Health and Growth

Why Church Plants Should Think Like Startups

Use these tech startup principles to catalyze massive growth in your church plant.

Why Church Plants Should Think Like Startups

Dean Sweetman

Why should pastors have a startup mentality? 

There's a phenomenon that's been going on for about 20 years, and this has actually been a revolution in the world of business. The startup industry has singularly transformed the world in a number of ways.

Let me go back a little bit. Let's talk about venture capital for a moment. 

There is today, hundreds of billions of dollars of people's money—investors' money—that are put in venture capital funds, and it has one purpose: to fail. The whole concept of venture capital is that they're going to invest in startup companies, and most of those companies are not going to make it. Shocking. 

When you think about the old way of thinking—a sure bet, creating something new, starting a business—it was always with the mindset that the thing's going to work, we're going to work at it until it works, we're going to throw the kitchen sink at it until it works, and we're going to resuscitate this thing when it's dead. We're going to make this work. That was the mindset.

Startups don't think like that. Venture capitalists don't think like that. They get in, they see a business, someone pitches them an idea, they may or may not have a product. Tens of millions of dollars are given to people that don't even have a product yet. It's just an idea. Venture capitalists are willing to put that money into an idea that most of the time, does not work.

But you know what does happen? Out of 500 deals that a venture capitalist firm might do, 10 or 20 are going to work. Some of those are going to be what's known as “A Unicorn,” or a billion-dollar company. So, you can take a 100 million dollar venture capital fund, and have 10 or 20 wins out of the 300 investments you're going to make, and turn that 100 million dollars into 5 billion dollars in 10 years. 

That's a ridiculous return, but that's what all this capital is funneling into right now, and that's what it's going towards. Do you know what that tells me? There is a nature in startup mentality that is not averse to risk, and as a church planter or church leader, if you are burdened with the idea that when you take a risk, and you're so scared of failure that you are not willing to take that risk, you're in a position where God is going to find it difficult to move.

The whole power of God working on the Earth happens because we make the first move. We move, then God moves. You get a dream, you're going to plant a church, you're going to go to a city, you're going to take your family there—all of that is a step of faith. It's what the Bible calls “living by faith.” 

Well, that is the whole nature of the startup mentality. When you create businesses, whether it be software, or hardware, or services, or food, or whatever it is, you're thinking about a product. You're dreaming about it in your mind. You're being agile enough to make the moves that you have to in order to make sure the market accepts the product or service that you're building, and then, you're going to take those risks—risk after risk after risk. That's exactly the same as what we do as church planters and church leaders.

Think like a VC, think like a startup. Don't be afraid to risk things. Calculate the risk. Don't roll the dice every time thinking you're going to win, win, win. Sometimes you're going to fail. But in the church world, we need to not feel like failure is final. Too often in Christian circles, we say: "Oh, they failed? They're no good. They can't do anything." In the business world, failure is almost a badge of honor. They throw millions more dollars at guys who fail. 

That's some of the mentality that we need to have as church planters and church leaders. Think like a startup. Think like a venture capitalist. Go for it.


Why Church Plants Should Think Like Startups