An exam for potential church planters (3)

By Andrew Munneke

So this is the third in a series of blogs to discern if you’re called, gifted, and able to be a church planter. In the first blog, we covered identity and the motivation for why you’re really pursuing starting a church. The second was about the core competencies of a church planter, and recognizing if you have them or need to grow in a few areas.

This blog is a bit more diagnostic. I’m asking you to do a candid self-examination as you read. Here are the three questions you’ll want to answer: Would I follow me? Does my household follow me? Do leaders follow me?

Would I follow me?

Trust. That’s the first step in a relationship with someone. If there can be no trust, there can be no relationship.

What we’re doing when we ask people to follow us is actually asking them to trust us. And that’s a huge thing! When you’re asking people to let you be their pastor, there’s a trust that needs to be there. This thought goes back to the character discussion we got into a little bit in the first blog.

So, if I know me—and hopefully you are self-aware enough to know your heart and its motivations and affections—and I was asking me to go and be a part of this new church, would I actually do it?

Let me ask the question this way: If you knew someone who had the same experiences, the same leadership track record, and the same heart motivations as you…would you follow that person? If you answered “Yes,” then let’s take this a step further.

{ If you knew someone who had the same experiences, the same leadership track record, and the same heart motivations as you…would you follow that person? }

The best leaders also make the best followers, so another good question to ask when considering your own leadership is: How well have I followed other peoples’ leadership? 

Do you frequently question others and think, “I could do it better…”? If so, as a leader you’re likely to lead more of a dictatorship because you don’t know how to work with people to achieve a common goal. People will become more like commodities to you to fulfill your vision rather than partners.

In the same way, if you can make a collaborative vision within the whole—not depending solely on yourself—then people will want to share this vision for your church and trust you to lead them.

And the last question I will ask you: How well do you lead yourself? Do you accomplish goals that you set for yourself? Do you show up on time? Do you fulfill your commitments and obligations? (Ok, so maybe that question actually consisted of three more questions! But, I think you get my point.) If you cannot lead yourself, then how can you expect to lead others?

Does my household follow me?

Obviously, this is taken from Scripture itself (1 Timothy 3:4). Your family is the group of people who know you and love you the most. If they aren’t willing to follow you, or you do a bad job of leading them, there are different caveats to what that means.

Is your wife on board? Sometimes we’re tempted to use our “calling from God” as an excuse to drag our wives into something they don’t really want to be a part of. Word to the wise, you should listen if she’s saying:

“I know you have a heart for New York City, but that will squash my soul.”

“I need you to be home more than the church/ministry will allow you to be home.”

I’m definitely not saying your wife can’t have insecurities or questions about going into ministry. Honestly, I think it would be unnatural for a wife not to wonder, “How are we going to pay the bills? Is this best for our kids?”

As a pastor, your job is all about dealing with people’s pain and how the Gospel speaks into that (this includes Christians and non-Christians, by the way). When your wife is in pain not knowing where the money will come from, or worrying about you being bi-vocational and the stress that comes with that, how do you speak the truth of the Gospel and shepherd her through those “red flags” and fears? How you shepherd your family is a reflection of how you will shepherd a church.

Your priority is to your family first. And nothing will disqualify you from church planting faster than if your marriage is crumbling and falling apart, or if you aren’t loving your kids well.

Do leaders follow me?

Let me say first that it’s great if you’ve had experience leading a small group. Like I mentioned in the second blog, leadership experience is necessary, and leading a small group is a good place to start.

But I also need to point out that leading a small group is different than leading a small group of leaders. As a pastor, you will need leaders (you could also call them key people) to follow you, and this requires a totally different skill-set.

{ Leading a small group is different than leading a small group of leaders. }

There are usually a few different leadership groups you will need: a core group, a financial support group, and (my personal conviction) a church or church network to support and send you out. How you lead and cast vision for each of these groups will be different.

