the way. Stuart Amidon is the church planter and in their 30th month of existence they have over 80 in worship attendance and are looking at expanding their capacity and making other things happen to prepare for the next wave of growth. What’s the story? What lessons can we learn from Christ Church Opelousas?
1. Keep a Positive Outlook
Stuart has a very positive, hopeful attitude. Slow growth can be discouraging and frustrating at times for church planters in small towns. Managing expectations with faith and a smile is essential for leading a church at this level, because the people see how everything effects you personally. Positive attitude inspired by a close relationship with a sovereign God is a must for church planting wherever you are.
2. Reach out to the Downcast
Christ Church Opelousas meets in the chapel of a rehab center in Opelousas, so much of their core group were people at the bottom working their way up. Church Planting works best in the well cultivated soil of people that know they need Christ and other people. Christ Church has developed out of that soil, so life change along with grace and mercy are front and center.
3. Plan on a Bivocational Approach
Stuart serves a local school. Planting in small towns such as Opelousas may require a bivocational approach. Don’t resist it. Much good comes from being in the community and one of the community, in the workforce. Bivocational ministry also forces multiplication of leaders as the pastor is not there everyday to take care of all the work of the church. And the sooner multiplication takes place the faster the church plants capacity for growth can expand.
4. Get Involved in a Good Network
Christ Church Opelousas is part of a network of Christ Churches that work in small communities across Acadiana. Stuart also participates in our Multiply Louisiana network meetings as able. Research has shown the validity of church planting networks. In the Church Plant Survivability and Health Study realeased in 2007, by the North American Mission Board, a survey found that church plant survivability increased by 135% when a planter met with a group of church planting peers regularly. Another survey of 600 church planters revealed that first year attendance was over 50 percent greater in the churches planted by those participating in a peer network. (see my post on The Importance of a Church Planting Peer Network). I like to say, one of the best things that planting a church has done for me is drive away my independence. To plant in a small town you will need others!
I’m excited about Christ Church Opelousas. Pray for them as they continue to reach out to their community. Keep up with Christ Church Opelousas on Facebook.
When I get stuck as a parent, leader, or pastor I’ve learned to ask, “Where’s the low hanging fruit?” In other words, what’s one or two simple things I can do to make a difference right now, without a lot of effort? There are usually 2-3 things that can be done, no matter how tough the project or issue.
In trying to move a church plant to break that next growth barrier, or get unstuck from where you are, learn to look for the low hanging fruit. Here’s three great questions in that regard, inspired by the Malphurs Group recent post on Maximizing Fall Church Attendance:
1) Are there any fringe attenders that we have been praying would become regular attenders?
Make some extra effort and call them and make a lunch appointment. Send them a personal hand written note letting them know you’re praying for them. And make sure they are invited to every special event or fellowship opportunity.
2) Are there any regular attenders that we have been praying would become leaders?
I’ve heard you have six weeks from a time a person ready to lead comes to your church, to the time they check out, if you don’t get them plugged in. Make the ask. Make some extra effort and find out what their spiritual gift and passions are and invite them to be on a ministry team. Or design a project or ministry to get them involved.
3) Are there any new faces checking out our church for the very first time?
Hopefully, you’ve got a process in place to follow up with first time guests. Make some extra effort with a personal phone call.
The challenge is to not put the work on them to get plugged in. Low hanging fruit can be easier because its low, but you still have to pick it. I’ll be making these three list today.
It’s that time of year again! The squirrels are out in force tearing up our landscaping, burying every acorn or other nut they can find to get prepped for the winter. I’ve heard that 25% of the nuts squirrels bury are harvested by other animals. Another 25% are never found and have a chance at becoming trees one day that provide homes and nuts for another generation of squirrels. So squirrels work hard in order to provide for their future and unknowingly provide for other animals and for future generations.
Love this as a metaphor for the work of church planting.
- Church planting is about planting and burying seeds.
- Our hard work, our passion, our rushing around should be to plant as many seeds as we possibly can in the hearts of people on our way to a healthy, evangelistic, self-sustaining church planted.
- Our own harvest will relate to the number of seeds we plant.
- As we go, we should know, some seeds planted will result in a harvest for other churches. Praise God!
- And some will not be harvested for years to come and may never connect the dots back to us. Praise God!
Don’t see church planting as primarily about you and your survival. It’s about the kingdom and the work of church planting may grow your church, but if not, it will provide for others and for the future. Now let’s go bury some seeds!