5 Shared Characteristics Needed to do Church Planting or Church Revitalization

Typical Rural Icelandic Church under a blue summer sky

Church planting is a difficult, but rewarding assignment in ministry. So is church revitalization. I’ve been trying to make the case we need both — planting and revitalization. All pastors and planters should operate under a calling of God, but it does appear to me that there are some unique qualifications for those who want to start a church or transition it to grow again.

I’ve been blessed with both experiences. In fact, having only been in ministry about 15 years, my only experience is in one of the two. I’ve been in two churches needing to revitalize and two church plants.

And, from this experience, here are five characteristics I believe it takes to be an effective in both worlds:

An entrepreneurial spirit

There is an element of enjoying risk — certainly of being willing to assume risk — in most church planters and church revitalization pastors I have met. You have to love things which are new and growing. There needs to be an entrepreneurial spirit about them, embrace change readily and becoming bored with status-quo. This characteristic can bring it’s own problems, which leads to number two.

Willingness to be patient

Effective planters or revitalization pastors are willing to be patient for God to do His work. The balance between these first two is a constant challenge, because church planters and revitalization pastors are wired to want continual growth, but to be effective they must develop a good plan, surround themselves with the right people, and then wait as God does His work among them.

Have people who believe in you

Church planting or church revitalization is not to be a lone ranger activity. Without the structure of an established church, church planters must depend on people to help develop ministries and systems. Effective church planters learn to rely on volunteers for success and are willing to share leadership and responsibility with others to plant the church. Revitalization pastors are changing an establishment. This can be brutal. There must be some key leaders in the church who will back them in their work – and be there through the hard decisions where it will sometimes seem they have more enemies than friends.

Healthy family life

Church planting and revitalization is a family activity. In both worlds, to be effective, he or she must have a healthy family life. Ministry is tough — this is true for all ministries, but church planting and revitalization, because of the unique uncertainties and risks involved, places additional stress on a marriage and family. Effective church planters and revitalization pastors must begin with and maintain a healthy families.

Close, intimate walk with God

Church planting and revitalization will test a person’s faith many times. Church planting is not always popular in some church communities and can make a planter feel like an outcast in the church community. Revitalization brings challenge to leadership from within. The risks involved and the waiting process challenge both. Like all ministries, these are acts of faith and require constant communication with God. Effective church planters and revitalization pastors must continue to build and draw upon a strong relationship with Christ throughout the process. When I speak to pastors these days, I close with one word of encouragement: YOU MUST PROTECT YOUR SOUL. No one will do this for you. There will always be more demands on your time than you have time. You’ll have to discipline yourself to regularly sit with the Creator of your soul.

Again, many of these are not unique to church planters or revitalization pastors and are shared by others in ministry — even in many secular settings — but my experience as a planter and revitalization pastor leads me to believe these are critical needs for these ministries.

4 Ways I Know When to Say No to Seemingly Good Things


Age and maturity has helped me better discern what I can do and should do based on my strengths, weaknesses, passions and dreams. It’s freeing when we become more certain in who God has wired us to be and who He has not.

Still, I’ve equally learned – through many different seasons – there are often more opportunities than time in life – even God-honoring, seemingly good opportunities. I have recently had to say no to some great opportunities. These were things I would have clearly thought had to be “God appointed”. They were things I wanted to do. But, as much as they lined with my strengths, passions, and dreams, I said “no” to them.

How do you know when to say no to what looks like a good thing — perhaps initially even like a “God thing”?

Here are 4 ways I know when to respond no:

God’s calling on my life says no.

This trumps all the others. This applies to many decisions, but let me use my vocation as an example. I do not believe I’m called to a place as much as I’m called to a Person — the Person of Jesus Christ. I believe God often gives tremendous latitude in where we serve. There are seasons of life, however, where I know He has positioned me in a place “for such a time as this”. There are things He has called me to complete “at such a times as this” God always has a right to change my assignment, but when He has made the assignment clear the decisions of yes and no should become easier. 

My heart doesn’t line up with this decision.

If I can get no “peace” about saying “yes” it’s time to wait or say no. This requires consistent prayer and wrestling with the decision, but the more I pray the more confident I become in sensing God’s specific will for my life and in this decision.

When it distracts from what God has called me to do.

