The other day I got a Twitter question from Phil Longmire, a church planter in Richmond, TX. We were talking about church planting priorities and I was saying how important it is for planters to be out of the office, away from the computer, and out in the public’s eye. So he Tweeted me and asked, “What are the top five things a planter does in the community?” I promised him I’d write on Friday, but yesterday’s come and gone … so I’m doing it first thing today.

The top five things a church planter needs to do while they’re out and about in the community is:

  1. Meet new people – share the vision
  2. Meet new people – share the vision
  3. Meet new people – share the vision
  4. Meet new people – share the vision
  5. Meet new people – share the vision

Get the idea? The primary thing a church planter needs to be about is meeting new people, sharing the vision, watching for those whose eye’s light up, and building relationships with them. IMHO (and after 4 church plants), one of the top reasons assessed and trained planters fail is because they get tied up doing #6–10 instead of the top 5. And what, you ask, are #6–10? (6) Marketing, brochure and website development; (7) meetings with other Christians (think Minister meetings, etc.); (8) sermon development (in a church plant, if you spend more than 2 hours doing this, you’re wasting time); (9) worship development; (10) and most of all – doing church.

There’s an old church plant coaching joke that in short, sums it up. It goes like this:

Q: How do you get a church planter to plant a church?

A: Take away his/her laptop.

If you’re out of the office and in public with your laptop … and you’re writing, posting, blah blah, then you’re not interacting with those around you. If you’re not interacting with those around you, you’re not engaged in the top five things a church planter needs to do when they’re out in the community. I’ve done a number of debriefs and post-mortems on failed church plants. There were some common themes I noted with the majority of these failed churches. They all had  (1) a great website; (2) four color professional looking brochures; (3) creative business cards; (4) well-planned, high tech worship … and all of this was created by the church planter. When I asked how they spent their time, they admitted they spent a lot of time behind a computer screen, they attended clergy meetings, joined and participated in service club meetings (like Rotary, Kiwanis, Lions, etc.), and spent a lot of time with their core team. Meeting new people almost seemed like an afterthought.

Church Planters … hear this: If you want to plant a new church you MUST spend the VAST majority of your time meeting new people in the community. Don’t waste time building online social networks – until something changes (and it well may), Internet attendees don’t fill worship spaces and rarely write checks. How much time should you be spending meeting and talking with NEW people? Six hours or more each day. Every day, meaning SIX days a week. And when do you stop doing this? When you have 350+ in average worship attendance … but not until. Okay, maybe I exaggerate a tiny bit. Take it down to four hours a day, six days a week when you have 200+ in average worship attendance … but not until.

“But I don’t know what to do with six hours a day. What do I do with my time?” If that’s the question haunting your mind, my first response is to ponder the assessment and training process you “endured” to get where you’re at. Natural church planters (and if you’re not a natural at this, the church plant is probably going to be in trouble) don’t have much problem finding new people to hang out with. If networking is a chore for you, then church planting is going to be a nightmare. But if you’re one of those who’s planting without a net, then here a couple of ideas followed by a bonafide church planter training assignment.

Where to Meet People Ideas

  • The mall
  • The bars
  • The coffee shops
  • Toastmasters (it’s not a service club)
  • Book stores
  • PTA
  • Soccer/little league/grid-kids games
  • Small businesses
  • College campuses

How to Meet People Ideas

  • At B&N, glance at what someone’s reading and ask, “Is that a good book? What’s it about?”
  • Ask the barista “You a church-going guy/gal? [if not] Good. Can I ask you a question? What would a church have to be like to get one of your friends to check it out?”
  • Comment, compliment, or ask for an opinion from someone sitting near you at the mall.

So, here’s a bonafide church planter training assignment (in case you didn’t go to CMTC Bootcamp). List 50 places to meet new people in your target community. In addition list 50 ways to meet new people (just going somewhere that people are hanging out is not the same as actually meeting new people). That’s a long list of 100 places and ways to meet people. Don’t stop until you’ve completed the assignment. It’s a killer … trust me, I had to do it. But when you’re done, you won’t have to ponder where and how. Then get busy with your six-by-six days. Six hours a day, six days a week: meet new people and share the vision.