The past few weeks, I’ve introduced the risk factors that you should consider before placing yourself in a new environment. In both of those articles, we focused on the notion that the best church planter placed into the wrong environment will not succeed. This week, we’ll wrap up the risk factors with these final four:
1. How near is your family or your spouse’s family or natural support group?
If things are going well, we don’t long for our historical home as much. If things are struggling, however, we keep paging through photo albums, connecting with our old-time Facebook friends, and considering ways to get out of this situation and get back to where the getting was good. Also, related to this, is the availability of people who can help in various intangible ways, such as taking care of the kids while the church planters are away at a conference or retreat. It can be tough to be in a situation where, for a while, there’s no natural support.
2. How closely does your ministry site approximate your geographic roots?
Various sub-factors are hard-wired into the issue of geography, such as climate and recreational opportunities. Can someone from Texas plant a church in Wisconsin? Yes, of course. But they will be stretched a little, or maybe a lot. They may need to learn that church events are planned to not conflict with Green Bay Packers games. (My friend, Pastor Terry Martell of Green Bay tells me that the most important planning day of the year for pastors in that area is the day the football schedule is released.)
Keep in mind that we’re not simply talking about geographical preferences; we’re talking about history and experience.
3. How close are you to other supportive churches who really want you to succeed?
This is where being a good parent church really helps reduce risk for a church planting project. Alternatively, if a number of churches team together on a project, that is a tremendous help. In the human analogy, we tend to prefer two-parent families. If emerging churches are cared for by more than one responsible parent church, the payoff can be significant. Parent churches are stacked full of resources, way beyond financial help. When one potential church planting couple I know of visited what became their parent church, many church members said, “Don’t worry. We’ll take care of you”. And they did.
4. How much vocational ministry success have you personally experienced?
Technically, this isn’t environmentally related; it’s experientially related. The question is whether the church planter is embarking on their first vocationally ministry experience, or their first potentially successful ministry experience. Why does this matter? Experience brings know-how, and it brings perspective. Generally speaking, with some success under the belt, a church planter will have a greater degree of confidence and resolve when challenges come. Experience and perspective are helpful, but not crucial. Obviously, you need to start somewhere, so the more you get your feet wet, the more perspective you’ll have.
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