Before you throw stones, I'm not anti-established churches. I have seen effective established churches and ineffective church plants just as I have seen ineffective established churches and effective church plants. I think we need both to keep things in balance. I'd like to tackle what can be learned from both kinds of churches. This first post will identify what established churches can learn from church plants.
- Be clear and unwavering in your focus. Doing church today isn't as simple as perhaps it might have been in previous generations. There are very few standards or rules to follow. There really is a lot of room to do ministry in creative ways. That's good and bad. The temptation for church planters is to try every new idea rather than focusing on maintaining the substance of why you started the church in the first place. For established churches, the temptation is to keep everything already in place rather than evaluate how well it creates impact.
- Involve everyone in ministry. A church planter is very aware that every person matters and can make or break ministry capacity. This doesn't mean that everyone is a good fit or that you should just take whomever comes along and put them in a position of leadership. But a church plant -- much like a small business -- recognizes that it's all hands on deck and everyone must wear multiple hats to keep the church moving forward. As a church gets bigger, the temptation is to stop leveraging volunteers and hire more and more paid staff. If you're not careful, the congregation can become completely disconnected from the fragility of the organization.
- Invest in technology that connects people between Sundays. Lots of life happens during the week. If we can't stay connected with people unless they are geographically present at the same time, we will minimize our ability to create community. Church plants are forced to use technology and social media to stay connected and promote engagement in their ministry work. Established churches sometimes put the burden on people to "figure it out" rather than proactively inviting people to participate and engage.
If you haven't been reading The Leisure Suit series by Tony Morgan, he offers some really great ideas about how to identify what's working and what's not. Just because it's functional doesn't mean it's effective.
If your established church starting acting like a church plant, what would you do differently today?