Wednesday, May 05, 2010

The Transition From Church Staff to Church Plant

Looking through the window at one of our Saturday Night Services
So, I am about 5 months into doing this church planting thing full time.  One thing I had not anticipated was just how different planting a church was going to be from being on staff at a large church.  While I am very thankful for my years that I spent at The Vineyard Church in Kenner and all of the preparation that it gave me for my current place in life, I am finding that being a church plant is a completely different story all together.  So I thought it might be cool and maybe even helpful to those who are thinking of church-planting to highlight a few big adjustments I have had to make in moving from a large congregation to a church plant.  So here goes:

1.         MESSAGE PREP:  When I was on staff at the Vineyard Church in Kenner, I would speak on the weekends every 6-8 weeks.  This meant that I could put a whole lot of time into studying and crafting my message and even practicing it.  By the time the weekend came around when I was supposed to speak I had had huge amounts of time to think of illustrations, movie clips and even songs that would help drive home a point.  My last message at the Kenner Vineyard even had me dancing to Gwyn Stephanie (you had to be there to understand). 

Now that I am having to speak every week, I have found that I am really having to be disciplined to keep up with both study and inspiration because Sundays come quick.  Speaking on a weekly basis has also whittled down the amount of stuff that I communicate on Sundays.  When I was in Kenner my typical message would come in at seventeen pages of notes and a delivery time of around 40 minutes.  Part of this was no doubt due to the fact that I had 6-8 weeks to prepare for my messages.  When I stared speaking every week at Northshore Vineyard I realized that since I was going to be doing this for the foreseeable future, then maybe I didn’t need to say as much on the weekends.  So my messages have gone from 17 pages of speaking notes and 40 minutes of delivery to 5-6 pages notes and 25-30 minutes of speaking.

2.         SPEAKING: It took me a long time to get used to speaking in front of hundreds of people at multiple weekend services in Kenner but after a while it got to feel more natural, normal even.  I remember one of the first weekend services we did in Covington.  I came in ready to speak as if I was going to be talking to hundreds of people.  The problem is that we had at tops 20 people.  And because the room was small and things felt more intimate folks started chiming in with their thoughts as I was talking.  Maybe they did this in Kenner, but I just couldn’t hear them from the stage, but it through off my rhythm a bit.  Then I noticed something that I wasn’t prepared for—just how awkward it feels to be looking at pages of notes when you only have 20 people in a room.  So my speaking style has changed a whole lot in the past few months.  It’s more conversational and less looking at notes (though I still have notes so I don’t head on too many rabbit trails and end up sticking my foot in my mouth).

3.         WE CAN’T OFFER EVERYTHING: When we started getting ready to do our weekend service I was determined that we needed to do really put our heart and creativity into what we are doing.

      I’ve seen bands play small clubs that treat the gig as if it’s a small club and kind of do a half-ass version of their set.  On the other hand I have seen bands play small clubs and they treat it as if they were playing a stadium.  Well, I wanted to make sure that we took the latter approach and that if only 15 people showed up for our weekend service they would see that we cared about them in every detail from the fresh-ground, fresh-brewed coffee, to the lighting, the sound, and the general vibe of everything.

       But somewhere in all of my wanting to do things with heart and excellence I really wanted to be able to offer all of the things that a bigger church would offer, or at least some of them.  One unrealistic expectation that I had was that we would be able to offer children’s ministry, fully-staffed for several different age groups.  This was kind of silly for a couple of reasons: First, we only had two other available rooms for children 0-18 (I forgot how different a 4 year old is from say an 8 year old).  Secondly, we just didn’t have the people to adequately staff more than one room.  So what we have currently landed on is a staffed children’s church service for 4-6 year olds, a room with an audio feed for folks with infants and toddlers, and activity bags for kids 7 and older who sit in our service.  We have also decided to do an all ages service one a month which seemed to work out well when we did it on Easter.  What I am finding is that it is not the end of the world for a whole family to actually attend the same service together (Actually some families have told me that they are really digging that aspect of it).  I’m sure some day we will be able to offer more things for youth and children but for now I am doing my best to make folks of all ages feel welcome in our regular service.  So this is another stretch for my communications skills because I am having to communicate with people of all different ages but I like the challenge.

4.         THE OFFICE SURE IS QUIET… LONELY EVEN: Years ago I read a book that had a chapter talking about the way that certain people process ideas.  One group is internal processors.  Internal processors mull things over inwardly and can seem very introverted when they are in the midst of processing ideas.  Outward processors, on the other hand, like to bounce ideas off of others and actually come to conclusions through dialogue and interaction with others.  I realized back when I read the book that I was definitely an outward processor.  So, when I was in Kenner I would frequently sit down with coworkers or folks on the worship team and dialogue about ideas. 

I wasn’t prepared for just how weird it was going to feel showing up to an office where no one else was around (this would be a dream scenario for inward processor friends of mine but a bit of hell for me.)  Trying to do message prep or study in a quiet office was… well, not easy, nor fun.  So what have I done to help remedy this?  I dialogue with other pastors via the internet quite a bit, I visit my friends on the South Shore whenever I can, and I do a lot of blogging and talking to myself.  It seems to work and things are getting less awkward. 

