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Church planters, take pains to "know what you do not know," and you'll find success at every turn.

My church recently celebrated our five year anniversary. It’s been a long five years. Like most plants, there has been blood, sweat and tears. Within the first two years, two members of our congregation, both under 20, went to be with Jesus. We changed locations three times and, on a good weekend, did well to have $1,000 come in. Couple this with people problems, turmoil and turnover and you can see why giving up often seemed like the best solution.

But we didn’t.

This past Sunday we had 200 people in the building — a 50,000-square-foot building we now own in the center of our city worth 10 times the amount we owe. It gets better. In the last six months, we’ve seen more visitors, volunteers and victories than ever before.

Don’t Give Up

Even with the hardest of starts, success is possible. If God called you to it, He can bring you through it. Be confident! He who began a good work in you will bring it to completion. Success is possible.

However, I’ve learned that just because success is possible doesn’t mean that it won’t be painful. Five problematic years of planting has taught me that pain is often the best soil for potential.

This said, it’s important to acknowledge that not all pain is beneficial. It’s why, if I could do it again, I would do one thing differently: I would work to  know what I don’t know.

This is so important! At all costs, before you plant, know (learn) what you do not know. This is something my dad use to say all the time, and it flew over my head for too long. It’s not that you have to have all the answers or be able to solve every solution. You just need to know what you do not know and then identify who can help. Nothing is more painful or problematic than learning the hard way.

For example, I didn’t know that working with a creative leader would be so different than working with other leaders. I didn’t have the tools or maturity to manage and lead someone who approached ministry and life so differently.

When I met with another senior pastor, he told me simply to “give them direction and give them space to be creative.” This small piece of advice changed the relationship I had with the worship leader and paved the way for greater effectiveness. It also helped us avoid many unnecessary conflicts.

It’s important to know what you do not know in the following three areas:

  • Spiritually
  • Strategically  
  • Operationally

Spiritually: I used to think that Paul’s list of character qualities for leaders in 1 Timothy 3 was more like a bouncer checking ID’s to see who was qualified. Not anymore. It’s a list of resources you’ll need — a survival guide. Planting will test every ounce of who you are. Knowing this beforehand would have changed my perspective on the importance of partnering with other pastors.

Strategically: It took me too long to know about great planting organizations like ARC (Association of Related Churches). ARC can help a planter know what they do not know and literally save them from making thousands of mistakes.

Operationally: Structure, structure, structure. Save yourself. Planting a church is the same as starting a business only with more people and politics. Find an A+ operations guy that lives for building spreadsheets and structure. If you do not have one, go find one in the business community and ask him what you do not know.

You cannot eliminate pain from the process, but you can prevent a lot of it. To do this you’ll have to know what you do not know.


Charlie Carroll Charlie Carroll is the Lead Pastor at theNorthGate, Dayton Ohio and can be found blogging about whole living at In addition to his responsibilities at the Church and for his blog, Charlie serves as a content editor for and Outreach Media Group.

More from Charlie Carroll or visit Charlie at

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  • Elliott O’Brien

    Great Read. Thank You.

  • Peyton Jones

    Awesome article man. Dug it. If you get a chance, check out my book Church Zero: Raising 1st Century Churches Out of the Ashes of the 21st Century Church (David C. Cook publishers). It’s all about planting in the style of the apostles. You describe planting in a way that I relate to having been in Europe for 12 years, and now back in the U.S. in the inner city. It’s a grind to say the least, but very very rewarding. I wouldn’t mind reprinting this on my website if you wouldn’t mind.

  • Sangster

    Thank you for that, it’s an encouragement as I am in the process of planting a church in the city of Bangalore.


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