I can’t do everything or be everywhere. I can only do what I can do. There is nothing wrong with taking assignments just because I want to do them. If, however, it is going to get in the way of my ultimate calling – the right answer – the often difficult, but brave answer – is to say no.

When my personal strengths and interests don’t match the opportunity and I don’t sense an urgency from God.

I have learned situational or physical limitations aren’t a factor if God is in the mix. He can part waters if they are in the way, so I can do things outside of my strengths, but in my life God seems to usually work within the experiences and gifting He has granted me. Why would He waste the investments He has already made in me? Therefore, apart from a sense God is challenging me in a direction outside my gifting, I can rest within the place where He has been preparing me and say no to those He has not.

Discerning the heart of the decision is critical and requires a consistent, close, seeking the heart of God relationship with the Father. I realize it’s much easier to write this post than to live this post, but hopefully this will help you as you too wrestle with the seemingly good, even sometimes seemingly God opportunities.

I wish I had used this paradigm earlier in life, because it would have saved me some heartache.

What “good thing/s” do you need to say “no” to during this season of your life?

7 Suggestions for Churches Meeting in a School

school building

Over the years I have received lots of emails asking how we did certain things as a church meeting in a school. I am blessed to pastor a church now with an amazing facility, but my roots are deep in churches meeting in schools. It’s a unique ministry and opportunity. I usually figure that when several people are asking the same question that it represents a larger audience wanting to know the same answers.

Here are 7 suggestions for churches meeting in a school.

Most of these are more philosophy than actions, but with them as our paradigm it helps direct our actions.

Grow volunteers

Being in a borrowed facility forces the church to rely on lots of volunteer labor to set up and tear down each week. This can be stressful on people, but it also creates an opportunity to raise up new volunteer leadership. Our church would never happen without the countless hours of donated time, but in the process volunteers sharpened their leadership skills and realized the joy of investing in God’s Kingdom and seeing the results it brings.

Love the school

We supported the school we are in more than just on Sunday morning. We supported their activities, we attended their ballgames, and we tried to meet needs the school had as we were made aware of them.

Realize it’s not a rental situation

You may be paying rent, but more than renting a space you are borrowing a facility that has another intended purpose. We realized the school building’s primary purpose is to educate children during the week. We knew we were an added burden to the facility. We saw it as a win/win for our school, but we didn’t take it for granted we were secondary in importance at the school.

Be a blessing

At the end of our time in the school, whenever it may come, our goal was we would actually be missed by the school — and not just for the money we brought to the table. We had as a goal to be a blessing to the school. With this as a goal and mindset, it forced us to find ways to help the school outside of the money we paid for usage. We volunteered at their events. We helped with special projects. We allowed them to use our equipment at times.

Don’t interrupt school

We respected the facility as a place for education and we never tried to use our influence at the school to trump a school activity. We knew we were a secondary use and so we gladly bowed out if a school situation arose. Our school didn’t do much on Sundays, and if it did it would have created more problems, but the few times there was a Sunday conflict we tried to be accommodating to the school’s needs more than our own. We would rather be inconvenienced than for them to be because of us.

View your money as a contribution

It changed the perspective of our staff and key leaders when we saw our money going to make the education process better, not just as a rental line item on our income statement. Schools were always struggling to fund adequate resources and we believed our money helped. This made writing checks so much more pleasant!

Acknowledge critical players

The relationships you have with school officials is critical to making any agreement work. There are some people who make meeting in a school a positive or negative experience. This may include school district officials, the school administration, teachers, and custodians. We were especially sensitive to the teachers who teach in areas where we meet in the school, because we realized we were sharing space with them. Our experience was the custodian plays a large role in any churches success in the school, so we tried to respect and show appreciation to them.

Have you been a part of a church meeting in a school? What did you do to make the arrangement work?

4 Ways to be a Church for Dummies

dunce cap

Several years ago, while pastoring a church we planted, I received email feedback from someone who attended our church. The lady had not grown up attending church very often, but wanted to learn the Bible and about “the things of God” (her words). The part of her email which caught my attention most was when she thanked us for being a “church for dummies“. (And, again, that was her term — not mine.)

I laughed at first but then I wondered how I should receive the remark. I decided to contact her and ask for a better explanation. She was gracious and explained she used to leave church more confused than when she arrived. After attending our church for a year, she was starting to understand the Bible and wanted to continue learning more. In the past, she could never seem to understand what it took to “fit in” at the church or become involved. With us she was already in a Bible study and serving as a greeter.

