I think one of the best pieces of advice on church planting success I’ve heard came from Steve Sjogren. He said “If you are a church planter, don’t so much read about leadership… just do it!! “ I agree.
I believe we all understand the importance of leadership but the truth is, in church planting, initially you don’t have a lot to lead. When you begin a church pay close attention to the quality of your execution above all else.
I believe in planning and being strategic in a big way. Planning pays off for planting, but your success is going to depend upon how nimble you are on your feet. I am convinced that most planting success comes from learning to capitalize on the serendipitous. Planting success is about creating opportunities and seizing them quickly.
I am working on a plant in Orlando, Florida as I write. One of my assignments is to find the best zip codes for our vision. This is not an easy task. I do know movement is the only thing that will get you to success. Research is vital. But in the final analysis, breathing deep and launching out there is the pathway to success.
I don’t know many people who see their actual planning documents as fully workable. Really successful leaders understand that planning is fluid, flexible. If you have a team that demands rigid adherence to the plan get a new one! Plan like a maniac, but at the same time hold loosely to the plan and keep focused on the aims.
With my first plant we actually began in the wrong area. It was a highly affluent neighborhood that had not been spiritually prepared. The principalities and powers were strong in their resistance. We just couldn’t break the 100 Barrier after two years. Then another group sought us out about merging churches. Now trust me, mergers rarely work. But in our case it was a serendipitous move that proved vital.
We ended up relocating to a neighboring suburb that was well prepared for an awakening and we saw one. I had to scrap my plan and humbly grasp a new direction for the group. Our aim was clearly to reach as many pre-Christian people as we could and see them become transformational people.
Execution is more important than planning, in my opinion. You have to at some point just do it. And be ready to correct your course. I advise planters to plan, plan, plan, and then put their planning documents aside and start DOING. I have often seen poor planners who were great at execution and have strong intuitive skills do better at planting than extraordinary planners.
Planting is like riding a bike. There is little to keep you upright if you are not in movement.
Execution has to be pressed even when things look unclear. The pieces will come together at some juncture if you execute well. Next to skills at fund raising, I think the ability to grab open doors is the most vital skill needed for successful planting.
I find that people who act in the face of ambiguity do better than those who demand too much clarity. Acting by faith means sometimes acting in partial blindness. Living with lose ends is one thing but living boldly in the face of loose ends is another. The latter is the formula for greater success.
Let me again emphasize that much of my ministry is helping teams write strategic plans. It is vital. But being a good planner will say only a little about your success. Execution in faith is the vital skill needed to see an effective plant.
Doing whatever you do with excellence and boldly is necessary.
When I was just beginning the ministry I had the chance to be part of an outreach in Germany. Corrie Ten Boom led one of the training sessions. She took out a tapestry as though we were in a Sunday school class. She flipped it around to the backside of the craft piece. There were only loose threads hanging in a confused fashion. There was no apparent reason or pattern to the tapestry. She said, “this is your life from your perspective often.” And then she flipped the artwork around to the image side and it was a beautiful tapestry of the disciples on the Sea of Galilee. She said, “This is your life from God’s perspective. Act on his view and trust him boldly and you will change the world.”
I have an extraordinary set of plans for our new plant. I am good at it. But I know as good as our planning is our success will depend upon passionate, bold, nimble execution at every phase. And success will require adjusting the course when opportunities arise. Those who plan well and work hard create opportunities. One could say that successful planters execute so well they create surprising avenues for progress and success.
What does this pattern look like:
- Work hard.
- Work boldly.
- Work watchfully.
- Seize opportunities
- Rewrite you strategic details often.
- Develop a nimble team who thrive on the unexpected.
Vital skills necessary for success:
- Great planning.
- Great boldness and faith.
- Great eyes for open doors.
- Great sense of execution. Doing what you plan well. In other words is vital.
- The ability to respond nimbly to course adjustments.
- The ability to stay focused on aims rather than just the details of a plan.
Again, Steve is right on. It’s all about DOING the work, not just planning. In fact, one is better served to be in action mode rather than planning mode if you had a choice.