The Risk & Return of a Church Planter – Pt. 1

At the very core of investing is the concept of risk &
return. This is not only true for financial investments but in all areas of
life. If you hope to get something out you must put something in. One thing the
Bible teaches us is that if you want friends you must show yourself to be
friendly. In other words, in order to receive friendship you had better give
friendship. Someone once said that time is something that can not be bought,
saved or stolen. You can however waste time, lose time, spend time or do the
responsible thing and invest time. Just remember one thing. The greater the
investment, the greater the risk and the greater the possible return.

This concept has become a lot clearer to me as we approach
our first sneak preview service on the 21st. Any smart investor has
a full understanding of both the risks and possible returns before they ever
take a step. I am not a smart investor. In fact I was so focused on the outcome
of my investment that I did not see the risks at first. So let me share what I
found out the hard way. It might be obvious from the outside looking in but it
wasn’t to me until the past few months.

Now before I begin my “risk list� let me say that a risk is
the possibility not the eventuality of loss. Risk can always be minimized as
long as you know it exists.

The Church Planter Risk List

The Vocation Risk – As a church planter or pastor is becomes
very easy for your faith to become you job. Craig Groeschel, Senior Pastor of LifeChurch.tv said it best in his
book Confessions of a Pastor. He admitted that he at one time realized he
had become a full-time pastor and a part-time Christian. I find myself sometimes
doing the work of the ministry instead of living my life for the Lord. Trust me;
they are not always the same thing.

The Relational Risk – I get so busy that I can’t always tell
that there are people in my life that I am neglecting. We like to call it
taking up our cross but sometimes we don’t realize that there are loved ones
nailed to that thing. It hurts them when everything and everyone is more important
and what we sometimes don’t see is that it hurts us as well. Good relationships
can not be just a passing thought because they are crucial to survival.

The Disconnection Risk – I caught myself on this one not to
long ago. I am a learner. I love to read and listen to what other church
planters and successful pastors are accomplishing and how they are doing it. I
listen to all their podcasts and messages while I drive to work. I subscribe to
all their blogs so I will never miss even the smallest nugget of experiential
wisdom. I almost got so focused on what other church planters were doing I
forgot that they are not my target. At one point I might have been able to
plant a really great church that was attractive to other church planters…think
of the lives that could have been changed. Now I am not saying that you shouldn’t
read, listen and absorb their wisdom. I am just saying that focus is a powerful
thing; make sure it’s pointed in the right direction.

The Financial Risk – I can’t just pass this one by.
Especially since it’s the one I am facing currently. Any one who said starting
a church was cheap…ok, no one ever said starting a church was cheap but id they
did they were crazy. Think of the list. Sound equipment, nursery equipment,
signs, marketing, Red Bull. All these thing cost money and most places aren’t
giving it away. I am not saying that the church planter has to pay for
everything out of pocket but you have got to be willing to buy into the vision
before anyone else will. The other problem is allowing your financial through
put determine the vision or at least how well you think you can fulfill the
vision. This should never be the case. When I started thinking about what we
needed to start LifePoint I came up with a budget of about $40,000.00. Now that’s
already a modest budget to launch a church large. That budget has since been
dwindled down to $4,000.00. We still have pretty much everything we set out to
get but we had to do it in creative ways. Don’t let the size of your bank
account determine the size of your vision.

Ok, there were a few risks that I have identified in
my own journey as a church planter but I am sure there are more lurking around
the corner. I will point those out as I discover them. Please feel free to
share your own insights. In part II of this post I will share with you my
thoughts on the issue of return as it pertains to church planting. You may have
to wait until the 21st for that though ;0)