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My Very Best Advice for Pastors & Church Planters

(This post has not been edited for errors. These are my raw, unfiltered thoughts.)


Daily a church planter or pastor asks me for advice on starting a church, building a church, taking a church through transitions, etc.  Below I have compiled many of my posts offering such advice.

4 months ago I stepped down as pastor of Courageous Church.  The advice I’d offer you now is different than the advice I would have offered you when I was there.  Here are 4 quick nuggets that come to my mind now.  Pretty much my best advice. Below are the links to more posts w/ more advice.

1. Surround yourself, first and foremost, with people that believe in you AND believe in your vision. I seriously screwed this up.  In the name of wanting diverse perspectives, I regularly surrounded myself with people that didn’t believe in the core ideas of the vision I had. I did this out of the sincerity of my heart, but all it did was create division, chaotic and painful meetings, regular fallouts, etc.  The church will always have people that don’t buy in to your vision and disagree with you.  Talk to them, win them over, but don’t put them on your board, don’t put them on your lead team, and don’t give them a public platform to disagree with you. Trust me on this too.  In retrospect, this is easily one of the biggest mistakes I made and is a huge reason why I’m in California now.  I have great people that love God, but totally disagreed with the vision too much space and authority.  Let me clarify something…you don’t need a room full of “yes-men”, but you need a room full of people that love you and the vision enough to keep it real all the time.  Hear my heart – your leaders should be diverse in every way (race, sex, age, economics, culture, etc.) but they CANNOT waiver on the vision.  It’s a non-negotiable.

2. Don’t do business with people in the church. EVER. Advise church people against it as well.  It may go well and when it does, that’s great.  However, it often goes wrong (more often than it should and for some really strange reasons I’ll blog about some day) and you will wish you never did business with church folk. In my 10 years as a pastor I’ve seen this go wrong time after time after time.  Trust me on this. I’m serious doggone it.  No matter how good it sounds, I would seriously consider avoiding doing business with people in the church.  The ways it can go wrong outweigh the possible benefits.

3. Have something else you are good at besides being a pastor.  Jesus was a carpenter.  Paul was a tentmaker.  What are you?  I honestly think that pastors are making a HUGE mistake when the only thing they know how to do is be a pastor.  First off – having another skill allows you to be a part of a different community outside of church circles. This is missing today.  Because of what I do with social media and web design I am constantly in conversations outside of the church world with people outside of the church world.  They make me better and I make them better.  Furthermore, I too often see pastors either caught up in scandal refuse to step down or pastors way past their prime (or their time), just refuse to do anything else because they don’t know how to do anything else.  Don’t let that be you. Have options. It will make you a better pastor and it will make you a better person after you a pastor.

4. Start the way you see in your heart and mind.  I’ve said this one before and I’ll keep saying it.  I made a strategic error that was impossibly difficult to recover from.  I had a vision for the church I started that I felt came from God and honored scripture, but I started the church off in a way that was so far from this vision that I could never quite get it back to where it was supposed to be.  If I had this to do all over again, I’d start off with the church in my heart and mind from day one instead of asking people to make the understandably difficult shift back to it 3 months or 3 years after we start.  If you know God is calling you to launch a mega-church style ministry, be that way from day one.  If you know God is calling you to launch a church focused on serving the poor, be that way from day one.  Feel me?

Those lessons are the best I have for you right now.  Here are the some of the best from the past…