Ten Most Common Mistakes Made By New Church Starts | Notes

Jim Griffith & Bill Easum. Ten Most Common Mistakes Made By New Church Starts. Chalice Press, 2008. (122 pages)

1 Neglecting the Great Commandment in Pursuit of the Great Commission

Church planting is a spiritual enterprise that can only be effectively accomplished by deeply spiritual people. …Their goal is not to get people to come to church; their goal is to introduce people to the love of God. (7)

Are you a church planter trying to love God, or a lover of God trying to plant a church?

Don’t let your planters rely on the church plant to grow their spiritual lives. (9)

2 Failing to Take Opposition Seriously

I was prepared for the devil and his demons, but I was not prepared for well-meaning church people and my own tribe’s bureaucrats! – church planter

Institutional Opposition. Much of the opposition faced by planters comes from within the plant itself. (14)

Cultural Opposition. …resistance from local powers… (15)

Spiritual Opposition. When one attempts to plant a church, it’s not primarily about techniques. The planter is venturing into “occupied territory” only to be greeted by forces, seen and unseen, conspiring to work against any movement of God. (16)

Draft an Intercessory Prayer Team.

Resisting the Resistance. You need to remember that a church “start up” is a migration into a “foreign climate” or “occupied territory.” (18) You must resist it all! And, above all, never take any of it personally. (19)

3 A Love Affair with One’s Fantasy Statement Blinds the Planter to the Mission Field

Planting a church is a process of experimentation, innovation, and replication, but always within the realities of the mission field of how it’s responding. (23)

There’s a fine line between “cutting edge” and “over the edge.”

Do you love the people more than your fantasy church? (26)

One Sure Way to Ineffectiveness and Failure: Ignore Your Mission Field’s Idiosyncrasies. Because they fail to exegete the surrounding area, contextualize their approach, decide on whom to reach first, and then choose a methodology that will reach the targeted people, church planters often make the mistake of winding up with a church designed for “everyone.” The net effect of this approach is thirty or forty people — forever! | Most mission fields have three to five very different people groups within them. (26)

…one, you must love the people in your area more than your fantasy church; and two, you must be willing to adapt your methods to the realities of the mission field. You must fall in love with the people, and you must exegete your mission field to the point that you understand every facet of it. (29)

4 Premature Launch

We’ve yet to hear a wrong reason that new churches launch too soon; they always make sense…at the time.

In our experience, many planters and their teams misunderstand the purpose of the public launch. They wrongly assume that the goal of the launch is to “get started.” It’s not. The goal of the launch is to get into orbit where the new church can begin to develop with minimal amounts of effort to stay aloft. (36)

You Must Have Critical Mass before Launching. …we talk about gathering enough people so that when you launch the church it appears you actually are viable with numbers. (37)

It’s ironic; the fewer people you begin with the more expensive the church plant becomes. | Whatever kind of church you’re called to plant, you have to have a critical mass of people to add legitimacy and validity to it in the eyes of the public. If you launch with just a few people today, the church stays a handful of people tomorrow. (39)

5 Evangelism Ceases after the Launch

Evangelism is NOT a “phase” of church life; it’s the “LIFE” of the church!

Our experience has confirmed that over 80 percent of those who visit a church and return to that church and gradually become enfolded into that faith community do so on the elbow of someone already connected to that church. So work on making your church the most loving and inviting place in the area so when people do show up they know they are loved. | Pastors, your people have to invite others into the community of faith, and the community has to be an inviting place when they arrive.

We spend an increasing percentage of our time teaching church planters how to network with people — joining the Rotary, riding in police cars, talking with realtors, etc. (51)

How Do You Add People? As the planter, you must keep in mind that, no matter what you do, you are going to be the primary “people adder,” especially in the early months and years. If you don’t make contact after contact with the public, the likelihood of success is almost zero. (51)

  • You need to spend 50 percent of your time making contact with the public.

Our suggestion is a planter needs to talk to one thousand people the first year. Most of the conversations need to be one-on-one. You can count on this rule: if you don’t talk to people, they won’t be in the pews. (52)

Remember, you are selling yourself, not a vision, or a church. (53)

The planter has to guard against the event taking on a church family atmosphere, where outsiders feel marginalized. (55)

6 No Plan for the Other Six Days of the Week

Through some means, the church must develop a “relational” culture. (63)

The planter must have a plan for moving people into community without having to be the sole relational component; otherwise, the church remains weak and small.