She concluded by saying she was thankful for a church which challenged her to grow in her faith, made her feel welcome — regardless of her background — and helped her easily get involved in the life of the church.

Wow! I took it as a high compliment!

As I processed the meanings behind her statement, I thought of a few reasons she may have felt as she did about our church.

Here are 4 reasons she might call our church a “church for dummies”:


We taught truth everyone needs to know, but we tried to use language people who grew up outside the church could also understand. If there were Biblical terms not common to everyday language we tried to explain the word rather than assume they knew it or leave them guessing. We shied away from an insider language.

Our goal was to first engage the heart, create a passion for knowing Christ more fully and being like Him, then provide them with resources, environments and service opportunities which help them grow as a believer. We knew engaging their heart first was a key to helping them take ownership in their individual spiritual growth process.


We tried to help people apply the timeless truth of God’s Word to their life today. We wanted them to take next steps in life according to the truths of an unchanging God. The Bible is not only historical, but also practical and applicable to everyday life, so we tried to help people understand how to adapt their life to the truth of Scripture.

We used illustrations to relate truth to people, much as Jesus used parables. The illustrations we used were mostly from current, modern day and very transparent examples of how God works in a person’s life. Whether a personal story from our life, someone whose life was changing in the church or a video element we purchased, examples of real life help people better understand the Bible and how it should impact their life.

Simple strategy

Our strategy was simple. And repeated constantly. Gather. Connect. Serve. (In the church where I serve now we adopted a similar strategy: Gather, Grow, Serve). We wanted people to quickly know how we functioned as a church. We consistently shared this strategy. There were banners for each one. It was shared weekly from stage. It was in all our publications. You would have had a hard time being in our church and not know these three words.

Easy entry points

We tried to make fun try points into our strategy easily accessible.

Gather: We used good sign and lots of people to make sure when you arrived on campus you knew where to go and what to do. Our campuses were in school buildings so it was a necessity, but it proved to be a blessing to new people. We consistently heard good things about our first impressions for visitors because of how welcome they were made to feel.

Connect: To promote Bible studies, we had Bible study fairs where leaders of different groups set up a booth and people walked through all the options. These were highly promoted “big” days in the church. We even fed people lunch at times as an incentive to attend the Bible study fairs. Groups were mentioned from stage every week. As pastor, my job was to weave groups into messages frequently to highlight their importance.

Serve: To get people to serve we set up a booth which allowed you to sign you up to serve immediately. It was positioned in a premium place in the school where we met. You couldn’t get to the service without seeing it. We wanted people to know they could find their place among us. We had open positions available every week which needed to be filled. We also posted “job openings” in our publications for various positions. We created “test serve” days where people could try out a job before they committed. We allowed people to shadow a seasoned volunteer for a while before they launched on their own.

I’m in an established church now, but we are attempting to be a “church for dummies”. And, people who aren’t. If we’re doing our job, then people who are mature in their faith or people who are new to faith or still exploring faith can discover truth and be challenged to adjust their lives to that truth. Everyone should be able to find their place to grow and serve.

I now don’t mind being labeled a church for dummies. In fact — the term has since grown on me a little.

How does your church help people outside the faith or new to faith learn and grow in faith?

7 Ways I Partner with My Wife in Ministry

Cheryl and me

The following question is an actual question I received from a blog reader, but it’s representative of one I frequently receive:

Could you share or possibly write a post about your relationship with your wife and how you incorporate or make her feel a part of your ministry and relationships?

Great question. I think it is one everyone in ministry should be asking.

My wife, Cheryl, is a partner in my ministry. No doubt about it. Everyone in our church knows it. They see her as an equal part of my role within the church. In every church we’ve been she’s been widely loved and popular.

Cheryl was my partner before I was in vocational ministry. We taught Sunday school together. She has certainly been as a pastor’s wife. She’s very visible and always ready to join with me in anything we do at the church. I have joked that when I’ve left one ministry for another, they’ve usually told me I’m free to go, but I need to leave Cheryl behind.

I thought about this question of how this works for us. Some of these might work for others.

