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5 Lessons Learned as a Church Planter
By Dustin Neeley
Many people share in the success stories of their church plants. Many church planters are quick to tell you the great things happening at their current campus. As encouraging as those stories are, it’s equally as important to hear about the mistakes that people made in their church planting so that we can learn from them. Here are five mistakes and the lessons I’ve learned as a church planter.
1. Don’t underestimate the difficulty of church planting, and don’t overestimate your own ability.
This point is a two-in-one, because there were really two lessons learned here. Don’t overestimate your own ability. Sometimes it’s easy to think that success from your current position at a church will carry over into your new idea. Some people even have the idea that they are God’s gift to church planting and will be able to succeed simply because they want to. It’s crucial to humble yourself to yourself, to the church, and before the Lord. Remember why you are church planting in the first place. Be faithful, be fruitful, and listen to God.
Don’t underestimate the difficulty of church planting. Ministry is hard, but, in some ways, church planting is even harder. When there is no building, no money, no resources, and no people, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed by the impossibility of the task at hand. However, it is in these moments that you find your true hope in the gospel. Church planting is difficult and hard work, and the more you prepare yourself for that, the better off you will be.
2. Don’t neglect your physical health.
When responsibilities start piling up left and right, it’s easy to push your physical health to the side. You start working out less, eating more fast food, and feel your energy slowly spiraling downward. Pounds pile on, and you don’t have the energy to get yourself into shape. However, church planting is very demanding physically. It will take a toll on your body. If you’re not eating well, sleeping well, and exercising often, it’s going to be harder for you. You have to prioritize your health. Church planting is a marathon, not a sprint, and you need to treat your body like you’re training for one.
3. Don’t work all the time.
Working all of the time will wear you out. In the beginning of church planting, you may be working long hours. Like 60-80 hours a week. But this lifestyle is not sustainable. You will quickly wear out and feel drained. This will eventually take a toll on your marriage and family life. When you’re home, put your phone down and be present with your family. Establish parameters that will help you cut your work life from your family life.
4. Don’t care too much about what everyone else thinks of you.
When planting a church, it’s important to realize where you place your identity. If you put your identity into the church plant, you will succeed with the church plant and fail with the church. In order to do your job well, your identity must foremost be rooted in the gospel.
5. Don’t serve from ecclesiastical whiplash.
If you’re going to make changes within your church, do it prayerfully, slowly, and deliberately. You have to be careful about how you share this information with your church. If they feel like they are being jerked in different directions with conflicting ideas and messages, they are going to be less likely to support the ideas.