Well these are a few of the interesting transitions that I have been going through for the past few months.  There are a whole lot more, but I’ll save those for another time.  In spite of all the changes I can truly say that I absolutely love what I am doing and am looking forward to where this crazy thing is going. 

So if you have planted a church or have considered it chime in with your thoughts or experiences on the subject.


ezbutton said...

Thanks for this post Crispin. We are just about to begin a month-to-month lease on a store front space anchored to a grocery store at a fairly busy intersection. The owners of the property really want to support our plant, so they're renting it to us at cost with no term commitment.

It's about 1500 sq ft, so we are racking our brains on how to fit what we want in that space - which is, a small office, one kids room, and a small sanctuary that can accommodate somewhere in the neighborhood of 25 - 30 people.

We started from scratch for the most part - aside from my wife and me, we had one other guy join us from our sending church, which is around 150 - 175 members. Three of our team had to bail before the official launch. So things have felt rather snail paced, which is quite new for me.

One of the things I'm both looking forward to, and not looking forward to, is using my new small office. I think it will be good for me to be in the area on a daily basis, but I am probably 50/50 when it comes to processing inward vs outward. Up to this point, I've been working my software business out of my home.

We think of you guys and pray for you often. Feel free to chat or call anytime.

ward139 said...

Crispin--you may want to consider working towards finding or hosting some sort of co-working environment on the NorthShore. Could actually be an excellent way to outreach to the community--offering free (or even charge a fee) wi-fi or whatever, while the building isn't in use for church.!/pages/Coworking/109430585741864?ref=ts

Christina R. said...

I am in Madison church planting with my husband and I couldn't agree more. (Except the part about the office- our office has been our living room/ local coffee shop up until a week ago)

I would add the following things we have been learning:

PRAYER AND FASTING- We have found starting a church from scratch has brought us to new levels of prayer and fasting that we didn't tap into when we were staff pastors. First of all, we are more desperate than we ever have been in our lives. Secondly, we are new to Madison and we aren't riding years of prayer and foundation laid by our senior pastor, like we did in St. Louis. We are having to lay that down ourselves.

GATHERING IS INTENSE- If there was one thing our church planting boot camps and teachings emphasized is was the need to be intentional about gathering people. We heard them and nodded in agreement. But it hasn't been until we've hit the ground running that we realize how true it is. Since we are spending an incredible amount of emotional energy in learning to lead a new church, it is so tempting to want to veg out, rather than go out and try to meet new people. When we first moved here we decided how many slots a week we were going to devote to meeting brand new unchurched people, following up on contacts and then spending time with church people. Being on staff we spent a majority of our time around Christians and it has been so refreshing to spend most of our time around the unchurched as church planters. This is starting to even out more as our church is growing, but we have loved the interaction we've had that we just didn't seem to experience at an established church.

FUN- It is also amazing how fun it is to watch God build a church and use us in the process. We can't wait to see who shows up on a Sunday and how they heard about us. Sometimes we look around at our community and we can't believe the people that are coming. Super FUN!

Crispin Schroeder said...

One other thing I have noticed is on the spiritual warfare front. I'm sure there is the same amount of spiritual resistance in a larger church but as we go through this process I am really seeing that there is an enemy that is standing against what we are doing. I'll probably go into more detail on that in a future post.

Carlos said...

Crispin, you are sure to see the enemy raise its head during this endeavor. The easiest way to destroy a plant is to catch it when it is young before its roots are strong and established. That means the enemy will come at you harder now than it ever has. I like what one of your other contributors said about planting a church being a special time of desperate prayer and fasting. The good thing is that God has promised us victory if we "fight the good fight."
I found the idea you brought up about there being a difference in people who process internally and externally an interesting one. It is particulary interesting to me at this point because of what God is changing in my life. God has me in a place where I am assisting my pastor (conducting worship service, responsible for mid-week service, teaching main Sunday School class, ect.). He is one of those external processors and I by nature am not. So from time to time it can be overhelming for me because he requires so much of my attention when I really just want to think some stuff through. I am a firm believer that God wants balance for us in our lives and I think part of the reason I am in the situation I find myself currently is to bring me closer to center. I think I am being taught a needed lesson about understanding people who process externally and being more of someone who can meet their needs. I think being led to start my own blog and contribute to other peoples posts is all a part of that too. Thanks for the post.

bsergott said...

Great post, Crispin. We had the advantage of being a part of a plant with only around 10 committed adults and growing it to a decent church size before planting ourselves. This was helpful, because when we would go through something bad, we would realize that, "Hey, you remember when this happened in Grafton?" Church planting is so much about the planters and what God is doing in you personally, that it is amazing. There are two things you can do in life that will rip open your heart and make you be exposed before God: Getting married, and planting a church. We are continuing to pray for you as you grow and learn, but this is a really precious time. Make sure you and your wife really soak all of this in, because once it gets going, you really get swept up! It is so cool to see you doing so well and really embracing it!

steven hamilton said...

thanks for sharing this crispin...even though we are about 20 months away from landing ourselves, it's so helpful to hear and gain perspective, because - like you - i will be going from having served at an established church to planting, and i know (and secretly hope) that it's a lot different...challenging for sure...