Here are 7 ways I partner with Cheryl in ministry:

I tell my church she’s my partner. – That seems obvious, but I believe it is huge. I want the church to know her value to my ministry. She’s not a silent bystander. She’s a vital part of who I am to the church. Emotionally it also encourages her if she hears me saying how much I need her beside me. (And I do.) I’m very clear with her of ways she can assist me on Sundays and during the week.

I keep others from assigning her commitments. – I realize this won’t work for every church or couple, but I’ve always been clear with the leaders of the churches where I’ve pastored that Cheryl will not be assigned a specific task, unless she volunteers to do so. She often leads short-term Bible studies on times other than Sunday mornings, but I help her keep Sunday mornings free. Both of us want her available to assist me in ministry to people. Again, I realize the size of the church may make it necessary for the pastor’s spouse to be a key volunteer in some area. I’m not even recommending it necessarily, but Cheryl and I like being close to each other between services. She greets people. She shakes lots of hands and hugs lots of necks. We can tag-team with visitors, for example. She catches some and I catch others. We constantly introduce people to each other. It would be difficult to attend our church — as large as it is — and not meet one of us.

I let her work in her area of passion. – Cheryl loves to be busy. She loves greeting people, holding babies, and leading women’s Bible studies. She also loves to invest in women in our church, including some of the wives of other staff members. She does a lot of one-on-one mentoring. It fuels her. I try to assist her in our schedule to allow her the freedom to participate in the things close to her heart, realizing her ministry is equally important to mine.

I keep her informed. – I work long days, but sometime before we go to bed or in the morning, we unpack my day. It could be over dinner, on a long walk or before we turn out the lights at night. I try to make sure she’s as informed as anyone about what is going on or happening in the church. I don’t want her to have any surprises because I didn’t tell her something. At the same time, I don’t put Cheryl in the middle of a controversy. I never expect her to speak on my behalf. She’s good about saying, “You’ll have to talk with Ron” on issues which she may not have an answer or that we haven’t yet addressed together.

I seek her input. – Cheryl is my biggest sounding board of ideas in the church. I want to know her opinion. She protects me with an insight and intuition I don’t have. Especially when it comes to making people decisions, Cheryl is my most trusted adviser.

I don’t hide things from her. – I could try to protect her, but I’ve learned she will discover the truth eventually and be more hurt because I didn’t share it with her first. Even when I know it will weigh heavy on her — such as a current complaint — I know she would rather hear it from me than from someone else. (The only exception to this is that I don’t share intimate personal information about men I meet with in the church. I don’t want her to struggle when she sees some of them on Sundays. With women, this is the opposite. She may know things she doesn’t share with me. I always tell women I meet with that I have to include my wife in intimate details about her life. I have to protect my heart and marriage first.)

She shares my office — and my life. – The best way I keep Cheryl involved in my ministry is that we keep our relationship as healthy as possible. We genuinely do life together. Cheryl has access to my office, my calendar, my computer, and my wallet. She frequently comes to my office, puts things in my desk, and has freedom to everything in my “personal space”. I’ve always told my assistants and staff they can communicate anything to Cheryl they feel is pertinent. We have no secrets. She feels a part of my ministry mostly because she feels a part of my life.

Is your spouse a partner in your ministry? Tell me how that works for you.

7 Suggestions for Planting a Church or Revitalizing in a New Community

Typical Rural Icelandic Church under a blue summer sky

I am consistently asked for suggestions I have for moving to another city to plant a church or revitalize a church.

I planted once in my hometown, so I am very familiar with that community, but I also planted a church in a city in which I didn’t know anyone well, so I have some experience in that area too. In my present church, I moved to a city where I knew only one other couple.

Recently someone who was about to move to a new city to minister asked a very good specific question.

What advice would you give me that people don’t always give?

Good question. It made me think. I don’t know that any of these are original, but I don’t hear them talked about as much as other suggestions.

And, I think the things I would do would be the same in any ministry position.

Here are 7 suggestions for moving to another community to minister:

Have a prayer team – There should be a group of people praying for this community, the church, and the leaders on a daily basis. I have a personal prayer team and organize teams to pray for special events. Bathe every move in prayer. 

Learn the culture – Every city and every group of people have their own unique identity. What matter’s most? What do they celebrate? Where do people live and play? What do they do for fun? What’s their unique language? What are the traditions unique to this area? What history do they value most? You’ll have to ask lots of questions and observe.

