[featured_image]My son turned 18 last week. I still remember the excitement we felt on the day he was born. And although he arrived about two weeks early—we were as prepared as we could be for his arrival. In preparation, we attended natural child birth classes at the hospital, we took preparation for parenting classes at our church, and we purchased baby furniture and decorated his bedroom. Several of our friends gave us a baby shower and we received wonderful gifts to help welcome our son into our lives and our home.
Less than nine months later, we gave birth to Lake Hills Church. I’ve often thought of the many similarities between my son’s birth and development toward maturity—and the birth of Lake Hills and its growth toward maturity. In preparing for the day of Lake Hills’ birth, we attended training, met regularly with our coach, and found encouragement from new church planters. I also read a lot of books and talked to pastors who had started churches. I wanted to be as prepared as possible. We even did a run-through the week before we opened our doors to make sure we were ready.
This past week, the Daily News (our local newspaper in Los Angeles) carried a front-page article on preparing to have a baby. Patricia Aidem wrote about how prospective moms are developing “Birth Plans” which list their preferences for the birth experience.
From the type of music in the labor room to elective Caesarean sections, a growing number of expectant moms have begun showing up at hospitals with customized “birth plans” listing dozens of personal preferences for the blessed event.
The plan makes it clear, right up front, just exactly how moms want to be treated—everything from how they want to be prepped for giving birth, limits on those exams, and whether water, ice chips or an IV should be offered in the throes of labor.
It seems to me like there are a lot of variables in giving birth that are beyond your control. However, if a mom has preferences, it’s a great idea to plan ahead to make sure that day and the birthing experience are all that she’d desire. For a sample “Birth Plan” see here.
If you are starting a church, why not consider developing a “Birth Plan”? Your plan should identify the important milestones to achieve to ensure a healthy birthing experience. Most of the components are not just preferences, but mission critical elements that ensure the healthy birth of a Christian community. Here are several resources that will help you develop a realistic “Birth Plan” for a new church
- Church Planter’s Toolkit by Robert E. Logan and Steven Ogne
- Church Multiplication Training Center
- CoachNet International
Aidem’s article also identifies three areas that a “Birth Plan” typically covers
- Preferences during labor and delivery ranging from pain relief to who decides when its time to push.
- How the baby should be treated in the hospital, from who cuts the cord to breast or bottle feeding.
- What should happen if something goes wrong, primarily medical problems for either mother or baby.
This final section of the “Birth Plan” helps “moms think about ‘What if you don’t have a “normal” labor?’” This is an excellent question for church planters and their coaches to consider. Prepare in advance for what should happen, as well as what you will do if things don’t go as planned.
Personally, I have painful memories of our pre-launch development process. Just a few weeks before the birth of Lake Hills, my mentor Bob Logan said, “Just be prepared for a pre-mature birth.” Since we only had about 20 people that were part of our launch team, he recognized that was problematic. His diagnosis at that critical juncture prepared us for some of the challenges ahead—and focused our attention on those details that were most critical for our survival.
Since that experience, I have had many opportunities to work with church planters in a coaching role. I often stress the importance of a large birth weight. On May 8, 2003, my nephew was born at 26 ½ weeks gestation. Andrew was 1 lb 13 oz. at birth. He ended up spending the next eight months in the hospital. Both the weight of your launch team and the weight of your initial worship gathering impact the healthy growth and development of your church plant.
Stephen Gray’s research in Planting Fast-growing Churches indicates that is you launch small, you will stay small. According to his data, “nearly 70 percent of struggling church plants had 25 or fewer people involved in their core group prior to launch” (p 111).
Also, “a huge amount of struggling church plants, 80.8 percent, launched with fewer than 100 attendees at their first service. By contrast, 75% of the fast-growing church plants had over one hundred attendees present at their first service” (p 116).
Somehow, when anticipating the launch of a new church it is important to focus on those activities which will grow your launch team. I’d recommend waiting to launch until you have at least 50 people actively connected to your church family. Also, focus on disciplemaking and gathering activities which will ensure a high birth weight.
At the end of the article, Aidem observes, “what helps make birth plans viable is that women are educating themselves.” When it comes to developing a “Birth Plan” for a new church plant—educate yourself! Discover the key elements that are aligned with the mission of Jesus Christ. Here are some key elements to include in your Church Planting “Birth Plan”
- Pray, pray, pray and pray some more – Keep on praying. Catch Luke 10:2b Virus!
- Involve a Coach – Just like a birthing coach is helpful to expectant mothers, coaching is vital for church planters. Church planting coaches help you discover what God wants you to do so you can cooperate with the Holy Spirit and others to see the vision of a new church become a reality.
- Adopt Missional Thinking and Behaviors – Start thinking and acting “like a missionary” here in the U.S. Reject the idea that the Great Commission is someone else’s responsibility. Instead, align with Jesus’ mission in such a way that you function as a missionary where you live, where you work and where you play.
- Seize the Mission – The Church’s mission is to bear witness to God’s redemptive reign. In Matthew 28, Jesus gave His disciples His final instructions before leaving earth: “Go and make disciples.” The Church is sent into the world to continue the work which Jesus came to do (Luke 19:10).
- Exegete the Culture – Understand how the Word becomes flesh in their culture wherever they are. This perspective requires discovering the uniqueness of the neighborhood, community, city, and county where one lives.
- Incarnate the Gospel: “Be Jesus” – Start living the gospel message! It is not enough to articulate the truth of the gospel, although that is important. The truth of the gospel must be lived out in relationships as believers seek to “be Jesus” with skin on. Every Christian has been sent by Jesus in community together with other believers to be and then do the gospel and to show and then tell the gospel to those in the culture around them.
- Multiply Disciples – The mission of the church is to make disciples (Matt 28:19–20). Multiplication doesn’t start with planting churches, it starts with multiplying disciples. Disciplemaking is the starting place for everything else. Every Christian must be involved in the multiplication process. This is not optional for the Christian.
- Equip Disciplemaking Missionaries – Prepare every believer to be local missionaries sent to their own zip code. Embracing the mission locally requires an emphasis on reproducing disciplemakers all over the place!
- Establish Missional Communities/Churches – Start planting the gospel in the culture and new churches will emerge. Churches are the result of effective evangelism and discipleship. The best method of church planting today is disciplemaking.
- Mobilize Leaders – New churches need to form an enduring leadership culture that develops leaders who embrace missional behaviors and practices. To raise up leaders from the harvest for the harvest, leaders must build an intentional process for raising up more missional leaders.
Your birth plan should reflect the vision that God has given to you and align with the mission of Jesus to “seek and to save that which was lost.”
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