Church Planters, Spiritual Entrepreneurs

Leadership guru Ken Blanchard once shared with me that you could tell if a person was an entrepreneur by the fourth grade. Church planters are spiritual entrepreneurs. Merriam-Webster defines an entrepreneur as “one who organizes, manages and assumes the risks of a business or enterprise.” I remember starting my first lemonade stand when I was ten years old and recruiting other friends to help me. My first love was baseball, and I was the guy that would call up his friends and ask one to bring the bats, another to bring the balls and invite everyone to meet at the elementary school at 2 pm to play baseball.

In the same way, a church planter asks one friend to bring the sound system, another friend to bring the children’s ministry equipment and invites everyone to gather at the elementary school for a worship service.

Church planters are spiritual entrepreneurs who know that the odds are stacked against them in starting a successful church but they’re willing to assume the risk anyway. Unlike a business entrepreneur whose primary goal is to make money, a spiritual entrepreneur’s goal is to make meaning – to see lives changed by the power of God.

In The Art of the Start, Guy Kawasaki emphasizes making meaning over money. He explains that if an entrepreneur does that then the money will follow. This is the goal of the spiritual entrepreneur. He seeks making meaning by planting a church that makes disciples and transforms people’s lives. He seeks to help make the world a better place. He wants to be faithful to God’s call upon his life. His goal is to help fulfill the Great Commission by expanding the Kingdom of God, and as he does this, money will follow.

Making money is especially important for church plants because the number one reason church plants fail is they run out of money. Just like a savvy business entrepreneur, a spiritual entrepreneur must understand the importance of money and proper cash flow. How do I know if I’m an entrepreneur? The simple answer is entrepreneurs start things.

Do you like starting new things? Most potential church planters have started a bible study or ministry of some kind. I know one who started a handyman business, another who started a basketball club team and still another who started a wedding business. Church planters have a past history of starting things.

Are you a risk taker? Do you like to take risks? Are you flexible and adaptive? Failure is not a possibility, rather it is a certainty. You have to be willing to fail in order to grow as a church planter. Church planters take risks that many other church pastors are not willing  to take. As a church planting coach, one of the key attributes I look for in a prospective church planter is someone who has an entrepreneurial spirit. When I do an assessment of a potential church planter, I look to see if the planter has an entrepreneurial, risk–taking spirit and has a history of starting new ministries, groups or businesses from scratch using only faith, vision and limited resources (otherwise known as bootstrapping).

Bootstrapping is an entrepreneur’s attempt to build a company (church) from personal finances and/or limited resources. My wife and I invested some of our own money into starting the church and would go to garage sales to buy Fisher-Price cribs for our nursery.

I bought a one-year-old portable church system for $.50 on the dollar. When leasing the first building our new church moved into, I negotiated a graduating lease to allow our church to grow over a six-month period in order to pay the increasing rent.

Church planters also need to have a clear and compelling picture of what the new church will look like in the future and the broad brushstrokes of what it will take to get there. The church planter is able to recruit a diverse group of people to join him in accomplishing his vision. He is able to share repeatedly this vision in such a way that others follow his leadership and help make it happen even when the cost is high.

Brian Jones, the Director of Liberty Church Planting Network (LCPN) says part of their assessment process is looking for potential church planters who have an entrepreneurial spirit. “They (church planters) need to have the vision for something, inspire other people to have that vision and inspire everybody to take the jump to make it happen.” Church planters are spiritual entrepreneurs who JUMP!

Dave Page is the Director of Church Planting with the Evangelical Free Church of America (West District) and a Strategic Leadership Coach with NEXT Coaching Networks and a speaker at the Exponential conferences and Nuts & Bolts Church Planting Conferences. He has planted three churches.