Planting churches—at least the way we do it—is costly. From its inception, Valley Life has planned to embrace the ups and downs of sending out our best givers, volunteers, and friends as missionaries in order to make disciples and plant churches in other parts of our city. Even our logo hints at the gains and losses that are part of disadvantaging our congregation to plant new churches. In a previous post, I outlined the statistical impact of planting our first three churches out of Valley Life | Tramonto. Here I want to look at five unexpected benefits that we have enjoyed through losing members as a church-planting church.
1. It Prevents Complacency
The planned loss of leaders keeps us in equipping mode, which keeps us healthy. In Designed to Lead, Eric Geiger and Kevin Peck say: “It is one thing to say, ‘There is a significant relationship between equipping believers and the health of a church,’ and quite another to say, ‘Equipping people makes a church healthy.’ The latter statement boldly claims, ‘If you will equip believers, you will have a healthy church.'” Nothing has forced us to equip new leaders like the pressure of saying goodbye to old ones.
2. It Conveys Urgency
People who don’t serve very much realize right away that there are still trash bags in the ceiling. When we started our life we were in the movie theater. Not long after that we moved into a vacant IT building filled with 70 cubicles. We used large swaths of black Hefty trash bag-type plastic to create our walls and even our ceilings during the teardown phase of changing this modern workplace stereotype into a church. People still talk about when we “had trash bags hanging from the ceiling.” The effect was that it became very clear that to be a part of this church meant that you needed to be about making a church, not simply attending one.
3. It Pushes People Forward
Matt Carter of The Austin Stone Church in Austin, TX once wrote, “When my parents went to church, they went every single Sunday. They tithed. They served in the nursery. Every once in a while, my dad would pass the offering plate. That was the extent of their Christianity. Go to a service, write a check, hand out some bulletins, change some diapers and you are a fantastic member of the body of Christ. But I’m convinced this generation of Christians are not okay with that. Eighteen to thirty-year-olds are not okay with sitting on the sidelines of ministry.”
Potential leaders who may otherwise not be challenged to grow know that they will either be asked to go and lead or asked to replace someone who was called to lead in a new church. Without a compelling vision to identify, train, and send out new leaders, many of the young men and women who are new to a church simply ride the bench. At Valley Life, we play our rookies and put them in significant roles. Instead of serving as a back up Sunday School teacher for the first few years of being a Christian, new believers have a front row seat to the book of Acts playing out in the suburbs of Phoenix.
4. It Creates More Leaders
Our constant focus on discipleship through equipping new leaders means that each church (including the mother church) can share leaders more readily, because more exist and they all know the culture. We can even borrow team members with less orientation time because each church is working off of the same values and systems.
5. It Increases Learning
Because each church is working in a different context, leaders from the new churches are able to learn new things and share that experience with the network of churches. New ideas from our first impressions teams, greeters, and especially communications abound in the early days of a church plant trying to scratch its way into existence. We encourage our planters and team leaders to bring those ideas to the table so that all the churches gain from their experience. This allows us as an established church to tap into the creative angst of a fast moving church plant.
Being a church planter is hard but rewarding work. Being a church-planting church is no different. Frustrations, growing pains, and expensive mistakes are all part of the territory, but it is worth it. Ask Jesus for a church planter. Get him equipped. Help him make a plan and launch a new church. You will be so glad you did.