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What Church Plants Get Right: 3 Lessons Every Church Should Learn

I’m now at the age where my kids are better at technology than I am. They can click, point and scroll at a rate I can barely comprehend. (It seems like only yesterday, I was the young wiz programming my parent’s VCR.)

This new phase keeps me humble and allows me to learn from those who are coming behind me. These are good things.

This attitude of humility and curiosity is a good lesson for all church leaders. We need to keep learning from the church planters who are coming behind us.

Here are three key lessons we can learn from church plants:

1. Be More Relational and Less Transactional

At Intentional Churches, we value systems and processes. However, we believe they should enhance our interactions with people.

When starting a new church, planters intuitively prioritize conversations and actively listen to people. They schedule breakfasts, coffees, and lunches to get to know individuals on a personal level.

How does your church connect with people individually?

Church work is not primarily about conducting services, classes, and meetings. It’s about building genuine relationships with real people.

Although it may feel strange to adopt such a personal approach, remember it is the method that Jesus used to start a movement.

Depending on the size and age of your church, it may take some adjustment, but it’s worth it to prioritize building relationships over just completing transactions.

2. Choice is a Barrier

Church plants have a great characteristic of simplicity. They prioritize their mission and do not offer numerous programs that can be confusing.

As churches grow older, they tend to add more programs and opportunities, assuming that people want choices. However, people actually want direction and a clear path to follow on their journey with Jesus.

In today’s noisy landscape, people are bombarded with countless marketing messages and are easily distracted and fatigued. To avoid contributing to their mental exhaustion, it’s best to avoid presenting them with a “Cheesecake Factory” menu of options.

Has your church unwittingly created a barrier with all the choices you offer?

Learn from church planters. Give people clarity and direction.

3. Activate the ONE Aware Filter ASAP

The ONE-Aware Filter is about being biased towards those not yet connected to Jesus or his mission.

Church plants tend to do this naturally, as they invite friends, families, and coworkers to join them on their journey with a youthful vitality that creates the common energy of connection.

In established churches, the focus on keeping the “wheels on the bus” can distract from inviting new people on the journey with Jesus.

If you are leading in an established church, how are you leading and equipping your congregation to remain focused, or to refocus, on the ONE?

A story from Jesus’ life demonstrates this principle:

“The next day, Jesus decided to leave for Galilee. Finding Philip, he said to him, ‘Follow me.’
Philip, like Andrew and Peter, was from the town of Bethsaida. Philip found Nathanael and told him, ‘We have found the one Moses wrote about in the Law, and about whom the prophets also wrote—Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.’
‘Nazareth! Can anything good come from there?’ Nathanael asked.
‘Come and see,’ said Philip.” (John 1:43-46)

You see it, right?

Phillip just started following Jesus, and he already knows the ONE (Nathaniel) he will invite to join him.

One Final Thought

One of the keys to being an effective church leader is to remain hungry AND humble. In other words, be obsessed with the mission of connecting people to Jesus and be willing to learn from others on this journey, especially those coming behind you.

If possible, schedule a time to connect with a church planter. If no one is in your area, have a virtual coffee meeting. Lead with, “I just wanted to learn from you. What are you finding to be the most effective thing in your ministry right now?” And close with, “Is there anything I can do to help you right now?”

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