The Top 10 Things I’ve Learned About Church Planting Through the School of Hard Knocks!

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Feb 132013

10 tips for church plantingI get excited whenever I hear about new churches starting up. As far as I’m concerned, there is always room for more churches of every stripe and type to be planted in every neighborhood, town, and city. Over the years I have had the honor and delight of planting a few churches as well as being a birthing coach and cheer leader to a number of new missional communities. By virtue of my personality type and gift mix as a persistent, and yes at times bull headed and stubborn pioneer, I must confess that I have had to learn some of what I’m about to share through the application of the two by four method. In other words by doing things the wrong way and wondering why my nose is so raw, I’ve come to realize that perhaps this is simply the nature and learning style of most church planters, catalysts, and pioneers. With that in mind, I hope that through the hard lessons I’ve learned backwards with a few bumps,bruises and scars to show for it, I can help a few pioneers not repeat those mistakes and possibly help prevent some church planting disasters or shipwrecks.

1. Start with a team of faithful, forgiving friends who have complimentary gifts and a shared vision!

Plant a missional community with some faithful, forgiving, friends!

Plant a missional community with some faithful, forgiving, friends!

  • Ask the question who would you want to ‘be and do’ church with?
  • The two tests of true friendship are conflict and time. Look for friends who have passed these tests to be part of your team.
  • A good team has a mixture of pioneers and settlers, gatherers and nurturers.
  • Keep clarifying and coming into agreement with your team around your core values and practices in living out mission and community.
  • Have fun together and don’t take yourselves too seriously.
  • Be in each others homes eating and sharing life together.

2. Set the DNA for missional living right from the get go!

  • Become friends with the poor.
  • Form community around the friends you make.
  • Be present and make time to form authentic relationships with your neighbors.
  • Find the ‘third places’ in your community and hang out there. These are the places that people gather and are neutral such as cafes, pubs, the library.
  • Volunteer to serve in your community through coaching a sport, getting involved in your kids schools, forming a book club, or by starting a parenting or marriage course and then advertising it in the community
  • Take people on a missions trip to the developing world or on a ministry trip where they get to do the stuff at least once a year. Forming a hospitable missional culture will keep the community healthy.
  • Be cognizant of your ‘spoken versus your unspoken culture’ – what we say versus what we actually do.

Spoken values need to be translated into feet values!

3. Go slow to go fast!

  • Resist the temptation to go to a public Sunday morning gathering as long as you can. Going public to quickly will draw the malcontents, and those looking for the the ‘next big thing’ to attach themselves to.
  • Remember that a crowd does not a community make!
  • Prioritize small groups right from the get go. The rule of thumb is to have 3-5 small groups before going to a Sunday service.
  • Pace yourself. The temptation as a visionary is to go so fast that those following you can’t keep up, and then unknowingly the community or your leadership will burnout or feel like they are constantly getting whiplash.

Remember that what you as a visionary consider to be a 3 degree slight shift of direction will feel like a 90 or 180 degree jolt farther down the tail.

Relax in the rest of God by living His unforced rhythms of grace.

Relax in the rest of God by living His unforced rhythms of grace.

4. Keep the mission simple: “Love God and Love Your Neighbor”!

  • Practice the unforced rhythms of simplicity, silence, solitude, and prayer on a daily and weekly basis.
  • Encourage your team to move into the same neighbourhood together, or encourage clusters of folks to consider moving into other neighbourhoods in your city.
  • Practice the “art of neighbouring”.  There is great little book written by Jay Pathak and Dave Runyon that has the same title and well worth having your community read and apply!
  • Bake some cookies and go meet your neighbours who you don’t know by name yet.
  • Have block parties.
  • Give and receive from the people living right next to you with no strings attached! When we put ourselves in a posture to receive we get out of the power position, and the relationships with our neighbours become mutual and authentic.
  • Don’t try so hard to convert people that’s God’s job. Simply tell your story and watch for who the Holy Spirit is drawing into the Kingdom.

5. Prioritize One To One Apprenticing!

Making babies is the fun part of parenting or apprenticing, yet it also comes with the hard work of changing diapers!

  • Get our of your office and spend a good chunk of your week in ‘one to one mentoring’.
  • Look for who is hungry and teachable and spend lots of time with these folks.
  • Be organically intentional or deliberate in the process.
  • Remember that church planting is just the natural byproduct of apprenticing. The making of disciples is the accidentally on purpose strategy for church planting. Once you have a few disciples you have the core team for a church plant.
  • Pass on the Jesus way of life by having people live in community with you or shadowing you.
  • Spend time surfacing and walking out healing for the family of origin wounds that we all bring to and project on the church. If someone has unresolved ‘mommy or daddy owies’ these wounds will impact how that person relates to you as the church planting couple. Spiritual health is directly connected to how emotionally healthy a person is. Suggested read: The Emotionally Healthy Church: A Strategy for Discipleship that Actually Changes Lives by Peter Scazzero

6. Lead from your sweet spot!

  • Relax and don’t over grip your club or racket!  When we are stressed or trying to hard we will not be fruitful. Live in the pocket of God’s peace and rest.
  • Resist the temptation to copycat models and methodologies that work for someone else and don’t compare yourself to other churches or leaders.
  • Be yourself and don’t fall into the trap of trying to live from the ‘ought self’ – what you internally and others externally expect you to be.

