Recently, a friend of mine began to plant a church in a city 700 miles away from his current church where he knew no one. As a church planter, he is either really brave or incredibly oblivious. He has read most of the books, investigated many planting models, and planted a successful church before.
His first plant was too easy. It was close to home, and a core team came with him from his home church. It was a lot of fun, felt more like play than work and impacted a lot of people. For some reason, God called him to something new and it’s stretching him.
This church plant will be very different. It involves finding a new job, selling his house, moving his family, finding a home, getting his kids into good schools, making new friends and learning a new city. My friend is excited, but he’s stepping into the unknown.
This move will test his limits. He’s a natural introvert who has learned the skills of extroversion through years of ministry experience. He thrives in small settings and builds deep friendships easily, but it’s hard for him to “work a room.” Still, he feels like God has called him to this work, and a team is forming around him.
He’s a part of an organization that offers Church Plant Coaching. He has sought out formal and informal coaches, encouragers, prayer partners and brothers in arms. Jeff is a friend of his who has planted churches in distant cities before. He is an extrovert who is great at networking and meeting new people. He has a ton of experiences, a lot of wisdom, and he’s not afraid to share them with anyone who’ll listen.
Jeff has been talking him through a few of the unknowns. He didn’t talk to him about finances, preaching ideas, or building locations. He challenged my friend and gave him practical advice. The most important thing he could tell a church planter moving across the country was, “Be ready to answer the question, ‘Why did you move all the way over here?’” This question will be asked a lot, and it’s a great opportunity to share vision. The right answer hooks people, but the wrong answer pushes them away.
Jeff encouraged my friend to have a 30 second, 5 minute, and 30 minute response to this question. Jeff knows people and understands the need to plan for the different interactions that arise when meeting new people. Sometimes, you have 30 minutes to connect with a stranger at a party or social event, but most times you have only a few minutes to make a connection and plant the seeds of a relationship.
Jeff and my friend worked together to build a response based on framework presented in Donald Miller’s How to Tell a Story. In it, Miller gives readers a simple structure to share their story by breaking down the basic structure of successful branding techniques, Hollywood movie scripts, and well known books.
A church planter may not have any connections, only a little money, and faith that seems like it’s running out; but a church planter always has a story, and stories win hearts.
What is the most important technique a church planter should master? They need to be able to tell their story.
My friend is working on his story telling technique. He knows God doesn’t need techniques, but they can be useful. He’s seen some special days were God did amazing things when he wasn’t prepared and didn’t feel adequate for the task, but he realizes that techniques aren’t for “special days.” Techniques make us effective on our regular days, and we have more “regular days” than special days.
What techniques or skills would you suggest for this young church planter?