New, smaller churches grow not by being supermarkets that offer everything under the sun, but by being specialty shops. I remember the motto we used in the first church I planted when it was still small: What we do, we do well. We don’t do everything, but what we do we do with excellence.

One thing we focused on in that church plant was providing personalized care for discipling of children. Our teachers sent postcards to the children each week. They would talk with the parents about the ways their child was responding to God. It was nothing glitzy, but it was a very personal approach that proved so outstanding that we had unchurched parents whose kids were asking them, “Is it time to go back to church?”

Those parents then came in response to the spiritual interest of their children. The parents had to put up with horrendous worship music and a young seminary graduate who was just learning how to preach. (I’m sure there’s a special reward in heaven for the people who suffered through my preaching. Afterwards, I looked over my sermon notes from those first nine months and threw them out because they had no redeeming value.)

But because we did the children’s discipleship so well, they hung around long enough for me to get my act together. That was our grid: focus on what you can do well and find a niche. That’s incredibly powerful. And hopefully the rest of the areas will improve with time.