3 Things Established Churches Can Learn From Church Plants

[Today’s article is a guest post by Steve Caton, Church Community Builder & Church Community Matters].

Before you throw stones, I’m not anti-established churches. I have seen effective established churches  and ineffective church plants just as I have seen ineffective established churches and effective church plants. I think we need both to keep things in balance. I’d like to tackle what can be learned from both kinds of churches. This first post will identify what established churches can learn from church plants.

1) Be clear and unwavering in your focus. Doing church today isn’t as simple as perhaps it might have been in previous generations. There are very few standards or rules to follow. There really is a lot of room to do ministry in creative ways. That’s good and bad. The temptation for church planters is to try every new idea rather than focusing on maintaining the substance of why you started the church in the first place. For established churches, the temptation is to keep everything already in place rather than evaluate how well it creates impact.

2) Involve everyone in ministry. A church planter is very aware that every person matters and can make or break ministry capacity. This doesn’t mean that everyone is a good fit or that you should just take whomever comes along and put them in a position of leadership. But a church plant — much like a small business — recognizes that it’s all hands on deck and everyone must wear multiple hats to keep the church moving forward. As a church gets bigger, the temptation is to stop leveraging volunteers and hire more and more paid staff. If you’re not careful, the congregation can become completely disconnected from the fragility of the organization.

3) Invest in technology that connects people between Sundays. Lots of life happens during the week. If we can’t stay connected with people unless they are geographically present at the same time, we will minimize our ability to create community. Church plants are forced to use technology and social media to stay connected and promote engagement in their ministry work. Established churches sometimes put the burden on people to “figure it out” rather than proactively inviting people to participate and engage.

If you haven’t been reading The Leisure Suit series by Tony Morgan, he offers some really great ideas about how to identify what’s working and what’s not. Just because it’s functional doesn’t mean it’s effective.

If your established church starting acting like a church plant, what would you do differently today?

Steve Caton is the vice president of sales and marketing for web-based church management system company, Church Community Builder in Colorado Springs, Colorado. Steve blogs at http://churchcommunitymatters.com.

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About the author  ⁄ Lauren Hunter

Lauren Hunter is an entrepreneur, freelance writer, and founder of ChurchTechToday, where she encourages churches to better use technology to improve every aspect of ministry. She's also a wife to a pretty awesome coach, mom of four great kids, worship leader, and poet.


  • Reply
    Lauren Hunter Author
    November 29, 2011

    Great comment from LinkedIn:

    As one who has worked professionally on both sides of this issue, I can only offer what I’ve seen. Church plants and established churches both need to learn from each other. The reason they often do not is that there is little attention given to a partnership (kingdom consciousness) of mutual help, encouragement or even dialogue.

    There are no stones needed to throw here. You question is more than valid and it is high time we dealt with it. We have not capitalized on a potential advantage; a symbiotic relationship between established churches and new church plants. Church planting is often a lonely endeavor. Those folks who do it need a lot and the established churches have resources they are not willing to either use effectively or give generously. We have failed to see that we need each other desperately.

    Posted by Terry

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