Community of Grace is facing a crossroads of sorts. Attendance has fallen off significantly, and the leadership is just plain exhausted. We have decided to enter a time of discernment and see what happens in the next few months. If nothing changes by May 2007, we will make a decision to end the current form of ministry.
As that time draws near, I’ve wondered what things could have been done differently. I’ve been thinking that if I do this again, or even continue this is some other form, there are some things I would do that I didn’t do this time around.
Gather a group of committed people willing to help plant a church with you. When I started CoG back in 2004, I asked some people who were interested in starting a church and people did show up. However, many of them were not people who committed. That’s nothing against them, it was just this was something they were curious about, but not interested in doing this in the long term. I would spend some time finding people from all walks of life who are interested in planting a church. I wouldn’t only look for church going people, but even those who are curious and willing to stick it out in the long run.
The thing is, having more people that are church planters put less pressure on the pastor and make it a more community building event. Having to carry a church on your shoulders only leaves you tired.
Pray. Yeah, I know this sounds pretty pathetic, but I failed to spend a lot of time in prayer and I didn’t encourage those who were with me, like my co-pastor, to come together in prayer. Prayer isn’t some kind of magic, but it does keep us grounded in God and without it, you start to get really frustrated, really easily. And I did.
Have no other churches before you. Another problem is that I was still involved in another church, as was the co-pastor. It gave the idea that CoG was more a hobby than a real ministry. If I did this again, I would give up membership with my old church and focus on the new church.
Make sure to secure funds for the church. The fact that we had no way to pay staff hurt us. We relied on our denomination for money, but they could only give so much. It was also hard to get others to give, because many thought that was the denomination’s job. Evangelical churches can do a whole lot better in getting financial support. If I did this again, I would basically come up with some kind a spiel that would give people a vision and a way to latch on. A church staff does this for love of God, but they have to pay bills like everyone else.
Build community, NOT a church. One of my favorite verses is Acts 2:42-47. It talks about those first believers coming together as a community. That is what church should be: about building community. Too often we were focused on building a church, a place where people come and get a little God once a week and move on. A community is a place where we learn to be followers of Christ, not just on Sunday, but everyday. We needed to be a people who prayed together, worship together, study the word together and just be together. I’m not talking about a cult, but about trying to be the body of Christ.
Another related thing was that we were trying to do certain things that would draw people. If we used a projector…if we move to this location…if we meet at this time…all of this turned church into a commodity. We should have focused more on being the church.
That’s all I have for now, but I’m sure there are others. Stay tuned…