Adopting The Mindset Of A Church Planter

“You do not pastor a church, you pastor a city.”

This was the advice given to Pastor Jeff Nicolette just before moving to Charlottesville, VA to embark on a new and incredible journey. 

On staff at a church in the Washington, D.C. area of Virginia, Pastor Jeff was beginning to feel the call to plant a church. So, he and his wife Kristy began asking that all-important question: God, where should we go?

They visited many different places and prayed diligently about each one. Ultimately, they felt God gently leading them to Charlottesville, VA. 

So… they started doing their homework. 

They found out that 60-65% of people in Charlottesville have little to no involvement in faith. And, 25% of people said that they’d probably become less religious over the next 5-10 years. 

“We really had a heart to reach unchurched people. When we found this out, it was confirmation to us that this was where God wanted us,” Pastor Jeff said.

In June of 2016, Jeff and Kristy moved to Charlottesville. As they settled into their new city, they began building as many relationships with people as they could. By the following February, they had built a core team and launched in a local Regal movie theater.

Pastor Jeff had a simple motto, “if you’re living and breathing and want to be a part of a church, just come!” 

Over the next several months, the team began to grow and MVMNT Church was born!

Lessons Learned

It was during this time that Pastor Jeff and his team learned some crucial lessons about church planting. They threw parties and other “get to know us” events, but didn’t see much return on their investments. Where they did see the most success in growing the church was when they simply became involved in the life of the city. 

Jeff and his wife Kristy threw themselves headlong into their city.

Enrolling their kids in community sports and activities.

Signing up for exercise classes.

Going for walks in their neighborhood.

Attending leadership forums.

Anything and everything they could do to honestly and intentionally meet as many people as possible!

“We’d strategically switch off taking our kids to classes & talk to the parents who were there. It didn’t always feel natural, but that was just the nature of what we had to do to build the church,” Pastor Jeff recalls.

Things were going well. People were being connected with the church. But then, the unthinkable happened.

COVID-19 took the world by storm.

Just before the pandemic shut the doors of churches around the world, including MVMNT Church, Pastor Jeff and his team celebrated three years of fruitful gospel work in Charlottesville, VA. In fact, just one year before they had to stop meeting in person, MVMNT had bought, remodeled, and moved into their first permanent building! 

Although it was disappointing to have to meet outside the walls of their new building, this forced the reality of being innovative, and creative certainly wasn’t anything new for the team. 

The nature of being a portable church for years meant that they had learned how to pivot at any moment and stay flexible. This new season offered an opportunity for Pastor Jeff and his team to continue to do what they had been doing all along…

Innovating!

Thankfully, MVMNT Church was able to open at the end of August after months of streaming pre-recorded videos to their congregation using the Church Online Platform. And, according to Pastor Jeff, they’ll be continuing that into this new season. 

“Abandoning church online now would be like closing our doors on so many people who are showing up for it. If we stopped offering church online, we’d be communicating to these people that we’re really not interested in reaching them or connecting with them.”

It’s Time to Start Thinking Like a Church Planter

As pastors and church leaders, we have a responsibility and an opportunity in this season. It is our job to teach and empower the people in our care to build relationships with one another outside of the physical church building. 

Whether our church doors are open again or closed until further notice, we need to continue encouraging and equipping people to:

Live life together. 

Care for each other. 

And, be in community with one another.

Our goal as a church moving forward can’t be only about bringing people into our physical buildings—that may not be an option for many churches in the foreseeable future. 

Instead, our goal must be to find new and creative ways to connect with and participate in the community around us. 

This new season of work demands that we go into our cities, towns, and communities to love them and serve them—to be the church to and for them!

From the moment they arrived in their new city, Pastor Jeff and his team embraced this mindset. They knew God called them to Charlottesville. But, it was not just for the people who would call MVMNT Church their home—they were there to make an impact on the entire city! 

We too must adopt this same mindset in order to carry on the work of God in this new and uncharted territory.

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