Planting a new church is hard work. How do you plan a good vision night to find people who will be on mission with you? Pastor Mark Driscoll answers a reader’s question.
I am working on a new church plant in Long Beach. I am looking for advice and resources on how to put on a successful vision night, with the ultimate goal of finding people who can attend, volunteer and provide the necessary pieces so that we can have our first official service shortly after. What should a great vision night consist of?
Garett, congrats on the desire to plant a church. I love church planters and have had the joy of speaking with a lot of men in your exact same season over the years. A few thoughts that I hope will help:
- Make sure you get assessed. This can be done by a denomination and/or a church-planting organization like Acts 29. It’s really important that you and your wife get assessed to ensure you are both ready to plant. Planting a church is exhausting in every way and even a good couple planting prematurely can really hinder their own well-being.
- Make sure you are networked with other pastors who can help and coach you. Ideally, you would have a board of wise counsel made up of pastors outside of your church who are older and leading their own churches. Such men can be a lifesaving source of counsel and accountability.
- Pursue friendships with godly pastors who are a little bit ahead of you and willing to share with you what they are learning. We have pastors at our Mars Hill Huntington Beach church who are godly men, and if you wanted to get some time with them, I know they would love to serve you.
Now, to your question about hosting a good vision night for a new church plant. We recently had an invite-only core group gathering for the church plant we are praying takes root in Spokane, Washington early next year. I spoke at that event with Pastor Miles, who is our leader there, so your question is timely and this whole topic is very fresh in my mind. Here’s what might be of help:
1. Don’t forget to prepare yourself.
Pray a lot, seek wise counsel, check your heart’s motives, ask godly people you know to be praying with you and for you to ensure you are ready to lead people in the church plant.
2. Don’t make it too nice.
We met in an old church fellowship hall that was pretty rough and everyone brought food for a potluck. Church planting is all about hard work and starting with nothing. So, don’t make it fancy to impress people. Let them see that you need leaders and dollars and workers.
3. Don’t oversell.
Don’t talk about changing the world or planting a movement—too many planters sound like single guys talking about their great grandkids on their first date with a gal. Lay out some obtainable short-term goals such as when you will start small groups, when you hope to launch weekly services, and what you need in terms of prayer and generosity. Give specific measurable goals they can shoot for and then celebrate the wins as they meet those goals to build momentum.
4. Don’t just cast vision, teach the Bible.
Your authority comes from the highest authority—God’s Word. Open the Bible and find a section that the Holy Spirit has rung in your soul and cast the vision for the church from the Bible. There is great power in God’s Word and the church in the book of Acts launched with a sermon. Never underestimate the power of God’s Word to capture people for God’s mission.
5. Don’t just talk, allow people to talk also.
At our core group meeting, we sat folks around tables to eat potluck together and meet one another. You want folks to get to know one another, so leave time for relationships to start to from before and after the meeting.
6. Don’t forget to pray.
At our meeting we did not have a band or sound system—but we did pray together for the church plant. That was a wonderfully unifying moment. I would have any other pastors you respect come and join you to show support for you and also to pray over you to model that it’s good for folks to be praying for you and your family.
7. Don’t forget to capture information.
In a church plant, finding good people is like panning for gold. When it shows up, make sure you don’t lose it. Get the contact information for those who come and have a process to follow up with them as soon as possible. Any way to connect them and keep them informed, such as Facebook or Twitter, is also great.
8. Don’t forget a call to action.
What exactly do you want them to do next? Join a weekly small group? Start attending monthly vision meetings? Make sure it is very clear what the next step is for those who are interested in serving as part of the core group.
9. Don’t move too fast.
It’s one thing to get a weekly service up, but another thing to have small groups and care structures in place to be more than just a weekly event. If you don’t have enough leaders and volunteers, within about six months you will burn out your core group since they won’t get a weekend off.
10. Don’t forget to take photos.
Someone should capture the vision meeting. One of my great regrets is that no one snapped photos of our core group meetings or early days of Mars Hill, so that history, for us, is largely gone. Of course, I’m also so old that it was before we had camera phones.
I’m praying for you, Garett! And I’m sending you a really nice calfskin leather ESV wide margin Bible like the one I preach from, in case you need a good preaching Bible.