But that’s not all. Dependence on the pastor turns the church inward instead of keeping its focus on reaching out. (64)

But there’s even more wrong with this picture. Because of the dependence on the planter, the people aren’t connected to each other. (65)

7 Fear of Talking about Money until It Is Too Late

The more successful a new venture, the more dangerous the lack of financial foresight. – Peter Drucker

…many planters mistakenly believe an increase in attendance will result in [an] increase in cash flow. (78)

Stewardship of money must be taught from the moment you begin to gather people. (79)

Virtue capital is addressed to investors — anybody in the planter’s world, regardless of their religious outlook. These are people who are investing not in the vision, but in the person. (80)

Planters need at least two streams of money: one is the monthly income that comes from teaching stewardship to the believers, and one is from the investors outside the church who give sporadically.

…ask your launch team to assist in the raising of virtue capital by contacting their networks. (82-82)

Take an Offering Every Service. Baskets in the rear scream, “The way we handle money isn’t important.” Putting baskets in the back doesn’t teach people how to handle their money. If you want serious givers to give to your plant, take an offering; and don’t use baskets in the back of the room. (86)

…if the planter doesn’t know what people are giving, the planter has no way to ensure the church has the right leadership. (87)

It’s been our experience as pastors that people actually stop giving anywhere from six to nine months before they actually leave the church. So knowing what people are giving actually helps in giving the kind of pastoral care needed before the time of dropout. (87)

Invite Your Networks to Give. You never know who will be excited about your vision. Send them the sample letter above, and ask them to invest in what you’re doing. Be unashamed in this practice, and do it over and over and over and over. (89)

8 Failure of the Church to Act Its Age and Its Size

Don’t try to launch with a handful of people and try to act like a full-service church. (96)

Staying Healthy. The health of the church plant is in direct proportion to the health of the lead pastor and his or her family, and the staff. (97)

9 Formalizing Leadership Too Soon

Formalizing the leadership and organization of the church too soon is dangerous. Whether it’s bowing to pressure by zealous supervisors, current “unofficial” leaders, personal insecurities, or personal experience with a previous “church,” the net effect is the same — a major sea change in the life of the church, and, more importantly, redirecting youthful energies away form mission to management. Either way, formalizing leadership too soon always hinders the growth of a plant. The organization of the plant needs time to find its indigenous roots in the mission field. Future leaders need time to prove themselves on the battlefield. (102)

…as a general rule, we recommend the process begin sometime in the third year after your public launch. (103)

We need to say this loud and clear — be careful whom you put into leadership. (103)

Delay Organizing. Registering as a formal entity is quite different from organizing your new start. (104)

The Fix: Avoiding the Mistake. Everyone needs some form of accountability. What you don’t need is a group from which you have to get permission to act. So, in the early years put together a small advisory team. Call it a task force, or advisory team, or an ad hoc group. Don’t call it a board and turn them into a group from which you have to get permission to act. You don’t need any form of a board in the early years. (108)

Keep your board size as small as possible. The smaller the board, the larger the church has the chance of becoming. …Don’t charter or develop by-laws and a constitution until it is absolutely necessary. (108)

10 Using the “Superstar” Model as the Paradigm for All Church Plants

The famous last words of a failed plant: “But ‘Willo-Bck-Burg-Rez-Hill-Village-House-Ship-Poit’ did it this way!”

You CANNOT plant a church on a “borrowed” vision.

Any funding group should abide by this rule: “We fund fruit, not fantasies.” (115)

…your goal is to plant an indigenous church that comes out of personal reflection, fine tuned by mentors and trainers, and adapted to the people in the mission field. Anything less won’t have a chance. (116)

— VIA —

One feature of this book that many may find refreshing is that the authors give examples of both male and female church planters.

About VIA



  1. Alfred Arthur

    Excellent insight and very inspiring…. I can use some

  2. What a great article. As a pastor of a 4mos old church plant the article allowed me to see some of my good decisions and bad decision. It convicted and encouraged at the same time.

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