Ready to take the plunge and start a new congregation at your church? Journey asked Duncan Barlow for some tips on building a healthy church community.
Seek the wisdom of those who have been serving the congregation long before you came along. Knowing what has and hasn’t worked in the past can save you a lot of heartache.
Before you plant something new, define the ethos of your existing congregation. While you may want the new service to look and feel completely different, it should still reflect the core values and culture of who you are.
Evaluate your leadership resources and consider what model will work best. Will you follow a structured plan for growth or are you willing to be flexible enough to respond to anyone who walks through the door? Is your minister/pastor a lead-from-the-front person or a collaborative team member?
Liturgy can sound like code to newcomers, and something as simple as sharing the blessing and response can make people feel left out. How can you incorporate the key elements of worship and maintain a sense of the Divine without using church-speak?
Starting small allows you to build a sense of family where everyone’s role is integral to the harmony and fruitfulness of the whole. You’ve got a blank slate, so experiment with worship and think about creative ways to integrate music, liturgy, prayer, reflection, scripture, preaching and witness—and don’t forget the importance of sharing food.
Be prepared to demonstrate a healthy measure of vulnerability. We’d all rather pretend that we have our lives together—or that our brokenness has been healed and we’ve moved on rejoicing—but relationships of trust and openness require us to remove our masks of being perfect Christians.
If you’ve been doing a service for over 12 months and you aren’t getting consistent numbers, you might have to acknowledge that it isn’t the right fit. Perhaps weekday/weekend/evening services don’t work in this area. There may be quite specific demographic issues why people are not coming.