The Power of Starting: What's Your Skillset?


I am energized by new things. I’ve always said, when it comes to ministry I’m like an OB-GYN doctor. Meaning, I’m all about the birth … the start or creation of something new. Once the baby is born I’m ready to hand her off to the pediatrician. I love starting new things. I love being on the startup phase of new churches, businesses, and ministries.

When it comes to skillsets there’s an enormous difference between starting and growing. The fortunate ones are gifted or at least competent in both. We see this in sports. Some football coaches are brilliant when it comes to restarting or taking over struggling teams. They’re all about the turnaround. Others instead can take a good team and make it great. But give them a turnaround team from a struggling school or franchise? Not so much.

Recognizing this is key. I’ve known many ministry leaders who’re not skilled in starting anything. And then they decide to try their hand in church planting and it bombs. That’s not their skillset … or so it might seem. However, a missing component in all of this is what are the measurements of “success.” This is key. You see, how many leaders were actually great at starting things … but it simply didn’t “take off” as fast as their denominational leaders or funders wanted? Instead, 5 years down the road when they’re packing up and leaving as “failures” what is misunderstood and overlooked is really their ability to truly succeed at starting something … it just didn’t take off as fast or grow as big as funders and leaders would’ve liked.

We see this all of the time in business. Companies will be around for a long time before they “pop.” Starbucks was started in 1979 and most people didn’t even hear about them until the 1990s. In actuality in their backstory, the original founders got it started, but it took a Howard Schultz to take over and make it is what it is today. Just because your new church or startup doesn’t explode by year 5 it doesn’t mean you’re a failure. It also could mean that slow and steady growth is actually what’s best.

I have a friend who planted a church 10 years ago. I think by the end of year 1 they had like 20 people. By the end of year 2 they still had around 20-25 people. But they were faithful and consistent. Fast forward the story line they’ve grown not only into a large church but have done amazing work in their city through launching all kinds of initiatives and non-profits. Slow and steady.

But we don’t have patience. If a new football coach doesn’t turnaround the program by year 2 they’re on the hot seat. If your new church hasn’t consistently stayed about 65 people by year 5 you’re in no man’s land. But if you know your skillset and your context then you can buckle down for the long term. With all of the said, I strongly believe that many more people are indeed competent at starting new churches, businesses, and ministries, but leaders and funders don’t have the patience to see it develop slowly, simply, and sustainably.

That’s why I’m a big proponent of self-sustainability. If you’re not dependent upon your new church or startup to initially fund you then you’re in good hands. You can develop it, tweak it, have patience, and take the long road. In each of the last 2 startups I’ve been involved in I wasn’t dependent upon them. It’s not that I didn’t want them to in turn contribute to me financially, but I was already working full-time so they had space and room to “breathe.” Was it a bit crazy-making at times with my schedule? Yes, but it was so worth it.

So who are you? What’s your skillset? Before you write yourself off as a non-starting person, think of it like this … if you could start something … AND if you had the time to let it breathe and grow … would you?