By Scott McConnell
Most churches have reopened, but most church leaders realize things aren’t what they were before the pandemic. Churches have resumed, but what they really need is a restart.
As a leader how should you be thinking about your church today?
What should you communicate?
How should you be invest your time?
Church planters and leaders of new campuses are helpful people to learn from in a season when every church needs a fresh start. The work they do in starting something new is where the typical church pastor needs to be in their mindset and their actions as we move beyond the pandemic.Church planters and leaders of new campuses are helpful people to learn from in a season when every church needs a fresh start. — @smcconn Click To Tweet
Don’t Throw Out Everything
While church planters are known for their entrepreneurial spirit and innovation, successful planters understand their place in history. They start with the unchanging truths of the gospel and then seek to apply them to the needs of people around them. Those assessing potential church planters and those mentoring new planters stop a planter short if they lack the humility of knowing they’re not reinventing any of the important things.
This pandemic did not shake any of the things that truly matter in the church of Jesus Christ. The writer of Hebrews explains a prophecy of Haggai saying: “This expressing, ‘Yet once more,’ indicates the removal of what can be shaken – that is, created things – so that what is not shaken might remain. Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful” (Hebrews 12:27-28).
Yes, a church planter likes to shake things up, but we should only be shaking off the things not essential to kingdom work.Now may be a time to shake things up with your church, but we should only be shaking off things not essential to kingdom work. Click To Tweet
Unity starts with who we are following, which is Jesus Christ, not a pastor. The vision for your church must be about how God has called your church to follow Jesus Christ in your context. Within that, the Who is more important than the how. No new, distinct, or post-pandemic method will be more compelling than the fact that the God of the universe wants a relationship with your people and has invited them to be on mission together with Him.
Vision isn’t a statement to a church planter. It’s a passion. This quest is their calling and their motivation. According to “The State of Church Planting in the U.S.” report on NewChurches.com, 84% of planters feel a definite calling from the Lord to the geographic area where their new church is located. When they say who God has called them to reach, it compels people to want to get off their sofa and come be a part of this vision.
Vision isn’t a once-a-year sermon that’s shared and forgotten. It’s ever present. It’s repeated, to remind the faithful why they’re here and to invite new people to join. Scott Chapman, co-pastor at The Chapel, shared in Multi-Site Churches about the goal of this communication: “We needed to help our people move past their concerns and embrace a selfless vision that served others they did not even know.”No new, distinct, or post-pandemic method will be more compelling than the fact that the God of the universe wants a relationship with your people and has invited them to be on mission together with Him. — @smcconn Click To Tweet
Vision is about more than just your church. It’s kingdom focused. The majority of church planters communicate every month to their congregation that their church is committed to being a multiplying church (i.e., helping other new church works get started).
Focus on the most important things
As a church planter shakes up what their new church will be and do, they hold onto the kingdom endeavors. In fact, those are often the only ministries they have. They say no to a lot of other things they could do to concentrate on the most important things.
Some people may expect the post-pandemic church to look radically different. But it doesn’t have to. The church has always offered the unchanging truth of Jesus Christ to people who are far from Him.
The shaking from this pandemic has likely revealed three things:
- Some activities in your church have had little to do with this mission.
- Some individuals in your church you assumed knew the truth have acted in ways that show few signs of regeneration.
- Many people in your local community aren’t where your church can reach them; your congregation has little contact with them and doesn’t know how to speak to their needs.
The reality is that God’s design for the church hasn’t changed. The opportunity at this moment is to ask whether any aspects of your local church need to change to fit that design.The opportunity at this moment is to ask whether any aspects of your local church need to change to fit God's design for it. Click To Tweet
Prayer is one these important things for a church planter. Yes, the majority of church plants have a weekly time where the congregation comes together to meet for prayer.
But the importance of prayer starts long before these regular activities. NewChurches.com also reports: For new works that have a sponsor church, 86% received active prayer support from that sponsor church. Among all church planters 83% enlisted several personal prayer partners prior to starting the new church work and continued to engage with their support during the first few years.
No kingdom progress occurs without the work of God. Asking for the Holy Spirit to move in people’s hearts is one of the most important things for any church.No kingdom progress occurs without the work of God. Click To Tweet
Small groups are one of the essentials for new churches. Whether they call it small group discipling (87%) or Sunday School classes (38%), church plants invest in weekly small groups.
Numerous times I’ve heard national church planting leaders remind their church planters, “You aren’t planting a worship service, you’re planting a church.” When you think of all the things you want your church to be and do, small groups are a vital means of investing in most of them.
Unity is stronger when people are involved in small groups. In fact, Lifeway Research reported in Together: The Power of Groups that those who participate in a small group each week are much more likely to be a peacemaker at church than those not in a group (31% versus 14%).Those who participate in a small group each week are more than twice as likely to be a peacemaker at church than those not in a group (31% to 14%). Click To Tweet
Those who are involved in a small group each week are far more likely to be serving in the community, volunteering at church, and sharing the gospel with unbelievers than those who are not in a group. Investing life-on-life with a few trusted co-followers of Christ improves the walk of all those on this journey.
Evangelism is one of the important things for church planters. But another reality is that not all church plants use the same outreach activities. Many church plants conduct children’s outreach events, prayer walking, ministry evangelism through meeting tangible needs, outreach Bible studies and fun social events.
The important thing is not which methods you use, but that your church is actively investing in outreach activities together and equipping people to share the gospel with people they know.
With all of the casting of gospel seed, it is not surprising that for every five people attending worship at a church plant, one person makes a commitment to Christ (according to “The State of Church Planting in the U.S”). This is true each year for the first three years of a church plant. These numbers don’t mean a certain level of evangelistic fervor will obligate God to do the same for your church. But they indicate that when churches invest in seeing where God is working, they see Him working.When churches invest in seeing where God is working, they see Him working. — @smcconn Click To Tweet
Use Your Time Differently
The good news is pastors know these things, but there are also components that too often have been squeezed out of their own schedule as well as their church’s.
As Lifeway Research first started studying church planting in 2007, Lizette Dillinger discovered some key insights about church planters. They spend their time at the edges. Think of church leadership tasks on a continuum. On one edge is evangelism—personally sharing the gospel with individuals. On the other edge is personally investing in leaders within the church—equipping them and keeping them aligned with the direction of the church.
There are a host of other things pastors do (sermon preparation, email, going to meetings, visiting people, etc.), but those other tasks make up the middle. The typical pastor of an existing church spends almost all their time in that middle, while church planters intentionally spend much of their time on the edges.When you think about your church’s mission of making disciples, a pastor cannot do it all. But they can model the essentials. — @smcconn Click To Tweet
When you think about your church’s mission of making disciples, a pastor cannot do it all. But they can model the essentials. By personally investing in a handful of leaders, they are modeling a “span of care” that is scalable in your small groups. Those leaders invest in similar numbers and so on. The most important leaders for a pastor to invest in are the leaders of the core ministries addressing the most important things above.
To personally share the gospel with individuals, church leaders must have regular contact with their community. That may be through serving at a ministry in your church that creates this contact, or coaching Little League, or inviting neighbors over for cookouts.
Pastors can model the two biggest priorities for a local church by setting aside time for personal evangelism and discipling a small group of believers. As they do, they’ll be able to more authentically ask their congregation to do the same.
Scott is the executive director of Lifeway Research.