For anyone who is thinking of starting a new congregation, here’s a few tips from those who are already doing it, on things they wish they’d known earlier:
Before you start:
- Pray. A lot. This needs to become a regular habit of the leadership team, together.
- Learn all you can about the people you are trying to reach: What is their history? How do they relate? What do they value?
- Have a leadership team, rather than just one person leading. 4 or 5 is an ideal team size. Your relationships must be meaningful.
- Don’t start too quickly, but don’t wait too long to start either.
- Start with what you have. If you wait for the perfect resources, timing, team, setting or plan – it may never happen!
- Keep it simple and reproducible from the very beginning (or you will end up exhausted!).
- Learn from others who are doing similar things (for example, at the initial Training Sessions, and in Learning Communities).
Once you have started:
- Make people feel welcome – if you are coming to my house I will offer you a drink! Hospitality is vital, if you want people to feel valued.
- Meet weekly if at all possible – weekly gatherings form community, but bear in mind that most people can’t usually come every week.
- Take an interest in the everyday stuff – regular ‘News Slots’ in your gatherings build a sense of community.
- Watch people – take some time, from different parts of the room, to see how (and where) people are engaging with one another.
- Encourage one another – give both positive and critical feedback. The former helps us feel appreciated, and the latter helps us grow.
- Talk about giving – it’s not about money, it’s about what we are trusting in. It is a part of our discipleship. Don’t be a coward!
- Be intentional about discipleship – if you don’t make concrete plans for this, you may end up only running a religious club or event.
- Use already available resources – there are many free on the Joshua Centre web-site. ROOTS is also good (but there is a charge).
- Be prepared to change and adapt – the order of service should never be set in stone.
- Don’t change and adapt too much, too quickly – keeping some consistency in what you do can help people to feel ‘safe’.
- Don’t worry about your mistakes – learn from them. If nothing else, they help us to remember that we don’t know everything.
- Meet regularly to pray – this will resource you to deal with for every opportunity, and every challenge, which comes your way.
Above all else, enjoy yourselves, honour God, and do your best. Share your stories as you go, and encourage others to do likewise. Go for it!
By Sharon Boden