Sidenote: I both like and hate the term “core group” because there’s the danger that they think they are the influencers. But if you communicate to your core group that they are carrying the DNA of the church, then this group will hopefully multiply itself into different ministries and leadership roles within the church in a way that new leaders will embrace and multiply. For example, if your core group is missional, then when they multiply themselves the goal is that your church as a whole will be missional.

And similarly for your financial group and church network, you must be able to cast a compelling vision so that they want to support you.

To be continued…

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Core competencies of a church planter (2)

By Andrew Munneke

This might surprise some people, but I have a bit of a green thumb. I am one of the few people that complain HGTV is a little bit more “Home” than it is “Gardening” television. So as spring has come upon us and the grass seed we planted back in October has developed deep roots, I’m starting to get excited about cultivating and nurturing my lawn to the award-winning lawn it deserves to be.

Now besides the planting aspect of gardening, you might be wondering what this has to do with church planting. Well, here’s the thing…I might have the greatest passion and vision for my lawn. I can see the corner where I’ll start to mow, how short and thick I want my grass, and the type of flowers that need to bloom in direct sunlight and those that will thrive in the shade. But my vision and passion for my lawn is not going to take me anywhere in cultivating it if I do not have the right equipment.

You see, I know many church planters that are high on vision and are passionate about the Gospel, but they become ineffective because they didn’t take the time to assess if they had the right gifting and knowledge for the ministry.

Passion and enthusiasm for the Gospel is absolutely essential—and it’s good!—but that in and of itself is not qualifying. I could be passionate about singing and dedicate my whole life to it, but because I am not gifted in it I doubt that Blake Shelton will twirl his chair for my voice.

In my last blog I addressed the question, How do you know if you’re qualified to be a church planter? We looked at the characteristics of a church leader and discovered that only one of those characteristics is a skill—teaching—while the rest are about your character (1 Timothy 3). If you haven’t read the previous blog, check it out real quick then come back.

Now that we’ve tested your character and calling, let’s test your gifting.

Theological clarity

For me, the first core competency is theological clarity. By that I mean do you know the Scriptures? Can you answer doctrinal questions? Can you bring the Gospel forth in every Scripture? Do you know what you believe and can you apply it to all circumstances?

If you’re counseling someone who’s had a miscarriage, are you sympathetic but also grounded in Scripture as you counsel? Or if someone comes to you and they’re in debt, can you resist the temptation to give them great principles (like cutting up the credit cards or taking a Dave Ramsey class) and instead say, “There will be a time to cut-up those credit cards, but let’s look at the heart of why you keep running to materialism rather than finding joy and satisfaction in the Lord”? 

I talked a little bit in the last blog about the only “skill” is the ability to teach, so obviously the ability to teach is important. So you can ask yourself, your mentors, and the Lord if you need to grow in that, and perhaps even consider more education in that.

Leadership ability

The second one would be your leadership. Do people follow you? Do you have a history of starting things from scratch? Do you live a lifestyle worth following? How you lead people in the microcosm of your family?

Just saying this now, but as the pastor of a church, your marriage is going to be the lead example for your church. Paul says this in (1 Timothy 3:1-5). The first thing you can do is examine if your household resembles what your ministry should look like.

What about other aspects of leadership like casting vision, or attracting and building and connecting leaders? How do people react under you? Do they feel squashed and stepped on?

And something that’s really important before you tackle being a lead pastor: do you have any experience in leadership? If not, let’s get some more reps under you…

{ …in a microcosm you definitely learn what it’s like to shepherd people through hard times. }

In a microcosm like your family or a small group, you learn how to communicate, “This is when we’re meeting. This is when we’re hanging out outside the group. This event was cancelled. Here’s what we’re studying…”

And, more than just logistics, in a microcosm you definitely learn what it’s like to shepherd people through hard times. Hopefully you’re getting people to come and talk to you about their heartbreaks, doubts and struggles, and because of this you’re learning how to shepherd.

I do want to say this about leadership in a microcosm: when a small group shrinks or grows, it can be for many different reasons. However, there is a point where it is an indicator of your leadership.

