If I could train church planters, this is what I would teach them:
-Learn to listen to people. Listen more than you talk. Listen to understand, not to respond.
-Listen to the stories of people who have suffered. Listen to the stories of people who have suffered at the hands of the church. This is your training ground.
-Talk to people who have lived in the city for a long time. Talk to those who have regular contact with unbelievers. Talk to those who know the lay of the land regarding churches. Talk to those who have a handle on what people really need rather than coming in with your own assumptions.
-You are planting a church. Get a clear idea of what a church is. This is not a missions organization. This is not a soccer team. This is not a seminary. This is not the army. This is a church. A church is for the care of the believers. The church is the hospital. If you dash out of the gate to rake in large numbers of unbelievers without having established a church, you are courting disaster. It is like running to the battlefield and dragging the injured to the site where you plan on building a hospital some day. It does them no good. Think of how you are going to care for all those people who you want coming in your doors. If you haven’t a clue, then stop what you are doing and become equipped.
-Know what you can and can’t offer. Know the local resources. The homeless shelter. The domestic violence organizations. The substance abuse programs. The mental health resources.
-It does way too much damage for someone with needs, be they spiritual or physical or emotional, to come to the church in hopes of finding care, only to discover that the church has no idea whatsoever how to help you and they may even think that isn’t their job. People's needs don't get in the way of ministry. They ARE ministry.
-Beware of false advertising. Don’t tell people all the things the church will do for them and be for them once they are a member and then not follow through.
-Because all of your pastors and church planters and elders are men, take special care to focus on the needs of the women. It is natural for men to be more comfortable with other men. And I know you are cautioned out the wazoo about not being in compromising situations with the opposite sex. But you have to understand that all this discomfort and all this caution, in practical language, means that women are not getting the attention and pastoral care that they should. They are also not being heard and their wisdom is not being mined the way it should. If you feel you must have another person with you when you meet with a woman, make sure you still focus on her and not the other person. If you meet with a couple, don’t just talk to the man.
-Be careful with your authority. Be careful with how you leverage it. You are not their ruler. You are their pastor. Their shepherd. Their servant.
-Welcome questions. Know that you don’t know everything and take the posture of a learner.
-Learn to take feedback without becoming defensive.
-Don’t be afraid of people who have had bad church experiences. These people aren’t the enemy. They very well may have learned a good deal about what makes and breaks a church. Learn from them.
-Be careful that you don’t treat those in your congregation like cogs in the wheel. Their value is not in their production. Their value is in being created in the image of God.
-Watch out for numbers. Any time you put a numerical goal on your ministry, you turn people into products.
-While I am sure that you are all well versed in theology, do a deep dive into the issues that impact the lives of your people. Become trauma informed. Learn the dynamics of abuse. Know the difference between a hard marriage and a destructive one. Don’t assume all struggles are “just a sin problem.”
-Let your people have their time together. Do not try to impose an agenda on every get together. “Just hanging out” is important, especially in a culture where people are so separated from one another while working from home, etc. That building of community is important. Even if they aren’t reading the Bible every time. Even if they aren’t praying every time. Being together while not performing or being evaluated is holy ground. People desperately need it.
-Respect people’s opinions.
-Be careful about imposing templates on things because it is easier. People don’t fit always fit inside the cookie cutter. A cookie cutter approach can sever important limbs.
-If you feel you need to bring the hammer down on the congregation, do it gently and do it in a place other than the worship service. Nobody is going to want to bring an unbeliever to church if they never know when they are going to get slammed by the pastor in a sermon.
-Know your audience. Prepackaged sermons can do tremendous damage in the wrong context.
-Watch out for the game plan. God’s agenda may be different than yours. It’s ok to be feeling the way along as you go.
-If your church is to be congregationally governed, then let the congregation do some governing. Beware of wanting to have complete control of everything.
-Seek out the marginalized. It might be tempting to draw only those like you and cool into your inner circle but you can learn a lot from those who get left out. Jesus is there with them.
-Before you jump into ministry, deal with your own junk. Know yourself, your bent, your personality, your insecurities. Deal with your past. Address any trauma. I think anybody who is going to do important Kingdom work should spend some time in therapy with a licensed professional counselor. Consider having a psychological evaluation. Know this: your unaddressed past will affect your ministry.
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