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Church Planting – Lesson 3

One of the values we’ve cherished through our church’s lifetime is sanity. Most planters know all too well the slippery slope of doing way too much in too many areas for far too long. Do you see heavy rotation of “too” here? Often what is true of you is true of the volunteers in your young church. It’s not uncommon to see a sold-out parishioner move chairs and setup the coffee table on Sunday morning, lead music for the student ministry on Wednesdays and facilitate a small group on Monday evenings. The plate can quickly fill.

And isn’t that a great thing? I mean, church-planters need all the help they can get! While bigger, more established churches may have ministries that are “luxuries” which get staffed with all kinds of people, fledgling congregations usually only have ministries which are seen as necessities in beginning a church – and the bottom line is they need people to serve. Period!

However, more times than not, the sobering reality of burnout surfaces with many of your best and brightest volunteers. Far too long they ran the ministry race without a “restrictor plate” and pushing them to opt for no more laps around the track. I wouldn’t be surprised if you didn’t have names of people right now who fit this description running through your head. I’ve got a few.

This is where the moment of truth comes. You must decide early on if you want to shepherd people or use people. Using people may give you the illusion of helping get you where you want to go more quickly but in the end you likely wind up hurting their health, their family, even their faith. Choose to shepherd people. At time that means dialing back on the commitment of others to a level which helps them, and not just the church, grow.

The way we tried to help people see their over-commitment and our (hopefully) commitment to their spiritual, emotional and physical well being was what we call the “two sticky” rule. One evening when we had our core volunteers and leaders together we gave everyone two little Post-it notes with their names on them and displayed a huge whiteboard with all our ministries listed on it. Then we told them that, in the name of sanity and shepherding, they could choose which areas they wanted to serve – but they could only use their “stickies”. Yes, that meant they only could participate in two ministries. We didn’t hold a gun to anyone’s head who desired more (many wanted a third sticky), but we strongly held our ground, “Two stickies, that’s it. Two stickies, we love you. Two stickies, for your health…and the church’s.”

Some didn’t like what we did. It ticked them off. They kept arguing about how high capacity they were, how important it was to their spiritual growth that they do more. We held our ground – two stickies. Ironically, many of those same people came back to us after some time had passed and thanked us for making the hard call. While disappointed at first, they soon discovered how much their retooled involvement in serving positively impacted their life. They had more quality time with their families, there was less rush and hurry in their week and in the end, they had greater energy and enthusiasm in the two ministries they chose to serve. They clearly saw AND FELT cared for. It was a win for us in more ways that one!

Two stickies may sound like a leap of faith for a planter, especially when he continually feels under-resourced in so many areas, not the least of which is with people. But in the end you must ask the question, “Do I want to use people or shepherd people? Do I want my focus to be on growth or health? Will I be responsible for those God gives me early in our church’s life so that possibly he might grant me more to be faithful with in the future?

If shepherding people, focusing on health and wanting to be responsible for those God has presently given you is important, consider introducing the “Two Sticky Rule”.

Picture of Yancey Arrington
Dr. Yancey C. Arrington is an eighth generation Texan, Acts 29 Network and Houston Church Planting Network fan, and Teaching Pastor at Clear Creek Community Church in the Bay Area of Houston. He is also author of Preaching That Moves People and TAP: Defeating the Sins That Defeat You, and periodically writes for Acts 29 and The Gospel Coalition.

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