7. Keep Casting a Vision for Jesus and the Big Story of His Kingdom while calling out the song of the Kingdom in each person. 

  • We are part of a grand narrative that needs to be told afresh to each generation.
  • God has dropped the song or seeds of the Kingdom in each person. This is the longing in each person for intimacy and the desire to make a difference on this earth through the gifts and passions they have. We as leaders are to call this out and cheer folks on to live the Kingdom dream!
  • Give room for the mystery of the ‘already not yet of the Kingdom’.
  • Teach and live the themes of justice, peace, righteousness, joy, mission, reconciliation, and healing.
  • Do the stuff of praying for the sick, deliverance, caring for the poor, and loving your enemies.
  • Train others to do likewise – watch what I do, go do it,  and then let’s debrief.

8. Do a few things well.

  • Learn to say no to the good things that are not the best, especially the good ideas that people bring to you, but want you to execute.
  • Focus on those things that people are willing to commit time, energy, and money to.
Look for life and nurture it.

Look for life and nurture it.

9. Find life and form simple structure around that life.

  • God is the initiator of life. What we need to learn is to see where God is birthing life and put some simple structures around that life.
  • Look for circles of 3 people who are already friends and doing something together. Simply bless that and come alongside and coach it.
  • Start your small groups by asking these two questions: Who do you have faith for? Who would you go to if you had a struggle in your marriage, or if you had an hidden addiction that you can’t kick on your own.

10. Discern the seasons of your life and community.

  • When it is winter season there will be some culling and pruning of activity and people. Don’t panic or try to start new things in this season. Ask the question what and who do we need to let go of even if it is painful? God is wanting you to go deeper in your roots and character.
  • Practice lament when there is loss.
  • Celebrate when it is a season of growth such as when with new babies are being born in the natural, and into the spiritual family.
  • Throw great parties and remember to have fun!


By Tim Schultz





Life Lessons Learned Climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro

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Sep 092011
This summer as part of the rites of passage coaching I do with parents

Getting High on the View

and their kids, I climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro in Tanzania, Africa with my son Jonathan and my brother Steve and his son, Ben.

Gung Ho and Ready to Go

Two nagging questions that you face while preparing to climb a mountain like Mt. Kili are: “Why am I paying big bucks and investing all that time to inflict pain on myself by climbing this mountain?” and  “Am I going to make it?”  Couched in these questions  are the the seminal questions we all ask whenever we are faced with an opportunity or challenge that will require risk yet great reward on the other side.What I have found is that the journey of climbing a mountain is a metaphor for life. That is why mountain climbing is such a great rite of passage experience for parents and kids.

The Challenge of Mt. Kili

Here are 7 life lessons that we learned on the mountain:
  1. GO SLOW TO GO FAST: On the first few days of the trek our sons were blazing the trail ahead of us grey-beards at a torrid pace. I kept saying to the lads, “This mountain will teach you to go slow to go fast!”, but to no avail. That is until the last night when we made the last push to the summit.  Altitude and -15 C  temps became the great equalizer. The two young studs were no longer out there leading the pack. At one point we thought the youngest member of our expedition wouldn’t make it to the top. Where as earlier in the trek he had boundless energy, he was now in agony, swaying and staggering under the affects of altitude sickness with every breath laboured. Yet slowly, at what seemed like a snail’s pace, we all made it to the summit…with guess who at the front 🙂  IN WHAT AREAS OF YOUR LIFE DO YOU NEED TO SLOW DOWN? WHERE IS THE TEMPTATION IN YOUR LIFE TO TAKE SHORT CUTS THAT WILL COST YOU IN THE LONG RUN?

    The End Goal Within Reach

    The axiom often quoted these days says, “It’s all about the journey, not the destination.” Though I appreciate the idea that we need to take time on the trek of life to enjoy the landscape, vegetation and each other’s company, which we did, I can’t imagine climbing Mt. Kili with no intention of reaching the top.  Having and reaching one’s goals are important. Yes, sometimes the task or the mission can be so all consuming that relationships suffer, and we miss out on living fully in the moment. Yet somehow on the mountain, we learned how to live in the tension of enjoying every minute of every day, and yet pushing each other on and pressing through to reach our end goal. We had some belly aching laughs as watched how many times we had to pee on the mountain because of all the fluids we were drinking. As we huddled in our tents at night under the clear, star-studded African skies, we treasured the rich conversations we shared about the mysteries of a woman, our fears, and our hopes and dreams for the future. Just as rewarding, though, was the profound sense of accomplishment and exhiliration we all felt at making it to

    Working Hard to Reach the Top

    the top of Mt. Kili. Imparting to our sons the life lessons of setting a goal, of doing the planning and preparation to attain the goal, and then working hard to achieve that goal was worth every penny. On top of that the personal pride we felt as dads at seeing our boys reach their goal, alongside the simple pleasure of  being and bonding with our boys made the journey and destination worth it. ARE YOU ENJOYING THE SIMPLE PLEASURES OF YOUR JOURNEY? WHERE DO YOU NEED TO SET SOME GOALS TO FULFILL YOUR DREAM?