Making disciples

The third competency I would mention is discipleship. That might seem like a no-brainer, but what I’m talking about is not just teaching someone but walking the whole spectrum with them—taking someone from being an unbeliever to being a disciple and an elder.

So there is evangelism (which is preaching the Gospel), and obviously unbelievers need to hear the Gospel. But if you take a look at the life of Jesus, He had that missional-relational kind of living life with people and brought them into the body of Christ.
empty church

Can you do this? Maybe you’re a little socially awkward or shy, but can you connect with people? Can you walk with them daily and speak the truths of Scripture into their life? 

At the same time, I also believe that discipling an unbeliever to the point of a devoted Christ follower is more of a community effort than individual effort. I think where we have crippled ourselves is when we say, “Bill, it’s up to you to lead your neighbor to Christ,” but Billy’s not the best at presenting the Gospel in a way that’s compelling for his neighbor.

This is where I want to say, “Bill, that may not be you; it may be Sally who has that gift set. But your job is to invite him to our church, and once he’s here someone else can talk with him about what he believes, why he believes it, and then present him with the Gospel.”

So what camp are you in?

Maybe you’re not cut out for church planting. If you’re thinking this or someone close to you says this, it should not be an identity-crisis thing. For most people who don’t have the gifting of church planting, that absolutely does not mean that you can’t lead a small group or spend time with non-believers!

On the other hand you might have the gifting of church planting, but you’ve still got to establish the groundwork and framework that will drive you even when the passion leaks out.

So if we were talking face to face, I would expect to see one of three reactions. So let’s figure out where you are and consider your next step…

  1. Absolutely this is not for me. I know I’m not a church planter. I like the Bible but it’s confusing to me, or I don’t have a strong leadership profile, or I’m a follower more than a leader.

That’s okay! You can still be passionate about church planting and contribute in so many ways without being the pastor of a church plant. The person who’s great at one-on-one or who is more reserved when it comes to the crowd is just as needed for building up the church. Church planters need you as a team member and to excel in your gifts—especially in the gifts that we don’t have!

I would say your next step is to serve your church plant or team up with someone who has the gifting. There are plenty of avenues for you to be a part of the missional strategy of church planting.

  1. I don’t feel the passion, but I’m seeing some areas to assess and work on.

This is a good place to be. First, have you told your pastor and people who can speak into your situation? Second, have you looked for opportunities to help you grow in your leadership ability, to meet lost people, to make disciples? Consider getting involved with a residency or pursuing more education.

  1. I know church planting is for me! I think I have the right stuff and I’m ready to move forward to the next step.

Awesome! For that next step, read blog three in this series.

Thoughts on faith and our daily bread

By Lee Kemp 

This summer Forefront hosted “Summer Fun Days” at Timberline Apartments to make a positive impact on kids who would otherwise spend the summer alone.

Monday through Wednesday we would meet from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. In the morning we played games, sang songs, made crafts, and told Bible stories. After we fed the kids lunch, they would swim in the pool for afternoon playtime. Then on Thursdays we would go on fieldtrips to places like the nature center and skating rink. We even had a special water slide party one day with the fire department’s help.

This summer alone, we reached 58 kids. Seven of those kids prayed to receive Christ!

This was our third and best year for Summer Fun Days. It came together really well, but we’re learning how to do it better. This summer Forefront had two E4Call interns, college students who feel called to ministry, named Joel and Taylor. They connected and served with Forefront for the summer.

Joel and Taylor were not only a blessing to us as a church but also the many kids/families we met through the summer program. Here’s the thing: We wouldn’t have had the ability to pay them if it wasn’t for Dixie Jackson dollars. Other churches’ giving gave us the money to pay them.

The conundrum of money in ministry  

Early in Forefront’s ministry, a local businessman—Steve—told me something about money that really convicted me. He said, “Lee, I’ve never seen a ministry that Jesus wanted to see done that didn’t happen because of money.”

I know when we start talking about money everybody gets weird, but the raw and the real is that we’ve got to be careful with how we view money in ministry.

