The Birth of a New Church: What to Expect the First Year
My wife gave birth to our daughter in 1994 and our son in 1996.
Her pregnancies were “typical.” The pain and discomfort associated with 7 pound human beings growing inside of you (or as was the case with our son, 10 pounds!!)
Both births were long and exhausting for her, but when our children came into the world, the previous 9 months of struggle faded in to the distant past.
Then we brought them home.
Only parents of infants can truly understand the extreme emotions that go along with parenting an infant. The first year of life finds mom and dad experiencing intense joy as well as complete frustration, often numerous times on any given day.
I find interesting parallels between the birth of a baby and the birth of a church.
We “conceived” The Journey in July 2012. We experienced a great deal of pain and discomfort the past nine months as this baby church began growing.
This month we reached the nine month mark. The baby was born.
And now it’s time to watch it begin to grow up.
But it’s just an infant. And that simple piece of information is so critical to remember for parents and church planters alike.
So, what do we know about infants?
First, infants are totally, 100% self-centered.
My heart as a church planter has been to help our baby church understand that our mission is to serve others. I have been frustrated with the inability for this value to stick. But then I started thinking about my children. Would it have been possible for them to actually think about Sandra and me (or anyone else for that matter) when they were 2 months old? Not a chance. No matter how many times I told Courtney that it was unfair of her to wake us up at 2am, she didn’t stop waking us up at 2am; she wanted what she wanted when and how she wanted it!
The baby church is selfish. The baby church wants to be fed, and taken care of and nurtured.
And we have to do this for a while.
No matter how much I want the baby church to be fully mature, it’s going to take time. I need to cherish the moments that I have with this baby church and celebrate the victories along the way. She will learn to walk this year, and she will learn to show love and she will even learn to share and give if we do our job right. But she will still cry, and she will still demand, and she will still require 24-7 attention and care. But it will be worth it.
My children are now 15 and 17. They love and serve others in amazing ways. They love God and they seek to honor Him with their lives. And I love that. But it has taken 17 years of blood, sweat and tears. It has taken 17 years of teaching and modeling. It has taken 17 years of intelligent, sacrificial love.
If you are a church planter with a baby church like I am, I hope this blog will encourage and strengthen you. God has great plans for our churches. We must be patient however and let them grow.
In 10 Most Common Mistakes Made by New Church Starts by Jim Griffith and Bill Easum, the authors mention “Failure of the Church to Act its Age and Size” as one of the ten. Griffith and Easum then give six excellent suggestions on acting your age and size as a new church:
1. Understand your new community and its needs, and treat it as a mission field. Let it define the majority of your goals
2. List the essential ministries you’re going to need the day you open for public services
3. Ask: “What are the few specific things we do really well?”
4. Teach your people to say: “We’re not there yet.”
5. Understand that some people who visit actually do need a full-service church and may leave. Let them.
6. Set a goal of creating something sustainable, something that can survive any program launch or new initiative.
The first year of my children’s life is a time that I will always remember. I want to look back on the first year in the life of The Journey and remember it just as fondly. The only way that is going to happen is if I remember that we are only a year old, and act like it.