There’s a much repeated saying in the church planting world that goes something like this,
“We are going to be a church plant that has church-planting in our DNA so that, as soon as we are able, we’ll plant another church. And that church will plant another church, and so on..”
Man, I love the kingdom vision of this way of thinking. I’d love to add a few caveats which do not change the vision but rather speak to the strategy.
My strategy question is this: Exactly who is doing the coaching for the new church plant? The Learning Curve for church planting is steep, meaning you learn a ton in the first few years. I think, in church planting world, that learning probably begins to plateau in about 5 years. It’s probably not coincidental that’s about 10,000 hours, the amount of time Malcolm Gladwell says it takes to develop expertise in his excellent new book, Outliers.
But, if a 2-year church planter is coaching a 1-yr church planter who is coaching a newly minted church planter, I think you have a big problem. You’re working precisely the wrong end of the Learning Curve, the Slow beginning. In so doing, you’re propagating all sorts of ignorance by learning from people with less than optimal experience. I know this first-hand. There are church planters out there who have forgotten more than I’ll ever know about church planting. But I am so much more knowledgeable than I was 5 years ago when I first began this. And yet I was out there coaching away in all my glorious ignorance.
So, how do you conquer the Learning Curve? Here are some thoughts:
- Elicit the support of people who have 5 years or more experience in planting churches. General business people are helpful. General pastoral or church experience is also helpful. But even those folks, as knowledgeable as they are, are at the base of the Church Planting Learning Curve.
- If at all possible, have that support come from people who have specific experience in the model of church you are planting. “I’m not planting according to some model!,” you say. Oh, your church will have a model, whether you declare it or not. Don’t be naive. Find someone with your model, declared or not, with 5 years experience.
- Find a group of peers who are planting churches at the same stage and with the same church model. Meet or conference call with them often. Yes, they’re subject to early mistakes because they’re also rookies at the bottom of the Learning Curve; however, if you learn from them, the tuition is less than if you make their same mistakes. Kind of morbid, but your chances of getting through the minefield are better if others are taking the risky steps with you.
A successful church plant is extremely challenging. Talk to anyone who has done it for 3 to 5 years. One of the biggest challenges is the Learning Curve. How are you going to conquer it?