To me, there are two sides of the continuum. There’s the guy who may not plant a church because he doesn’t have the money. He is sitting there, stressed, and thinking that if he doesn’t raise some sort of money then he can’t start, or he thinks he knows how much money it’s going to take. But by then, he isn’t really thinking about church planting.

There’s a guy I talked with once who said, “You know, I really wanted to be a church planter, but I don’t know about the financial instability. And I’m not good at raising money.”

{ I’ve never seen a ministry that Jesus wanted to see done that didn’t happen because of money.}

On the other end, there’s an established church that has more than enough money but is trying to figure out what to do with their end of the year excess. When they planned their budget, the church was saying, “This is what we need in order to do what God’s placed on our hearts.” That’s really what a budget is. And they’ve not only met that budget but they’ve exceeded it.

I’ve been in that meeting before at an established church. God gave us an excess, and as support staff we put in our wish list of what we would like to get as if it was Christmas. Instead of having just one projector that everyone looks at on the left side of the room, we could get one for the right side. Or we could look into getting a church van with a better air conditioner.

But I don’t ever remember thinking, “Hey, we could give that to missions.” I was thinking of my own kingdom and not God’s. I’m not saying it’s wrong to “up” your game or buy a better projector for your auditorium, but how can we spur generosity?

I remember asking once about stewardship during an ordination council meeting. Lee Woodmansee said, “Every time we come along an extra sum of money, we ask the Lord, ‘Ok, who do you want us to give it to?’”

A lot of times we don’t think this way.

Ping pong back to the guy who is worried about money and is expecting money from another church. He’s thinking about what it takes to get the church up and running instead of God’s kingdom. He’s paralyzed. What would it look like if that church planter realized he will never have enough money—at any given point—to supply all the church will ever need, but he does have enough to start?

Walking (and spending) with faith

A pastor pulled out a white handkerchief once to clean his glasses, and he said to me, “When you surrendered to ministry you raised this white flag.” If God wants to send me, then where he sends me he will provide for me. It’s so simple, but it’s so hard to walk out.

You can never have enough money in ministry. It’s expensive. It’s risky. And even if you have money, ministry will probably take more money than you currently have.

In the Bible, there’s manna—when God is providing. Then there’s man taking more than God instructed—where men tried to provide for themselves by their own efforts.

The point here is being careful not to spoil ourselves with something God really didn’t give us. When we have this abundance, instead of asking What do we want? we should be asking How much should we really keep?

What if we looked at money as if it was manna?

Baptist churches think about a lot of good things in their budget: how to provide for their staff, what’s going to support the key ministries their staff oversee, how to retire debt, how to fit capital items in their budget, building a budget to get people excited, etc. I’ve been a part of teams where we did that and God still gave us excess, and I made the mistake thinking it was for us just because we had already put those “visionary” things in our budget.

{ I made the mistake thinking the excess was for us just because we had already put those “visionary” things in our budget.}

And there’s this strategy of us cooperating as Baptist churches. God has blessed us! Not only with what we need to do ministry but more because we do it together! Forefront’s goal as a church plant was not to plant or pastor a church that thinks about its own people. We are building God’s kingdom in the state of Arkansas. Other peoples’ success is our success, but only if we’re cooperating.

If your church gives a large amount to Dixie Jackson or to the Cooperative Program, someone will be blessed! Sometimes we don’t want to because we won’t physically see where it goes, or what it does. But what is that expressing? Where’s the Holy Spirit in this? I think at times the reason we are lax in giving is because of a spirit of control.

It’s just that I think our questions about money really ought to be, What are we doing here? and What is the Holy Spirit leading us to do with it?  How are we advancing God’s Kingdom within our local church and the capital “C” Church?

We can wisely spend the money that God has entrusted us with and still think big!   

You’re not that good

By Lee Kemp 

A lot of times I think I’m a go-getter. I take on a bunch of stuff and think I can get everything done, but then I realize I’ve committed to too many things have to tell myself, “You’re not that good, Lee.”

