We are in the midst of one of the best transition of our lives.
My wife and I are privileged (in our mid-60s) to plant a new church. Actually it is more of a transition than a plant. We are moving an extension service from our mother church into a free-standing congregation.
We handed-off leadership of Hope Chapel Kaneohe Bay a year ago but stayed on to pastor two services. One of them was an extension service meeting in a movie theater 25 miles away. A week ago we stepped out of the mother church altogether and are planting Hope Chapel Honolulu from what was the extension service.
Soon as we announced the decision toward the new church we started growing. The past few weeks have been especially gratifying and our “opening day” as a new church was a blast.
Along the way, I’m seeing things a little differently than in my two previous church plants. The first go-around was in a building already belonging to our denomination. From the get-go my wife and I were responsible for everything. Delegation was difficult because people expected us to do most everything. We broke out of that cocoon or would never have grown, much less multiply churches. But it took some effort (and conflict) in order to do so.
The second church we launched was 2500 miles from home but we brought a team of 30+ people with us. Delegation was much easier, though some team members found it difficult to “let go and let local people do the job.” We worked our way through that and found that the very existence of a team caused everyone in the church to anticipate the need for their own participation. It was much easier to recruit because we had a team intact.
Fast forward to our current experience and it seems like we are learning from our history. Admittedly we already have a team in place, however, the transition brings us a lot of back-office tasks which our mother church previously did for us. The temptation is to rent an office, hire someone to do the work while depriving a lot of people from an opportunity to serve their church…
The temptation is more than that, for many it is an expectation. And it is an expectation we want to manage. I just passed along a marriage counseling ‘opportunity’ to a veteran who joined us, a week ago, from the mother church. We’re managing a large “virtual office” with nearly 20 people staying in communication electronically—it’s working wonderfully. We want to keep the pioneer spirit and willingness to volunteer that we currently enjoy. We need to manage expectations in terms of getting the job done.
Managing The Clubhouse
The virtual office is easy to operate because we don’t have a physical office. We only meet on Sundays in a movie theater and during the week in a myriad of home groups. Our home group participation is very high with one group per 11 people in our congregation—another element we don’t want to disturb.
We will soon rent space for midweek operations. When we do many will expect us to operate a weekday office from that space. We want to control that expectation. We need space for things like worship team practice, leader’s meetings, etc. But, we don’t really need to staff an office. It would cost money and it would cost many people their volunteer slot. Or goal is for people to see the rented space as a kind of church clubhouse rather than an office. We’ll call it a “ministry center,” or some such name. We won’t describe it as our office. If we do this well we’ll preserve the joy that goes with a church where “everybody plays.” We may not get everyone into the act, but we’re shooting for it.
There are other expectations to manage. We don’t intend to have the hottest worship band in town. We won’t compete with the larger churches in terms of technical coolness. We fully intend to maintain an organic feel in hopes of growing a large church that still feels like a family. Oh, and lest I forget, we want to keep multiplying churches. This Sunday we commission the pastor of a new Hope Chapel in another state. He came to us for coaching and we have the privilege of “launching him” during our second weekend as a new church.
There are expectations and there are expectations. Some of them you need to hold in check while fanning the others into a roaring flame. Forty-one-years of doing this has taught me that managing expectations to fit your values is perhaps your most important task as a church planter.