Tuesday, January 31, 2012

The mistakes we made...

I met with a prospective church planter today.  As we talked he asked what mistakes I had made... he wanted to learn from them.  What an excellent question!  I'm going to list a few of the mistakes we've made.  Maybe you can learn from them as well.

  • I made a decision without seeking God.  Another young church wanted to rent our building on Sunday evenings.  Because they were small they asked if they could have it cheap.  And they wanted it immediately because their lease was up.  It started out okay, but they asked for too much too soon ("Can we use it another couple of nights a week for the same price?  Can we have the key?  Can we use the sound system?  Can we...?")
    • I wanted to help them out, so I said yes without taking enough time to really seek God about it.
    • I didn't charge them enough to begin with because I wanted to help them.  It was okay at first, but turned out to be difficult when we had to start charging more because of heating costs.
    • I allowed them to have a large event there without enough of our staff there to make sure everything was okay.  They ended up using our personal instruments and equipment and allowing children into areas we had clearly said were off-limits (and that without supervision).  The necessary conversation (confrontation) afterwards wasn't pleasant.  I could've saved us all a headache had I just proceeded slowly.
    • In the end I felt just like Joshua when he was tricked. (Joshua 9)  He and the elders of Israel didn't seek God about a major decision, and it cost them.
    • After some more differences of opinion, raising the rental price and frustration on both sides, we finally came to an understanding.  In the end it turned out to be a good working relationship with them... but not without a high emotional cost up front which coud have been avoided had I taken it slower and prayed the situation out.
    • Lesson learned: Take time to seek God about the decisions you have to make.  And if you're uncomfortable about a decision there is probably a reason for it.
  • I missed opportunities that came dressed as interruptions or inconveniences.
    • One time it was a homeless person that came to our service.  I spent some time talking with him and gave him some money for lunch.  But as we drove away (and he walked away) I knew I was supposed to have given him a ride, taken him out to eat with my family and brought to the train station and bought him a ticket.  I was tired, so I passed up a God-given opportunity to minister to this young man.
    • Another time I was at the Freiburg main train station.  I had already missed the train I was supposed to catch to take me home.  Now I was hanging out at McDonalds working through my emails, awaiting the last train out of town for the night.  10 minutes before my train came I packed up my stuff to go. Then I noticed a teenager at the next table that was obviously bored.  He was playing with his phone and with the tray his food had been on.  I felt as if I should talk with him, but I chose instead to make sure I caught my train so I could be back with my family.  It was good to be back with my family, but definitely a bad choice.  I had disobeyed God.
    • Lesson learned: Never disobey what God puts in your heart to do.  I'll never know what could have come from each of those opportunities.  But I am determined to obey God the next time!
  • I didn't confront as quickly or decisively as I should have.
    • We had a very talented team member that was sort of a "diva".  Everything had to always be about this person... whether it was prayer, or it was music, or whatever.  They were happy to serve, but when they were serving, they took the most "high status" serving position.  Because this person was immature, I used "kiddie gloves" with them because I thought they couldn't take it (instead of being brutally honest with them, which would have led to quicker growth in their lives... or possibly to them leaving).  In the end, when they left I realized I had helped them grow, but not as much as I could have.  I partially wasted the time we had with them.
    • I realized I was too patient with this person, and with others.  As a leader I am responsible for helping my team grow... at times this means I need to be brutally honest with people and hold them accountable.  That's not always the best thing to do, but in this case, it was definitely the right thing.
    • Lesson learned: When I don't confront people, I am not honoring them enough to help them grow.  It shows that I am valuing their gifts or talents more than I value them as a person.  And Jim Collins writes that when we allow a person to remain on the team that is either a low performer, or has a bad attitude, it hurts the team morale.  And you lose credibility with your top performers because they can see that this person either needs to be retrained, repositioned or removed.
  • I invested too much time and energy in the wrong people because I saw their potential. 
    • We had people on the team that were highly talented, but not very motivated.  When it comes to the church, I am a talent scout... I enjoy finding talented people and encouraging them to develop their gifts and use them to further the Kingdom of God.  The problem is that I sometimes spend too much time trying to motivate unmotivated but gifted people.  I see the potential of their gifts so I work hard to bring it out.  I guess I think that if I can get them using their gifts for God they'll realize how exciting it is to be used by God to help others and jump in with all their heart.  Unfortunately this isn't usually the case.
    • When I focus on this kind of person, it ends up wearing me out.  These kinds of people are often like black holes... they consume resources but don't give anything.
    • Lesson learned: I should have looked for willingness to apply what they heard rather than ability.  I have a responsbility to invest where I get the most return.  It's the most responsible way to invest the gifts God has given me.  I only have so much energy, time, prayer, finances, etc to give.  I need to spend (invest) them wisely.
    • Jesus talks about how people respond to the Gospel in Mark 4 (Parable of the Sower).  Some reject it.  Some receive it with joy immediately, but later walk away when times get tough.  Still others receive the message, but life's care and worries choke out its effectiveness.
    • Finally, there are some which He calls "good ground".  They receive the message, take it to heart, apply it and produce fruit.  But even then, some only produce 30% of what they are capable of.  Others produce only 60% of what they are capable of.  And some produce to their full potential.  This last group is where we should be investing the lion's share of our time.
    • Some will say this isn't fair.  But even Jesus chose only 12 from among the multitudes.  And only three of them went everywhere with Him.  He didn't concern Himself with what was fair.  He knew what He was doing, and invested the most in His top people.
I hope these thoughts have helped you process some of the struggles you will face.  My prayer is that you as a church planter come to the right place at the right time with the right people to build a thriving, life-giving church.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Launch Brochure

Because we have a number of church planters asking us about how we started, I thought I'd post our pre-launch fundraising brochure. We had this professionally produced. Feel free to use any of the ideas in this brochure... just as we have borrowed ideas from other friends that have successfully planted churches.

Yes, it cost a lot to print this (the initial printing cost was about $2.00 per brochure), but one of the marketing points Robin always makes is that you've got to spend money to make money. We eventually figured out how to get it printed for less than $1.00 per brochure, but it took some research and a lot of favor with a printing company manager.

The point is that serious investors are used to having something professional in their hands to look at and think about (and pray about). The more professionally done it is, the more it captures their attention. And the more it presents us as legitimate church planters that have the ability to succeed... a cause worthy of their consideration.

No one wants to invest in a losing cause. They want a return on their investment, even if that return is souls won into the Kingdom of God and churches planted.

We ended up printing about 350 of these and handing them out to pastors and people that had the ability to give sizable donations.

Please don't misunderstand me... we handed something to everyone that showed interest in supporting our church launch. But our relatives and friends didn't need a fancy brochure to convince them that we were legitimate. They just needed to be able to get to the information, which was already online in the form of a website. We had sharp business cards printed up with the relevant contact information and website address on them.

The brochure below is just a web-friendly version. Click on the link at the bottom to download or see the high-quality version.

Click here to view the high-quality version, or right click here to download this brochure (choose Save as...)