If we were having coffee and you asked how my week’s been, I would have to be honest and say that it’s been a hard week. I’ve worked non-stop for 12 days straight, and now all I can think about is when can I take off? When can I take my wife on a date? If you’re like me this week, and you need a laugh, let me tell you why I’m in this place…

strengths finder 2.0One of the first books I read before becoming a church planter was “Strengths Finder 2.0,” which helped me discover and rank my personal strengths. My wife and I did the assessment together, and what we found is that we are completely different! My number one strength is called “Woo,” while Sarah’s is “Deliberative”:

Woo (Me)

“Woo stands for winning others over. You enjoy the challenge of meeting new people and getting them to like you. Strangers are rarely intimidating to you. On the contrary, strangers can be energizing. You are drawn to them. You want to learn their names, ask them questions, and find some area of common interest so that you can strike up a conversation and build rapport…Once that connection is made, you are quite happy to wrap it up and move on…In your world there are no strangers, only friends you haven’t met yet—lots of them.”

Deliberative (Sarah)

“You are careful. You are vigilant. You are a private person. You know that the world is an unpredictable place. Everything may seem in order, but beneath the surface you sense the many risks. Rather than denying these risks, you draw each one out into the open. Then each risk can be identified, assessed, and ultimately reduced. Thus, you are a fairly serious person who approaches life with a certain reserve. You select your friends cautiously and keep your own counsel when the conversation turns to personal matters…”

Honestly, I didn’t think that Sarah being deliberative was a strength; I saw it as indecisiveness. But this is who she is. And, as I dive into this blog post, you will see how she is exactly what I need. Somebody has to put a leash on me—Sarah is the leash!

Overextending

Even though to “woo” is my strength personally and in ministry, I’ve realized it also means I have a tendency to give up stuff. I give people the feeling that they can call me whenever, and I do this intentionally, but it doesn’t take me long to give up everything I need to do for the sake of helping others.

My week so far, just at a glance, looks like this:

Sunday…left the house at sunrise, church, drove to Joplin, Missouri and back

Monday…lunch meeting, helped mow two yards and another local church’s property

Tuesday…meeting w/ local business friend, office work in afternoon, meeting at night

Wednesday…coffee meeting with a family struggling financially, working on this blog, a facilities meeting, a personnel meeting, and led a Bible study at local boxing club

Thursday (today)…a lunch meeting, community networking, need to go to the store, having someone over for dinner

Friday…going to Russellville early a.m. and straight back, afternoon admin work, then dinner with Forefront’s elders and our new worship leader

Saturday…my son’s Grizzly football team tryouts, yard clean up in the community, and an outdoor movie night event at Timberline Apartments to continue outreach

SundayBreakfast club Sunday event in the a.m., luncheon at another church, Acts 1:8 meeting in afternoon, Associational meeting in the evening

As I’ve talked about in a previous post (“The struggle is real to be authentic”), I really push-back on making Sunday the Super bowl of Forefront’s ministry. But from looking at my calendar this week, there is obviously a danger in doing the opposite, right? I and plenty of other pastors are giving tons of our time away, and we need to be careful and protective of giving our attention to the Word, our families, and ourselves.

In ministry, I think our eyes can be bigger than our stomachs sometimes. What I mean is that we are passionate, some of us are type-A personalities, and we rally to a cause, but we can’t do it all. Why? Because we have over-extended our bandwidth.

I’m learning in church planning, by my own mistakes, that I not only need to plan for what I’ve committed to but also for randomness in my week, what I like to call holy interruptions. These interruptions aren’t a bad thing, but if I’m maxed out on my commitments then I may miss out. I have also noticed that it is through these holy interruptions that our mission is advanced into new waters.

Whoever you are, especially if you’re interested in church planting, learn from me and guard your bandwidth. I obviously don’t have this—not over-committing—figured out. If I did, I wouldn’t be in this place.

I guess it’s like learning to live within your means financially. You have to lead your life within your means. I have the challenge of being “fully present” in my doing, and so I find myself leading on auto pilot.  Although that may work in church life and with others who don’t know you, it doesn’t work with your wife and kids.  Take it from me on this!

