“Easing on Down the Road” to Maturity

by New Church Starts

by Candace Lewis, Path 1 New Church Strategist

One of my favorite movies is "The Wiz" starring Diana Ross and the late Michael Jackson.  Although I have seen the original Wizard of Oz television version this urban remake is a classic.  "The Wiz" for me is a story of maturity.  It is a story of four individuals who eventually become friends and agree to travel together as they learn, grow, and overcome obstacles seeking a destination while enjoying the journey.  When they started out towards Oz, they really did not know how far it was or how long it would take to arrive.

As I watched the movie again, I was amazed to see how the characters developed heart, courage and knowledge along their journey.  Church planting can also be a long journey towards an agreed upon destination which for some plants is a charter and self-sufficiency. Just like in "The Wiz" I have also seen planters and teams develop a heart for the mission field, courage to stay the course, and knowledge about planting along the journey.  My encouragement to a planter is to enjoy the journey on the way to the destination.  Resist the temptation to act and program beyond your current capacity.

Jim Griffith’s book Ten Most Common Mistakes Made by Church Starts describes how a new church can yield to temptation and fail to act its age and size.  He cites several examples about the pressure planters face to grow in size and mature in programs before they are ready.  Oftentimes new churches feel the pressure to offer programs like established churches while working only with volunteers and not having the infrastructure to sustain larger programs and ministries in the early days of the plant.

An example is when the new church has a clear vision of reaching children and a new family comes along looking for a youth ministry for their teenage children.  How will you respond to this request?  Do you figure out how to create a youth ministry quickly or stay true to your current focus and capacity to reach children?  As planters are reminded of the journey they are on towards maturity, the pressure and temptation to act beyond what is sustainable at this time can be resisted.

Griffith suggests that planters learn to respond to some requests by saying “we are not there yet” and continue to trust God to grow the church in time.  Even though this family might not join the new church at this time, they might appreciate your honesty and integrity. Hopefully, they will tell other families with young children about this new church who is effectively reaching children and eventually will have a great youth ministry.

As you journey in church planting remember the story of "The Wiz." As you “ease on down the road” acknowledge the friends that have agreed to travel with you.  See the opportunities for the team to grow together and overcome obstacles working towards an agreed upon destination while enjoying the journey.  New Churches can mature in ministries, programs, and disciples in time. Just remember to resist the temptation to program beyond your current capacity.  Trust God to eventually allow you to grow and mature so that you arrive at your destination in time.

Do you have any stories from your church plants of growing pains or difficult "not yet" responses to certain ministries or programs? Share them with us.