How to make Momentum your best friend and not your worst enemy
by Billy Waters
I was at the park the other day with one of my daughters and she wanted me to push her on the merry go round. I am always surprised by how much effort it takes to get it moving. After it made it’s first turn, my effort became exponentially less because now I was experiencing momentum. Eventually, I was able to stand still and with an arm gesture maintain the speed of the merry go round. The difference between the effort required to start the process and maintain the velocity is momentum.
According to Isaac Newton’s first law of motion: the tendency of a body in motion is to keep moving; the tendency of a body at rest is to sit still. In other words, it requires a lot less work to an object in motion once you have momentum, then it is to start moving an object from a stationary location. This principle is not only true of objects but also of Church Planting.
There is an excitement when people are coming to Christ, the programs are filling up, people feel encouraged, the contributions are strong, and there is a semblance of the New Heavens and New Earth. It seems effortless to launch new initiatives and cast vision. On the contrary, there are few things more discouraging when we start a program and no one shows. We start our preview services and people on the core team back out. Everything we do feels like we are pushing a string uphill.
When we don’t have momentum as a church plant, it is very tempting to vacillate in our sense of call. It is natural to feel defeated, distracted and desperate. I have had a number of conversations with Church Planters who have said ‘I am willing to try anything.’ We seek out answers through conferences, varying strategies, the latest model; nothing seems to help with creating momentum.
If we want momentum in Church planting, it would be helpful to know what doesn’t generate momentum and what will.
In my experience, what doesn’t generate momentum is addressing the cosmetics of the church plant. I had one Pastor say, “we just spent $20,000 on a new sign and we haven’t seen any visitors.’ A new sign, updated logo, a different drum kit, new carpet, bigger chairs, or a mass mailing to the community about your Church services, probably won’t create momentum. These are all small adjustments that must have their place in a much larger conversation. The reason we gravitate toward these solutions for growth is because they are easy decisions to make with little risk or cost. However, they don’t have the mass to spark momentum.
So what will work? There are three things that will begin to generate momentum for a church plant:
- Clarity of Vision- The vision must answer the question why. The most powerful vision statements clarifies how the resources of the gospel will meet the real needs of the community. People are motivated when the question of why is answered.
- Leadership Chemistry– The second critical component for creating momentum is leadership chemistry. It is important for the leadership to be competent in their job but also possess strong chemistry and collaboration within the leadership team. When everyone is operating off of the same theological vision with integrity, the work not only seems effortless but fun. John Maxwell is right, ‘everything rises and falls on leadership.’ If you have to wait 3 years for the right volunteer or staff member, you wont regret it! I have seen time and again when the right leader is on board, things begin to happen.
- Consistent Programs– This is especially important for church planters who are prone to program ADD. If one thing isn’t working we are the first to shift on a dime to try the latest and greatest. When we have a clear vision, with the right leader, executing a program that meets the real needs of our community, hold fast. Getting momentum takes time. The longest spin on the merry go around is always the first. Keep pushing and persevering even when you are going through a dip. Don’t Stop! You will eventually experience momentum.
One of the greatest moments as a basketball fan is watch your team play with momentum. They can’t miss a shot and all the breaks go their way. When the other team senses the momentum shift, they will do anything to try to disrupt it: call time outs, foul the shooter, or change up the tempo. No team starts the game with momentum. It takes a great coach, the right chemistry of players, and a lot of hard work to get there. Once you are in it, it is a joy to witness.