How you can pray for me

  • There’s a lot going on at Forefront that I hope to share with you in the next few weeks, which is one of the main reasons I’ve overextended myself. God is doing good things, and I am excited to tell you about it! Please pray for these developments.
  • Pray that I will make time to be in the Word, with my family, and to take care of myself.   

 

Fighting the urge to reinvent the wheel in ministry

By Lee Kemp 

Sometimes churches start a ministry that already exists in the community. Other times, a ministry stops working but continues to be the focus of many churches. Why? 

Are we competing with other churches? Are we just doing for the sake of doing?

People have asked me about Forefront’s ministry, like when our church will start a choir ministry or community groups. Sometimes I tell them, “We’re probably never going to have that…” or “We’re a church plant; we’re not there yet.”

For example, Forefront tried launching community groups early on because we wanted to be like other churches. We tried community groups without the right training, and then found ourselves having to step back and re-evaluate what we were doing.

We had a lot of new believers at the time, so instead of community groups we switched to discipleship groups. Eventually I think that it will grow into community groups, but we needed to develop leaders first. 

{ In church planting it is important to take time to honestly evaluate what needs to be changed or cancelled.}  

Forefront also does not plan to have a traditional student ministry. When I was involved in student ministry prior to Forefront, I found there are churches who have made that ministry an island unto itself. It’s not that Forefront doesn’t minister to youth, but we think they should be involved in our church alongside adults. Our worship should be relevant enough to pique their interest, and if I can’t bring that next generation into our church service there’s a big problem.

So people might ask, “What is there on Wednesday night for my student?” I’m ok with our students going to other Baptist churches instead of reinventing the wheel. I don’t need to have a better youth group than them. My job is to plug my students into ministry, disciple them and lead them to be on mission with Jesus. There should be ways for them to serve that they want to be involved in.

So questions Forefront asks are:

  • What is it that God has called us to focus on?
  • Why is there a need for our church to be planted?
  • How will we stay true and authentic in vision instead of duplicating other local churches?

We need to be secure in our missional commitment to Christ and not focused on operating and programming around just maintaining a stagnant core group of Christians.   

Sometimes I feel that we as pastors need to be reminded that our goal is to be a group of cooperating churches—not competing churches. 

What would happen if we desired the churches in our community to succeed even if it meant before our own church success? What would it look like if we just simply acknowledged each other’s strengths and united to support each other in those strengths? 

I don’t know if Arkansas is ready for the impact that would be unleashed if we began to foster a cooperative spirit instead of a competitive spirit! 

I will now step off of my soap box. 🙂 

 

Covered up: the struggle of every church planter and believer

By Lee Kemp 

Pulling from a saying in the military, as a church planter I sometimes feel that I am greatly behind enemy lines. Church planters are trying to advance the Kingdom of God with the Gospel, and we are doing everything we can to take back territory that we believe is God’s.

Inevitably, we start to feel covered up, and it doesn’t take long to feel that way…Because of over-commitments to people. Because I didn’t delegate tasks away from me. Because I’m developing leaders that are not quite ready to take the mantle. Because I haven’t decided to say no.

You know, Hugh Halter said that when people feel covered up, they can list their priorities and delegate/stop at least 25 percent of what they’re doing. If they feel like they’re not running to the fullness of what God told them, they should delegate or stop some things. And here’s the thing—no one would even notice or care that they did it!

{If you feel covered up, list your priorities and then delegate or stop 25 percent of what you are doing. And no one will even notice.}

So what I have to ask myself is this: If I am covered up and not as productive as I could be, what is the possible 25 percent that I can either delegate, train someone to take over, or just say no to?

I don’t know about everybody else, but what I tend to do in my brain are these trivial tasks that no one cares about or sees as valuable. But I get stuck doing them anyways because I think they need to be done. Really, this where I fail because they don’t need to be done!

My “ministry OCD” kicks-in. Some of these things I’ve allowed to take the priority of ministry. Forefront is a church plant, and I have to remind myself that we are not going to look like an established church who has been working at a certain level of excellence for decades. Instead, I should have a mentality to do the best with who I am with what I have.

