When I worked with a denominational group, we talked about three types of church starts: upstarts, restarts, and new starts. None of these is easy.
An “upstart”is a euphemism for a church split. In the changing denominational landscape of recent years, we have seen a lot of these. I was part of a group that was just days away from launching an upstart. What stopped this action was the departure of the pastor of the church where many of us were members. He decided it was time for him and his followers to do their own upstart!
Some upstarts prosper, but only if they move away from their original reason for existence. Many are created out of dissension--disagreements about doctrine, leadership, or polity. If the new faith community can move beyond this and find a clear mission and reason to exist, it can grow and develop.
New startsrequire a lot of hard work and commitment. Their leaders tend to identify a particular geographical area or people group and create a community to reach and involve those individuals. I have been part of one of these that was moderately successful and have also encouraged the development of several more, a couple of which have survived and prospered.
A restart churchis one where a congregation acknowledges that it is time to celebrate what they have done and turn their site over to another group. Very often the new ministry is oriented toward a particular ethnic group with leadership who can identify with that population. This happened with my home church. Usually the focus of a restart is on a particular affinity group--singles, artists, economically challenged--and the approach is very different from that of the previous congregation.
In all of these situations, the leadership and participants must possess several characteristics:
- Have a clear vision of who they are and the people they want to reach;
- Be willing to be uncomfortable for the sake of others and work hard;
- Be able to set clear priorities related to time, money, and ministries;
- Have “skin in the game” --they have a clear calling from God and are totally invested in the effort;
- Be willing to learn from failure and not be discouraged;
- Be able to celebrate small wins and see where God is at work.
No matter the type of church start a person becomes involved with, the work is difficult but rewarding as one begins to see God at work in the fellowship and in the community.