Our new church, Hope Unlimited, celebrated its one year birthday a few months ago! In some ways, the time has flown by; in other ways, it’s crawled slowly along – particularly on those frosty mountain mornings in January when snow, wind, and pitch-black darkness greet you at 6 AM as you unload trailers full of toys and sound equipment. Nevertheless, hindsight is always 20/20, and reflection can be good for the soul, so here are a few lessons I’ve learned with a full year behind us.
Lesson One: Chemistry.
Chemistry within your leadership team is crucial, and it takes time to happen. If the people in your inner circle do not or cannot work together, then the ship is unsteady. It is a process for leaders to “get” each other, to understand each other, and to build relationships, trust, and communication. Thankfully, our leadership team is absolutely excellent. You cannot find a harder working group of individuals all after the same mission, and I’d put them up against any team in any church in any city. Chemistry is always developing; it’s a never-ending process.
Lesson Two: Embrace the Grind.
It’s work. It’s toil. It’s labor. It’s trying to take nothing and turn it into something. Momentum is hard to generate and easy to lose. There are loads of things in ministry that are fun, and plenty that are not. Either way, embrace the grind and trust God to bless it.
Lesson Three: Take Chances on Leaders.
In the church culture I grew up in, you had to be 50 years old with 200 years of ministry experience before you were qualified to lead anything. We were terrified that someone was going to make a leadership mistake, so we mitigated that the best we could by not using anyone. The truth is, everyone is going to make mistakes, including you and me. Instead, let’s take chances on people – just like Jesus did with the apostles (remember, Peter was totally backslidden a few weeks before he preached at Pentecost). When you communicate trust to someone by empowering them to lead, you’ll be pleasantly surprised at what you see come out of them.
Lesson Four: Life is Different Now.
As a kid, church was the center of my social existence. We went three times a week at a minimum, and everyone’s life was pretty much on the same rhythm – daytime was spent at work or school, nighttime was dinner and school sports, weekends were fishing, yard work, and church. This pattern was only interrupted once or twice a year when you went to the beach for vacation. Hardly anyone’s life looks like that now. Workplace dynamics, schedules, and travel have changed. Be gracious and understanding. Some things in culture are not worth fighting. Instead, learn to roll with it.
Lesson Five: You’re Not For Everybody
We’d all love for every single person to come to our church, but quite frankly, you’re not for everybody. That is not a weakness on your part or a deficiency on theirs. It’s simply life. That’s precisely why Jesus’ church is called to such diversity and variety. Be you, connect with your tribe, and bless those who are connecting with people you can’t.
Lesson Six: Feed the People.
I wrote a post on lessons I’d learned after six months of church planting, and this was on there too. I’m repeating it because this one never changes. Regardless of the trends or fads, you cannot go wrong with getting a word from God and then feeding it to the people. Do this, and they’ll continue to come.