Five things to expect when planting a church
A while back, I had the chance to sit down with several young adults and listen to their thoughts on the church. It was a very candid conversation. Some were faithful in attendance, while others were not. Some had rejected the church of their youth altogether. All wanted to talk. From the conversation, one clear lesson became evident, especially from the ones that attended church: We are interested in participating – not being spectators.
One of the best ways to provide prodigals a way to reconnect is planting churches that are ready when they come back and happy that they are there. I want you to prayerfully consider whether God is calling you to plant a church that prodigals can come back to. To be absolutely transparent, I have found seen it much harder to improve an establish church than it is to start a new one with prodigal welcoming DNA imbedded in it. Births > resurrections.
If you plant a church that reaches all, but that is intentional in welcoming prodigals, you will encounter the following:
*Expect resistance. I have not met many new churches (or any church plants for that matter) that have been started with complete acceptance. I have planted six myself, and I have never experienced total support from either the mother church or neighboring congregations. It’s safe to say that not only are they opposed, but they experience a higher level of opposition from church members that are concerned about music, their own youth leaving, and the “Why do we need another church?” rationale among others. Expect resistance, but it’s worth it.
*Expect lack of commitment. It’s naïve to expect a generation that has been told for so many years to stay on the sidelines, to all of a sudden understand what it takes to play the game. Most of these churches take years to develop leaders. Don’t get frustrated by the lack of buy-in. Continue to train and empower. It’s worth it.
*Expect slower growth than ethnic churches. Ethnic churches usually experience rapid growth. This is not the same in the native culture and you should not feel bad because you aren’t baptizing 100 every year like the Spanish or Haitian church down the street. I have been tracking new churches them for over 15 years and have not seen one explode with thousands joining it in the first five years. That is not to say that they are not out there, but I have not seen them. Yet, most of them have grown, stabilized, and are winning their peers who count themselves in some of the least reached demographic in North America. Keep looking for ways to do evangelism. It’s worth it.
*Expect mistrust. It takes time to gain their trust. Many of them have been hurt or neglected by the church of their parents if they ever had a church at all. It takes longer to trust. Millennials have unprecedented access to information, and believe they are as much of an expert as any adult in a particular topic. You don’t get their trust; you must earn it by having patience, deep relationships, and by backing up what you say. Once you get their trust, it’s worth it.
*Expect conversions. Most of the churches I have been tracking have experienced real, unchurched conversions – not just biological or transfer growth. Seeing someone come to faith in Jesus is an experience like no other. It’s worth it.
What do we do?
We start new churches! This, to me, is the most successful way of reaching prodigals. There are several new churches in the NAD. Here is a sampling:
This is not an exhaustive list by any means. Two characteristics are common to all of these churches:
1. They minister to a younger (although no exclusively), multicultural crowd.
2. They were not in existence 15 years ago. None of them. Most of them not even 10 years ago.