Learn the market – Is the community in a growth mode or a declining mode? What’s the quality of the school system? If you’re planting, are schools an option for a building? What are the major problems, concerns and needs of the community? Who are the leading employers? What are the demographics? How would a church address some of the issues? These matter for numerous reasons — but mainly it will impact the people you are trying to reach.

To learn these things I try to meet with the highest level leader I can in each area of interest – Schools, city government, police, business community, etc.

Learn the competition – Before you get too excited — it’s not other churches. It’s anything that has the people’s attention you are trying to reach besides a church. Sunday sports events. Major festivals. Community traditions.

Support the Community – Immediately find ways to get personally involved in the community with volunteer investment. That could be through the Chamber of Commerce, schools, festivals, etc. Give back. Believe it or not, that gets attention. Currently, we volunteer several places around town, including at our local visitor’s center. And, if you really want to show you love the community  — support the sports teams they support. 

Develop patience – It is harder than you think it will be. It just is. Church planting, church revitalization– really any ministry — takes a tremendous toll on you physically, mentally and even spiritually. It doesn’t happen overnight. Prepare for the journey. Commit to the change you bring to the ministry — even knowing how difficult it might be at times. 

Protect your family – Just as church plants are stressful on the planter, they are equally challenging for the planter’s family. That may even be more true in revitalization. And, it’s true in all ministry. These issues are multiplied because of relocation, since much of their support system is being replaced. Protect your family by discipling your time and not losing them as your primary focus. As much as possible, involve them in the work so they understand it’s value and get to share in the rewards. Protect your personal down time and your soul. Don’t burn out by trying to do too much too soon.

Ministry is tough, but like all actions of faith and obedience, God uses the sacrifices to reach hurting people and change their life for His glory. Thanks for Kingdom-building.

Lasting Transformation vs. Routine Fundraiser

WSsuppliesblack copy

This is a guest post by Kevin Herr, with Water Missions.

(This is not a paid post. I believe in this mission.)

In my role at Water Missions International I often talk with church leaders who want to get their churches involved in our ministry, which provides safe water solutions and the Living Water message of Jesus Christ to people around the world. These groups often participate in a special event like our Water Sunday initiative and while many encounter great breakthrough and mountain top experiences, some end up disheartened with little lasting impact.

Here are a few key points that can drive your church event towards transformation and action rather than being just another fundraiser.

Cast The Vision

Casting the vision means praying about how God can use your church, speaking with other key leaders and making a clear case for what you’d like to see accomplished. Want your church to provide safe water to an entire community? GREAT! Share that vision and what it will take for your church to achieve it. Make a goal, communicate it, and go for it! If you don’t set a clear goal, you will never reach it.

Engage More than Checkbook

Take your missions engagement a step further than simply asking them to write a check. Start to engage their hearts! How can you incorporate the mission or message into other activities they’re involved in? How can they engage spiritually and actively?

Start engaging your church early: the longer the involvement the deeper the impact. For Water Sunday, we encourage groups to do a beverage fast where they drink only water for a period of time, keep a tally of the money they would have spent on other beverages, then donate that amount on Water Sunday to provide safe water to people around the world. During this time they pray for those who lack safe water, develop the spiritual discipline of fasting, talk about it with their friends, and realize how much they spend on something that’s really not important.

Another fun way for people to engage actively is by participating in Walk for Water where they simulate the trek that people around the world do every day for dirty water. Take buckets and walk from your church to a local water source then walk back.

The key idea here is to provide them with an experiential touch-point that re-emphasizes the theme of your message.

Make it a Team Effort.

Don’t do it alone! Use it as an opportunity to draw out leadership in some of your church members or staff. As people prepare and talk about the event, God will be at work in their hearts. Allow others to participate and be impacted!

Celebrate The Win

In order to effectively motivate your members to participate and experience life-change, you need to emphasize the outcome and celebration. What happens if you achieve your goal? How are you going to celebrate?

Water Sunday 2015 | Chris Ndikumana from Water Missions on Vimeo.

To learn about how your church can make a transformational difference both around the world and in the lives of your own members, visit www.watermissions.org/watersunday.

We’re praying for 100 churches to come alongside us on April 26th and focus on the global water crisis through a variety of activities, studies, and sermon. All the resources are done for you, totally free, and designed to transform lives in your church! Take your next step HERE.