I used to get stuck on the word excellence. Then I heard this definition, and it set me free:

“Excellence is the place where passion and precision meet.”

What I learned is that if our church is passionate, and we’re doing the best we can with what we have, that’s excellence. Excellence is not perfection, so I can honor God by being passionate and as precise as I can be. Do my best and forget the rest.

Church planters can have a “small-man” complex. We try to work really hard, and we get covered up, but we think everybody else is just as covered up. So we miss out on our families and our kids…and we feel like we’re pleasing the Lord. But really we’re doing it because we are stuck in a “small-man” complex. I ultimately lose my integrity, and it starts to ripple or echo somewhere else.

For Arkansas Baptist church planters, everyone we look up to is part of the mega-church world, or they have major support, or they came from a metropolitan area. Arkansas doesn’t have a city with millions of people. My church plant won’t be like Francis Chan’s. It just won’t.

We read the next best book or hear a conference sermon, and afterward we think we should get covered up in ministry. And that’s not really the best response! Maybe the better response is to come back and stop a few things.

To me that should be a conversation starter, specifically for church planters but also all believers! What do you think? Please leave a comment below.

My encouragement for you would be to ask these questions:

  • Are you covered up? And with what?
  • How much of that needs to be delegated?
  • What can you say “no” to, or “not yet?”

 

How a vision became Forefront Church

forefront logo

By Lee Kemp 

My wife Sarah and I really felt affirmed in our ministry. We had spent eight and a half years working with youth and absolutely loved it. I was also preaching several times a year in our church, which is unusual as a youth pastor.

We questioned whether we would go to seminary or begin pastoring a church. I actually went to seminary three different times . I was thinking “I have three kids with one on the way.”

Instead, I got involved with a multi-site church called Brand New Church, and I was a campus pastor for 18 months there. We enjoyed that time even though it wasn’t completely what we felt called to. It did give us a lot of opportunities to work with adults. The only adults I had worked with were my kids’ parents in youth ministry, so I really got my feet wet working with adults and not just students.

Still, we were asking God why this didn’t feel like everything we were being told to do. So I gave Dave McClung a call; he is on the Church Planting Team at the ABSC. I told him “I’m ministering and enjoying it, but I know I’m not doing everything I was created to do. I’m lacking.”

{ I’m ministering and enjoying it, but I know I’m not doing everything I was created to do. I’m lacking. }

Dave sent me several books to read, a few being “Strength Finder 2.0” and “Church in the Making.” At the time, I also was reading a book called “Greater” by Stephen Furtick. As I read those books, it was a process of assessing who I was.

The Vision Comes

So then I tried to sit down and pray for a vision. I asked myself, “If Jesus were to ask, ‘If you could do whatever you want to advance my kingdom in ministry, what would you like to do?”

I just thought about church—getting outside the box—and I wrote out Forefront Church.

After that I had coffee with Roy, a business man in Fort Smith, and told him what I wanted to do. He gave me four other guys to talk to. I also talked with a guy named Burt who would ask questions. What we ended up with was a magazine; it’s the business plan of our church plant. We put in 40-50 hours planning out this vision.

Raising Support

There was a season where it was just businessmen and my money. I was going to be short and I was like I have to get a job or it’s going to slow me down. We had some support from our personal savings, from businessmen, the ABSC, Dixie Jackson funds & the cooperative program. There are church planters in Arkansas like me who really need those Dixie Jackson funds to keep them going.

With things in motion, we lived with our parents for a little bit before moving-in to an apartment complex that the businessmen (who were sponsoring us) owned. It was a two-bedroom apartment. We had three children at the time with one on the way!

Lee’s advice if you are considering church planting :

  • Start by asking yourself these questions: Who are you? What are your spiritual gifts? What are you passionate about?
  • Write down your thoughts/vision.
  • Meet with a coach to critique your plans in a positive way, someone who will bounce your ideas around and be a sounding board.
  • Business men are not pastors; they want to know what you’re going to do and how you’re going to do it.