The theme of this September’s Exponential Regional church planting conference in Chantilly, Va. was “Dream Big.”
Hundreds of church leaders from around the region gathered to hear ten experienced church planters share inspirational stories and insight on how to take your church from where it is now to where you want it to be.
I’m not a church leader—the best advice I have to offer is to use church management software to make daily operations run smoother—but I did take notes at Exponential, so I’m able to share what I thought were the most motivational lessons from the conference.
Dream Big: Motivational lessons to remember this fall
Each of these lessons is based around a quote from Exponential that resonated with me. Please feel free to share these quotes and this article on social media if you think they can help someone else grow their church!
1. Your church, your dream
Dave Ferguson, president of Exponential, shared a story about a mentor of his who once told him that he had bigger aspirations for Ferguson’s church than Ferguson himself.
That day, Ferguson said, he made a vow to himself.
If you’re not the biggest proponent of growth and prosperity for your own church, it’s a sign that you’re not thinking big enough. If someone else comes along that sees more in your church than you do, listen to what they have to say, and then try to look at your church from a fresh perspective.
2. Don’t be afraid to change your scope
Ferguson went on to say that as your goals for your church get bigger, your questions should, too.
So instead of asking, how do we add three new families this fall, it’s OK to ask, how do we add ten new families this fall?
Or instead of asking, how do we open a new church next spring, it’s OK to ask, how do we open three new churches next spring?
Having a big dream can help you re-evaluate exactly where you want to go with your church and help you make the changes necessary to get there.
3. If you think big, the small stuff will follow
Ferguson wrapped up his presentation by paraphrasing a quote from Alvin Toffler. As long as your eyes are focused on the big dream, all of the little things that may seem problematic—such as where will we get the money or who will come to our new church or how will we find enough volunteers—will work themselves out.
When you have an optimistic goal in mind, even the small steps that you take to get there will mean big progress for your church. Say you plan to start five new outreach programs this year but you only manage to fit in two. That still might be two more than you started last year, and your church will be better off because of them.
4. If you dream big, others will join you
Peyton Jones, founder of New Breed Church Planting Network, suggested that your goals for expansion and multiplication shouldn’t be to give people a comfortable place to relax and be served. It should be to give people a place to serve and give comfort to others.
Big dreams can be contagious, and once you’re truly moving in the right direction, you should have no trouble finding people who are eager to join you. And if you add two or three new pastors and staff this year who are aligned with your big dream, you have multiplied your growth potential.
5. Don’t try to be the coolest church in town
Derwin Gray, founder of Transformation Church in South Carolina, knows all about what it’s like to be the big man on campus. He played safety for Brigham Young University and the Indianapolis Colts. But once he became a pastor he realized that flash and showiness can only get you so far in life.
As churches try to expand, there seems to be a race to who can be the trendiest church in the area with the hippest pastor and the hottest coffee shop. But surface-level evangelism won’t get you anywhere.
So how do you get under that veneer to something deeper? Reaching people where they are is a start. Relating to the people in your congregation as you would a friend or a neighbor can go a long way toward making them truly feel connected to their spirituality.
6. Just dreaming big isn’t enough
If you’ve started thinking bigger and changing your questions, you’re off to a great start. But you’re not even close to being finished. Ben Cachiaras, lead pastor at Mountain Christian Church in Maryland, said that real progress starts when you couple your big dream with concrete direction.
Any dream that doesn’t have a plan backed up to go along with it just won’t happen; it’ll stay in your head, waiting. A dream is motivation, not an accomplishment in itself. Don’t keep your dream for your church inside your head. Talk about it with others. Email your colleagues about it. You never know which step forward will be the one that sets the whole plan into motion.
7. Don’t let fear dictate the scope of your dreams
Cachiaras offered a good exercise to help determine just how big your dreams could be by borrowing a question from Spencer Johnson’s motivational book, “Who Moved My Cheese?”
Well, what would you do? Get your pilot’s license? Try stand-up comedy? Open a new church and become lead pastor?
What’s stopping you? Fear of crashing? Stage fright? Fear of failure?
Think of times in your life when you overcame fear—a job interview, the first day of school, approaching your significant other for the first time—and it paid off in great dividends.
Just asking the question—what would you do if you weren’t afraid—can at least help you determine how you want your church to grow in your most optimistic vision, and then start taking the steps to get there.
8. Your big dream could save someone’s life
Efrem Smith, co-lead pastor of Bayside Church, Midtown in Sacramento, closed out the Exponential Regional church planting conference by connecting the Dream Big theme with the idea of exponential multiplication.
What if your big dream inspires someone who is at the lowest point in their life to stand up and join you? Or what if your new church opens someone’s eyes to a better life? And what if that person goes on to start their own church, and inspire other people who are struggling?
It’s a big what if? But it all starts with a big dream.
What are your big dreams for your church?
What motivational lessons do you have to inspire others this fall? Please share them in the comments.
And if you enjoyed this article, you will also enjoy last week’s installment—Top 6 Takeaways From the Exponential Church Planting Conference—which also looked at lessons learned at the same conference.