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Joshua Reich: 6 Lessons I Learned From Church Planting

Revolution Church turned five years old recently, and it got me thinking about the last five years, all that God has done, his faithfulness and all that I have learned over that time. I get asked a lot by church planters what I would do differently or what I’ve learned in the process.

Here are five things I’ve learned in the last five years:

1. Your energy (spiritual, emotional, physical, relational) is the most important thing you can give your church, and only you can control it. 

This may seem obvious and all of these will, but this one is crucial. Church planters tend to be driven, entrepreneurial, take-the-hill kind of leaders. They are also usually young, which means they think they have endless amounts of energy. They eat like college freshmen and often sleep like them.

The reality is, that is not sustainable. While planting is a busy season, filled with meetings, getting stuff done, making phone calls, rallying a core group, raising funds, you have to hit the pause button. No one can make you sleep. No one can make you spend time with Jesus. No one can make you exercise or eat well. No one can make sure you have friends, and not just church planting friends, but real friends.

If you miss this, the extent of the damage can be huge. Most guys who fail in ministry and sin will tell you that it goes back to not managing one of these areas. In 2011, I did not manage my energy well and I hit a wall. It slowed our church down, demoralized our leaders, hurt my family and it took a year to recover as a church. You as the leader set the tone. The first question I ask my leaders when I coach them is to tell me how they are doing in these tell areas.

2. Your family has to come first; they need to know it and so does your church. 

Every pastor says their wife and kids are more important than their job. We say things like, “My church can get another pastor, but my kids have one dad, my wife has one husband.” This is so prevalent that two recent books on pastoring, The Church Planting Wife and The Pastor’s Family, actually excuse the husband’s sin in this area and say things like, “Being a pastor’s wife means I share my husband at night and he misses dinner or time with me.” This happens, but when this is the pattern, it is sin.

One of the things I heard Eugene Peterson say was he started to call everything he did an appointment. If someone asked him to meet and he already had a date planned with his wife, an activity with his kids, he said he had an appointment. No one questions your appointments. Talk about this from up front. In your sermons, lift up your wife and kids, don’t make them sermon illustrations of what not to do. Talk about how you date and pursue your wife, talk about spending time with your kids. You are the model to men of what it means to be a man, a father and a husband.

3. Whom you surround yourself with will determine your effectiveness. 

This is simple leadership, but the leaders you choose will determine the health and future of your church. This means you must know who you are, your gift mix, what you can and can’t do, what you do that brings the most glory to God. Then, you must look for leaders who complement this. If you are a strong visionary and can see the future, you must find someone who can think in steps and how to get somewhere, who can see the map, not just the destination.

If you love to shepherd people and want to make sure no one falls through the cracks, you’ll need a leader to remind you that sometimes people need hard gospel truth and not coddling. I read when I started Revolution that your first hire is the most important. This is so true. If you miss on your first hire, you may not make it because your church is so fragile. Don’t rush this. If someone isn’t working out, don’t wait around.

Move quickly, help them find a new role, new responsibility. If they don’t line up with your vision and DNA, have the tough conversation. Everyone you start with will not finish with you, and it is naive to think otherwise.

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Josh Reich is the Teaching & Engagement Pastor at Pantano Christian Church in Tucson, AZ, the author of "Breathing Room: Stressing Less & Living More" and is passionate about helping people take their next step in life, faith, and leadership.