Church planting causes a pressure that most ministers and churches can’t understand. Ministry in itself is tough and brings about a stress that impacts the minister and his family, but when determining to plant a church – there is a pressure often misunderstood by established clergy and churches. My wife has always said that there are pricks and perks to church planting. Honestly the perks, for me, far out weigh the pricks – however the stress and pressure that come with a church planting have brought me to my knees more often than not. Perhaps the most intense and stressful pressure that I have dealt with is the pressure to grow the church.
The pressure to grow is always on the mind of the planter. Here are few reasons on why it is such a pressure and how to do deal with it:
1) Financially it effects their livelihood. When the church doesn’t grow, the financial impact to the planter’s family is astronomical. I’ve met planters who have lost everything, survived on food stamps, and even took on 3-4 jobs because they didn’t want to handicap the church plant financially – so they chose not to take a salary (or a very small one). While this is at times necessary (I’ve done it) and honorable – it is not a long term plan. After a while the financial stress is too much and the planter has to make a decision on whether to maintain the pace or leave for greener pastures.
2) The comparison game. Planters are always reading and hearing stories about pastors leading other churches much larger than their own. The temptation is to compare yourself to these guys and begin to question your own effectiveness. I think all pastors have struggled with this – but for the church planter – this is a constant.
3) The need to raise up more leaders. When you don’t have people – you don’t have leaders. That means the primary responsibility of leading and doing the work of the church is laid on the planter (and his wife). When you don’t have new people coming in the planter is more apt to burn out (as well as the leaders/volunteers who do serve).
4) Credibility and Culture. Without growth it is difficult to create credibility within the culture. People are attracted to things that appear successful – and the only way many people measure success in church life is growth.
So how does the planter/pastor protect himself from this kind of pressure. A couple of thoughts:
1) Count the cost (financially). Always take care of your family. There are times that you will have to take a pay cut or 2nd job – but what is paramount is to take care of your family. Know how much you need and when you need it. God has taught me (and continues to teach me) a lot through budget shortfalls that has built my faith. Challenge your people, always step out on faith, but always think through the worst case scenario when it comes to finances.
2) I can tell you not to compare yourself to other churches/pastors – but I think the better word of encouragement is don’t create idols out of bigger churches and more popular pastors. Also – don’t be a hater toward these guys/churches. Pray for them, learn from them, but don’t try to be like them. Be you. Learn to be comfortable in your own skin.
3) Build into leaders and hand off responsibility constantly – knowing they are not going to do it as well as you do it (at first). When other people share the burden with you, you have the makings of a church family that is passionate about carrying out the vision.
4) Use the pressure to grow as a motivation to express the Gospel in all that you do. Think through this strategically and redeem your time for this purpose.
We will always have this pressure to grow – but make sure that you want to grow for the right reasons. Not to feed your ego or line your wallet – but to glorify God by expressing the Gospel. When our objective is this first – the pressure becomes more of a motivation than a stress.