“So…What Went Wrong?”
I was asked this by a friend recently in a private conversation. Truth be told, this is a great question, and it should always be asked when things don’t turn out the way we expected and hoped.
I’ve posted recently about “When To ‘Move On’ in Ministry,” but aside from the video announcement about our recent decision regarding Stoneview, I’ve not mentioned specifically what led us to that decision.
Of course, first and foremost, I should have done a better job of reading and applying the lessons from this classic work: “31 Refutably Irrefutable Laws of Lame Leadership.” 🙂
But more seriously and specifically, the truth of the following factors converged on us one weekend, and the decision became clear.
1. The Team didn’t materialize.
Possible team members came and went, essentially putting me in a “parachute drop” situation. In church planting, 99% of the time, that’s a recipe for failure. I was and am determined to not be a “Lone Ranger” in ministry – but especially when attempting to plant a church.
2. Fundraising efforts fell flat.
I was conflicted in my thinking by previous “strings attached” funds from previous experiences and was too determined early on to “boot-strap” the process. I’m still all for “boot-strapping” your way in most church planting situations, but there should be a balance.
I waited too long to get extra funding and ironically, “paid the price” for it later.
3. Momentum was not established.
We “trickled along” for far too long. Interest in what we were doing was stirred with each community event or presence we established, but the “next” event or gathering was either too many days away or was too different in format or size. For example, “Hot Dogs in the Park” was followed with a “Gathering in a Home.” It might work for some in some places, but it didn’t work for us. At all.
Whether that’s an accurate assessment of the “why,” I do not know. But I do know that for what ever reason, we had no momentum.
4. Timing was not on our side.
There are times in the year that are better than others for launching services. For example, the first of the year, Easter, or early fall are great times to shoot for, so we tried to aim for those. Unfortunately, when we were not ready for launch at one of those times, our next optimal launch time would often be months away. When we weren’t ready by the next one, there was another long stretch till the next best date.
I completely misjudged the timing and then found myself in a seemingly unending “catch-22” type of circle. I should have resolved this in my head and actions much more quickly.
5. Our launch strategy was derailed.
We had intended to launch with preview services in a Theater in our area and it was an important part of our timeline and area of focus.
Surprisingly, as we were attempting to gather a solid launch team, another church “beat us to the punch.” They rented out the theater as a part of their revitalization/relaunch of an an old First Baptist Church. Which, by the way, is incredibly awesome. How could we be upset about that?
So we weren’t upset. …But we were derailed. Or rather, our strategy was derailed, as a “backup launch location” wasn’t as easy to find as I thought it would be.
But honestly, a specific location should never be a major deterrent to launching a church when momentum is established. You can always meet in a park, a school, a warehouse, a home or something to get things going. But as I mentioned before, “momentum” was something we did not have.
(The next 2 are not things that went “wrong,” necessarily, but were factors that made things “clear.”)
6. My family was overextended and the needle was tipping into the danger zone.
Frankly, this was the biggie. Financial pressures, stress, uncertainty, doubt, specific needs of our kids and our pressing responsibilities as parents had taken their toll. To continue without relief in this area for the sake of a ministry would be utter foolishness, and simply wrong. As I’ve said before, its far easier to get a new ministry than it is to get a new family.
7. I heard God say, “Stop. It’s time to lay this down.”
This happened after #6 became clear. It also settled it, for me. For the first time since beginning the process, I had a peace about letting it go. Am I saying I heard an audible voice from the clouds? No. But it could just as well have been. It was that loud in my head and heart.
So, what went wrong? A number of things.
But a lot went “right” as well, and the lessons learned are invaluable for our next step in ministry.