Church Planting 101: A Mistake to Avoid

Some people are hesitant to participate in a church plant because of the amount of work it takes. Sometimes you have to arrive earlier to church than you normally would, in an established church, to ensure things are in order. At other times, you have to stay after the bell of the benediction rings to breakdown all the equipment you set up. 

Knowing this, I wanted to help alleviate as many potential stresses as I could by volunteering in most, if not all areas. That way, I could preserve the life and strength of the congregation by doing my best to help them avoid burnout. Furthermore, I do not mind helping.  It is actually a joy serving in ways that are behind-the-scenes, so to speak.

The desire to serve, however, and the need to delegate can sometimes collide. At our first service, our setup team, which includes me, did not finish until 14 minutes before the service started. That gave me just enough time to change, take my seat, and prepare my heart for worship. It was a close call. I did not feel as if I had adequate time to prepare my own heart to participate in such a marvelous event as the Lord's Day service. Nevertheless, I continued. Of course I had to. I felt a bit affected, having transitioned immediately from setup to service, but it was nothing that I could not overcome.

Yesterday, our setup team did not finish until about 9 minutes before the service started. That provided less time to change and prepare my heart to encounter the risen Lord. Unfortunately, that affected me much more than the first week. From the beginning of the service, I felt like my heart was not in it. If you will allow me to be so liberal with my language, it was as if I was having an out of body experience. I knew I was there, but my head was somewhere else.

Thankfully, I was able to share these details with several men in the congregation. I expressed that, while I do not mind setting up in the afternoon, I need about 30-minutes of downtime before service starts. That will help me align my thoughts and heart to prepare to lead the service, preach, pray, sing, and administer the sacraments. Since sharing my thoughts, many of the men are willing to arrange afternoon setup differently, which will provide me with the 30-minute buffer that I requested.

Despite such hearts of service from these men, I am still concerned about creating a venue for burnout for my people. I desire that they attend our Sunday Divine Service expectantly awaiting to hear the voice of their Lord. If they are tired, it may present a barrier to them patiently listening and eagerly expecting the work of the Holy Spirit in their midst. Yes, I know the Spirit's work is not dependent upon the attentiveness of the listener, yet I believe my concerns are still valid. I want to ensure my people are prepared, both in mind and heart, to enter the presence of their God.

It seems to me the mistake I made was taking on too much in attempt to relieve any burden on the church. That means I did not delegate appropriately in the initial stages of our church plant's development. If I am ever given the opportunity to plant another church or coach someone through planting, at least in this case, I will instruct the church planting pastor to, "Do as I say, not as I did." 

A setup team is essential, and if at all possible, that team should not include the pastor. As one of my congregants reminded me, "It is not right that [you] should give up preaching the word of God to serve tables. Therefore, brothers, pick out from among you seven men of good repute, full of the Spirit and of wisdom, whom we will appoint to this duty" (Acts 6:2-3). He was not suggesting that I should not help, rather he was emphasizing that he wants to ensure that I have the time needed to prepare for our service.

I am thankful for men who are willing to step up and help where required. Although I believe I made a mistake in taking on too much, the Lord provided a congregation to help me where I fail. To the church planting pastor I say, please learn from me and do not take on more than you are able. To the church plant congregation I say to you, help your pastor and do what you can to ensure he has the appropriate time needed to align his heart on Sunday in order to prepare for the service.