Lessons in the First Year

By Chris Highfill

Grace River Church launched February 2015, and in the past year our team has had to learn a lot.  We give all the credit to God for the success we have had and look forward to what is ahead because we know the best is yet to come.  Here are some lessons we learned in the first year of our church plant. 

Listen to experts.  No one on our leadership team had previously been a part of a church plant.  With limited knowledge on how to begin, we had to go into this with a teachable spirit.  Mentors and coaches asked us to do hard things, and we often had to swallow our pride to do what they recommended. 

Jump into the community.  We knew 4 people when we moved to our suburb of St. Louis.  As a team we made a commitment to get involved in things that were already happening in our community.  For example, I joined the Chamber of Commerce and several other committees.  I challenged our team to meet people because we had to learn the needs of our community so we could better serve them. 

Fully depend on God.  My biggest fear in planting a church was a lack of resources, but God has provided all the people and all the finances we needed.  Going into this we knew we couldn’t buy a move of God or create one.  Instead, we have grown as a team, closer to God this year because it’s taken a dependence on Him to plant this church. 

Make evangelism a priority. We always have and always will unashamedly preach and teach the Gospel every week inside and outside the walls of our church.  We know that we have to give people the Gospel.  It’s hard, it’s fun, and it’s amazing.  When we first launched Grace River Church, my real-estate agent who I met through the Chamber of Commerce began attending.  He was so on fire for Christ that he stood up in front of 40 peers during a Chamber meeting and said, “I hadn’t been to church in 40 years, but I have been attending Grace River.  It’s changed my life and my family, and I encourage you to join me there this weekend.”  The following Sunday, 6 of our friends from the Chamber came to our service, and since then, 5 of them still attend, and 3 have accepted Christ.  And we’re still seeing big changes in the lives of all our people.  During the first service in March 2016, 7 people in our congregation accepted Christ!  Real life change has happened with many of our friends because we have made evangelism a priority. 

Develop a leadership pipeline. The largest lesson of this year for us centered on the need for developing leadership pipelines.  We had good ideas for our pre-launch on how we would connect and get people to our service.  The one area we didn’t think enough about was what we would do once we got them there.  After the third month we began to implement a Growth Track program that allowed us to make disciples and develop a way to instill in our people the need to be generous with their time, talent, and treasure.  This program has opened up many opportunities for leaders within our new church to grow.  I am so thankful for the partnership we have with Converge.  From assessment to today, so many of you have supported, encouraged and prayed for us.  Thank you for investing in us and making a difference in O’Fallon, Missouri.  We can’t believe the best is yet to come because this year has been amazing!


Church Planting Articles, Leadership, Chris Highfill