    Made It!

  3. IT TAKES A TEAM TO LIVE THE DREAM: We were blown away at how many porters and guides we were assigned to climb the mountain: 14, including two guides and two cooks.  At first we thought this was overkill. Yet when we were trudging up the mountain gasping for air as we watched these incredible porters whiz by us wearing flimsy tennis shoes, carrying 50-70 pounds of gear sometimes on their heads or necks, we realized we may not have made it without them. What a gift to do this climb with my son Jon, my brother Steve, and his son Ben! They were just the right team to share this experience. WHO ARE SOME FRIENDS OR FAMILY THAT YOU WOULD LIKE TO PURSUE A DREAM WITH?
  4. OVERCOMING OBSTACLES IS PART OF PURSUING ANY DREAM WORTH REACHING FOR: One of the most poignant memories of our climb occurred on the final night of the summit ascent. We started the climb up to the top at 12am. Right away we noticed that Ben, my brother’s son, was struggling with the effects of altitude sickness. He was having a hard time breathing, which was

    Overcoming Obstacles to Reach the Top

    compounded by a slight case of asthma he had been diagnosed with in the last year. He kept saying that he was sleepy and every step forward took all the strength he could muster. I was so impressed watching my brother Steve walking behind Ben speaking words of encouragement and at times literally pushing Ben up the mountain. At one point my brother, concerned for Ben’s wellbeing, asked the guide whether they should turn back. The affable guide turned and said, “No, Ben is a strong young man and he can make it.”  Ben was able to overcome and we all made it to the top at 6am, albeit with our water bottles almost frozen solid and our toes and fingers feeling a little numb from frost bite. We were rewarded with a glorious sunrise on the way down. WHAT SEEMINGLY INSURMOUNTABLE OBSTACLE IN YOUR LIFE DO YOU NEED THE COURAGE TO OVERCOME?

    The Reward


    5. CELEBRATE YOUR VICTORIES : It is hard to put into words the euphoria you feel when  you get to the top of a mountain. Perhaps it is simply the lack of oxygen that makes you feel a little giddy, but I think it is that sense of fulfillment, joy, and feeling truly alive, even though bone weary, cold, and feeling the aches and pains in parts of your body that you never paid much attention to. We were truly elated and proud of our boys and their accomplishment. WHAT SMALL OR BIG ACCOMPLISHMENT IN YOUR LIFE OR THE LIVES OF THOSE AROUND YOU DO YOU NEED TO CHOOSE TO CELEBRATE?  CELEBRATING BUILDS CONFIDENCE IN PEOPLE TO RISK AND FACE FAILURE.

    WooHoo...WE DID IT!


    6. CHEER ON  THE NEXT GENERATION: As I get older I realize that my role is to be a cheerleader for the next generation, encouraging them to dream big and go for it. Hopefully I will get to tag along. As was evident on most of this trek up Mt. Kili, our two sons had far more energy, vigour, and faster recovery rates than us dads.  We were constantly being passed by them on the trail. Rather than trying to compete with them, we encouraged them to lead us on up the mountain. The next generation needs us to coach them, create space for them to explore, risk, and yes sometimes fail, and most importantly to be their best cheerleaders and champion their dreams. WHO IS A YOUNG PERSON IN YOUR LIFE THAT LOOKS TO YOU FOR MENTORING? CHEER THEM ON, AND WHEN THEY ASK, PASS ON YOUR LIFE WISDOM.

    7. SQUATTY POTTIES KEEP YOU HUMBLE AND HUMAN: Have you ever tried to squat over an open hole on the side of a mountain in the dark to do your business? What I learned is that you have to be pretty good in geometry and have strong quads to be successful in your mission. From first hand experience, if you position yourself to0 far forward or to0 far back, you will surely miss the target! Besides that, squatty potties are not the place to catch up on your reading, as after a minute or two of crouching, your thighs start burning and cramp up…and yes, make sure you bring toilet paper with you as there is no guarantee that it will be provided, and if you have no toilet paper you find yourself in a very awkward position 🙂  WHAT IS KEEPING YOU HUMBLE AND HUMAN THESE DAYS?

    If you like you can take a look at the youtube movie of our climb below.


    Mission Accomplished- Uhuru Peak - the Roof of Africa @ 5895 metres