Three Questions I Get Asked the Most as a Church Planter
“How are things going with the church?”
I know when I hear this question that folks want more than, “Good, thanks for asking!”
This is sometimes an indirect way of asking how many people are coming to our worship service on Sunday, which is a great question.
When a new thing starts, people are naturally curious. Even though “it’s not all about numbers,” one goal from the start was to grow in number, so we do keep up with the numbers in order to see the progress.
We currently average 83 people or so on Sundays (adults and kids) and our growth rate in Sunday attendance since the end of 2017 until now has been about 33%. GS has 82 “members” (adults and kids), with more folks set to join our church in the coming weeks and many others who attend regularly.
So, from an attendance and membership perspective, things are going really well.
Of course, growth is measured not only in numbers, but also the degree to which our folks are growing “in the grace and knowledge” of Jesus. That is happening, too.
We’ve all heard the old proverb, “You can lead a horse to water but you can’t make him drink.”
People are responding to the gospel of Jesus, not only with saving repentance and faith, but just as importantly, with a growing hope and trust in God’s love and His plans. The finished work of Jesus (His perfect life, His sacrificial death, and His glorious resurrection) addresses every fear, question, doubt, and deep human need.
Folks are learning how what Jesus has done relates to their lives every day.
A third aspect of the “how are things going” question is related to our financial stability, which leads to another question I hear a lot...
“Is that your full-time job?”
Pastor at Good Shepherd is my full-time job, but I completely understand the question.
Our church may be new, and small by some standards, but by God's grace, I can support my family entirely on my income from Good Shepherd.
The Pee Dee Presbytery, the local network of PCA churches that ordained me to pastoral ministry, approved/appointed me to plant the church, and part of my responsibility was to raise necessary funds to get going.
The PCA churches of our presbytery have given toward the work, but much of our initial funding came from churches and individuals outside our presbytery. So, money came in to get things going and provide for my family.
Six months after we moved back to Florence, we began our Sunday worship service, and at that time we started to receive tithes and offerings (although some folks within GS had already started to give to the church).
Since that time, God has provided for my family, and now, for Jake Hooker (our assistant pastor) and his family. Both Jake and I work full-time for GS.
Now, as people see and hear that Good Shepherd has grown in these various ways and can support two full-time pastors, you can understand the third question I hear the most, which is...
“When will you guys get a building of your own?”
I don’t know exactly, mainly because it’s not up to me alone. That’s a decision that our church leadership and members will make together sometime in the future.
The issue is not pressing at the moment because the leadership of Briggs Elementary School and Florence District 1 continues to welcome us, and we have room to grow at Briggs. Our folks love it there, and it has been perfect for us.
Of course, it’s a lot of work, but we have a system that helps everyone share the labor without getting worn out or having to serve every Sunday.
Nonetheless, there will come a time when having a more permanent facility makes sense for us. Because of our membership growth and financial sustainability, we are now at a place to begin the process of establishing leadership at Good Shepherd.
By “establishing leadership” I mean that starting out, we had no people, so we had no elders or deacons (the offices of representative church leadership outlined in the Bible). Therefore, the Pee Dee Presbytery of the PCA appointed the leadership of Hartsville Presbyterian Church (PCA) to give us oversight until we establish our own elders and deacons from within GS.
I could see that happening sometime in the beginning of 2020. At that time, GS will no longer be a “mission” or “start-up” church; in many ways, we will no longer be a “church plant.” And I expect that at that time, we will look at our situation and make more long-term plans about facilities.
Stacey Severance is the church planting pastor of Good Shepherd Presbyterian Church in Florence, SC. He graduated from Francis Marion University and completed his Masters of Divinity at Reformed Theological Seminary in Charlotte. He and his wife, Lia, have four daughters. Stacey enjoys woodworking and watching college football.