Look Before You Grow, Part II: From Living Room to Lease

When a church plant grows to a rented space059

Seeing God mature your small living-room fellowship into a growing church body is a uniquely exciting experience—one that the vast majority of believers, at least in North America, have never had. It can bring a sense of eager anticipation as your group ventures from the confines of a home to a larger, rented space. People wonder, what will it be like? Will we keep growing? What does God have planned for this flourishing fellowship?

This article is designed to help prepare your leadership for some of the unique challenges and opportunities that come with moving your church to a leased space.

See Part I of this series for insights that apply to the various stages of church growth. To recap: every stage of growth requires visionary leadership, effective organization, and adequate resources.

Moving to a rented space gives your church the opportunity to: 

  • Reach new people
  • Recruite and train new workers
  • Stretch their leaders
  • Improve the overall experience for church members
  • See God come through in new ways, in a new setting

What challenges will your church face?

  • Problem solving. Every solution brings new problems. You’ll encounter problems in your leased space that you didn’t have to solve before. For example, how will you ensure the safety of the parking lot and stairwells?
  • You’ll need more staff and more money (see below)
  • Opposition. You may lose some members, though founding members tend to be loyal, having been won and nurtured by the person or team who planted the church. Opposition can also come from people who live and work near the rented facility.

What resources are essential?

  • Prayer
  • Unity – not necessarily unanamity, though some reluctance to venture out is natural
  • Workers, which implies a good recruiting process
  • Ongoing training. While God will often send someone with particular skills and gifts to a new fellowship, Scripture indicates that He desires that a church fill its ministry needs by equipping and training its own members.
  • More leaders. Since we’re talking about managing growth, expect that the work will be more than the current leader/church planter/pastor can manage alone. One of the first things the Apostle Paul did when he planted a church was to appoint and equip leaders. Every wise church planter does that. Only put people in key leadership positions who have shown themselves to be faithful Christ-followers.
  • Technology can help. A previous article shows how technology tools can improve the church’s experience when they’re meeting in a rented space.

How can leaders navigate the choppy waters of change?

Even though growth is good change, it’s still change, something most of us naturally resist. Most of us prefer the comfortable and the familiar, and we will only give it up by choice if something better is being offered.

Big changes go more smoothly if the leaders:

Cast vision. Even church leaders who don’t see themselves as visionary can describe a better future for their church. Casting vision involves describing the destination and guiding the journey. People are more likely to get on board when they know where the boat is going. They might row harder, too.

Delegate wherever you can. That’s important if you want to create future leaders. The more people invest of themselves, the more invested they become. (Profound, right?)

Build an effective system of organization. Not all organizational structures are equal. Some of them focus more on keeping the system going than on helping the church and its members to thrive. In these organizations, the workers serve the system. In the most effective churches, the system serves the members, enabling them to minister effectively.

Expect occasional stalls and setbacks – even opposition. Few organizations get the change process exactly right from the beginning. Change is always messy. Learn and grow from setbacks.

Celebrate successes. Show your people that what they are doing matters, and that it’s noticed and appreciated.

Next in the series: moving from a single church campus to multiple sites.