By Bill Easum

My heart aches.

Too many new church plants either don’t make it past eighteen months or remain so small they can barely survive much less thrive. Why do so many church plants not reach their potential?

It certainly isn’t because they don’t try or don’t care. Church planters usually have a heart of gold. They passionately want to fulfill the great commission. Many sell their homes to move to the new location only to find their dream dashed to pieces.

From my consulting with church planters, I noticed the following mistakes that often keep a church plant from reaching its potential.

• Not bathing the church plant in prayer. I know. This should be a given; but it’s not. Too many planters don’t spent enough time in prayer discerning, the DNA, the place to plant, and the selection of the core leaders. Planter– have you spent a hundred hours in prayer over what you are about to do?

• Not having the DNA in place before asking anyone to join you in the new church plant including your core team. Please, if you don’t do anything else, don’t go looking for your core staff, much less try to bring in people, without first getting the DNA down on paper and in your heart. By this I mean what kind of a church you’re going to plant. Once you get that settled, don’t let anyone change your mind. If people don’t want to join you on that journey help them find another church. So, weed out the “vision adjusters” who want to adjust your vision.

• Spending too much time in the office. One of my first questions of a planter is How much time do you spend in the office. If I hear more than an hour a week, I know the plant is probably in trouble. I would rather a planter take their message from some famous preacher than for them to spend hours in the office preparing a message. You need to be out where the people are. No new convert is ever discovered in your office.

• Fasttracking the wrong people into leadership. Planters are usually so desperate for leaders they err on the side of putting anyone into leadership. Instead, put everyone new into places of service and watch how they respond. If they can be faithful over small things they will be great over larger pools of ministry. It is better to have a big hole in leadership and wait on God to fill it than for you to fill it with just anyone who comes along. This is one of those times you need to pray.

• Going public too soon. I’ll always remember a conversation I had several years ago with Wayne Cordeiro, pastor of New Hope Christian Fellowship in Honolulu. I asked him how he knew it was time to go public. His answer: When I had the leadership in place to pull off spiritual worship. I figured it would take 180 people to make worship happen the way I wanted it to happen. When God gave me 180 I knew it was time to go public.

• Getting away from evangelism before you know it. Many church plants begin to plateau the fourth or fifth year. Usually around this time the church is large enough to pay the pastors salary and the people begin to ask two questions: “When are we going to get our own place?” and “Don’t you think we should take better care of who we’ve got before getting any more people.” Of course there is the ole standard, “Pastor if we do this (whatever it is) we won’t know everyone anymore.” Pastor, these are words from Hell. Don’t listen to them because they will divert not only you but the church from its primary task – making disciples.

• Dribbling out the money instead of blowing it all at once. Most denominational officials never get this one. It is better to spend all of the money you have or are promised on one big push to go public than to dribble it out over several years. Denominational officials, whatever total amount you plan on giving a planter, give it all at once instead of stretching it out over two or three years. When Bay Area Fellowship (the church I attend) went public it spend every time it had, plus some, sending out direct mail to the entire city.

• Failure to require the planter to spend a year in either a church planting church or a new church plant as well as having to raise $50,000 before planting. Too many church planters don’t know how a church plant works, nor have they ever had to raise money. If a person can raise $50,000 before planting the odds are the plant will thrive.

Other reasons for failure exist, but these are the top ones.