In a previous article, I wrote about classifying church leaders as gas or brakes. It’s a blunt but surprisingly effective tool, and I maintain my opinion that leaders with a gas personality are more likely to be successful in church planting. However, being gas can land you in some real trouble with your people if you’re not careful. I’m not suggesting that you change your personality, but simply be aware of your tendencies. The same personality that is good for the church can simultaneously be bad for credibility in relationships. Here are three ways that church planters ruin their own credibility without realizing it:
I get it. Social media is how we communicate vision, events, and progress of our church plant. The 24/7 nature of church planting means that you’ll always be meeting with somebody and working to develop leaders. Hopefully, you’ll also be spreading the gospel and leading a church. But none of these are news in and of themselves.
If you post every Saturday that church is the next day, it’s not noteworthy. If you have a weekly meeting with a leader and you post a photo of your lunch meeting—not what you did, but simply that it happened—that’s not news. It’s like me tweeting that I went to work today and had dinner later.
Of course, you should make people aware of the work that you are doing, post milestones, and participate in thoughtful discussion around news and culture. But post less frequently. Post real news. Even post bad news, not just the cheerleader stuff. If people learn to expect multiple daily posts that contain no real information, they will be trained to ignore you online. When you have something to say, nobody will read it. Worse, if they think you’re only giving the part of the picture that makes you look good, they won’t trust you in person either.
Dreaming from the Pulpit
Church planters think about their church all the time. They tend to be leaders that see something that isn’t there yet and non-linear thinkers. This is good for the church because a visionary leader will paint a reality that inspires people to make it happen. It’s also bad because they tend to talk about their church as a finished product and skip over the steps that are between then and now.
It’s good and to plan, but if you publicly announce a dream for the future, a lot of people will think you’re serious. If you announce multiple dreams and none of them show any real progress after several months, your congregation will stop taking you seriously. The trouble is that you may not realize you’re doing it. You need accountability to keep you from harming your church out of sheer enthusiasm.
Dreams are great, but have a receptacle for them: staff meeting, elders, trusted leaders, etc. You can bounce all of your ideas off of these people. Find someone on your team who has the brakes personality. When they want you to publicly talk about an idea, that means that the church is ready to do it, and you will gain credibility to share the next big idea.
Overpromising to Your Volunteers
Churches live and die by volunteers, and church plants even more so. Often your early volunteers will be in positions that would typically be staff positions. It’s important to be realistic with your volunteers when you cast vision. There’s nothing wrong with painting a picture and admitting that you don’t know how long it will take or if the vision will change by then. But you can’t be in a sales mode, promising resources or helpers that you don’t know how to deliver. You may want to supply them well, but you need to be honest.
I’ve spoken with a number of volunteers who were leaving their position because they felt under-supplied and abandoned. They were told that there would be a team, sub-leaders for specific areas, and a rotation to keep them from burning out. In reality, they got very little help, and communication with leadership dwindled as soon as it seemed like that job was covered. Most importantly, nearly all expressed that they enjoyed what they did. The problem was the gap between what they were told and their actual experience. They simply lost confidence in the big picture.
Overall, it’s good that you are driven and want the church to grow, but in reality, it may not yet be where you envision it going. Cast that vision for everyone, but be realistic about the here and now and the pace at which the church is maturing. You probably aren’t being dishonest, but don’t put yourself in a position where your people start to wonder if what you’re saying is real.