Starting a new church can feel like jumping out of an airplane without a parachute if you’re not following the right steps. If you are new to planting, you have a ton of questions. It’s normal. Above all else, affirm your calling. Let others speak into your life. Listen to them. Don’t plant unless you are being disobedient to God to do otherwise. You’ve likely never attempted something more challenging (and exciting) than planting a new church! You face an uphill struggle unless God is in it and calling you. Pursuing the recommended “next steps” and suggested list of resources below may itself seem somewhat overwhelming. Take one step at a time. From the high level, your key action points are (1) weigh the costs by educating yourself and understanding as fully as possible the cost to your family, (2) affirm your calling by making absolutely sure you have no option other than moving forward with a plant, (3) affirm your gifting by completing assessment, (4) get some solid upfront “boot camp” training, (5) discover your philosophy of ministry and approach, (6) choose affiliations / partners, (7) pursue resources and partners, (8) affirm spousal support, (9) constantly learn from peers, and (10) get a coach-mentor.
Here are the key components that are shown proven to increase your prospect of successful church planting and growing a new church that will have a long-term impact in the community God calls you to. Most of these are statistically shown to increase the survivability and effectiveness of a church plant. In your journey, consider the following resources:
1) Seek the Lord for guidance regularly and prayerfully in all the key decisions
of your church planting adventure: regarding God’s call to plant, where, with whom, funding, strategy, the how to plant, etc. Realize your dependence upon Him—ultimately He must build His church through you and your team (Matt 16:18)! Prayer prepares and trains the heart, soul and mind and transforms us into servants He can use. You cannot give away what you don’t have so be sure you are walking with Christ regularly.
2) Seek confirmation from other mature Christian leaders. We hear from God in community. Prov. 11:14—“Where no counsel is, the people fall, but in the multitude of counselors there is safety.” Take advantage of the wisdom God has placed around you. Don’t make final commitments until you have connected with:
1) the senior pastor where you currently serve (or have recently); and 2) evangelical pastors and church leaders who currently serve in the target community to which you feel God calling. Solicit their input and affirmation. You need their blessing!
3) Get informed.
a. Read as much about church planting as you can. There is a growing body of literature on church planting now readily available on Amazon. Look for principle-based, non-model specific resources that will focus you on making disciples through a relational process. Beware of overly pragmatic, out-come based books that seems to be saying, “If it works, do it” — and measure success by weekend service attendance. For those getting started, I recommend:
Planting Missional Churches by Ed Stetzer and Daniel Im (2nd Ed)
Planting Growing Churches for the 21st Century by Aubrey Malphurs
Church Planter: The Man, the Message, the Mission by Darrin Patrick
First Steps for Planting a Missional Church by Gary Rohrmayer
Launch: Starting a New Church form Scratch by Nelson Searcy;
The Kingdom Quest: Preparing to Church Plant in the Post-Christian West by Tom Johnston & Mike Chong Perkinson
The Y-B-H (Yes, But How) Handbook of Church Planting by Roger McNamara & Ken Davis
Kingdom First: Starting Churches that Shape Movements by Jeff Christopherson; and
Viral Churches by Ed Stetzer.
This would be a good starter library and then you can build from there. Contact me for a more comprehensive bibliography of recommended resources.
b. Visit church planting websites. I recommend:
www.namb.net/church-planting/ among many others now available.
c. Connect with other planters. Talk to as many successful planters as possible. Connecting with successful planters will build your faith and connecting even with those who have not succeeded will build your wisdom. Learn from both kinds. Don’t become too enamored with what successful planters are doing and adopt their model. You’ll need to build your own
wineskin, find out what God is doing in your own city and what approach will be best for your target community. As you interview unsuccessful planters, expect to hear pain and difficulty—but don’t let fear overwhelm you; learn
from their mistakes. Consider getting into a coaching network or learning cohort with other planters.
4) Pre-Assessment. If you feel called to plant, please don’t just run out and seek to immediately try it at home! First, complete one or more online-pre-assessments on church planting to discern if God has “wired” you for planting and your best “fit.” A solid and recent online assessment tool is the Church Planter Candidate Assessment (CPCA) produced by LifeWay Research with 11 evangelical denominations; you can find it find it at: www.churchplanter.lifeway.com. Another excellent online tool is the Church Planter Profiles assessment.
5) Spousal Support. Church planting will likely take a greater toll on your spouse and kids than you. Make sure your spouse is 100% behind the effort and that you bring them along in the decision making and journey.
6) Formal Assessment. After completing a free (or inexpensive online pre-assessment), attend a 2-3 day formal assessment with your spouse (if applicable). Most church planting organizations now require some form of formal assessment, which include behavioral interviews and a final written evaluation. The process will refine your vision, affirm your calling, and help you better understand your strengths and weaknesses as you begin the church journey. It will show reveal growth areas that need further development and what kind of ministry would be the best fit for you. Consider assessment via groups like Multiply (recommended) or Stadia’s Church Planting Assessment Center. Or email me for an updated list. Most of these groups charge a fee and want you to come with your spouse.
7) Begin to recruit your prayer support network and develop a clear, sustainable strategy for communicating with them. Identify family and friends who will commit to intercede for you. You desperately need an intercessory team! Church planting is spiritual warfare. Don’t underestimate your utter dependence on the Lord.
8) Seek out upfront and ongoing training from church planting veterans.
a. Consider attending a national church planters’ conference like Exponential
b. Attend a more focused “boot camp” intensive training event. Fantastic training offered by a number of evangelical church 4
planting groups is available if you search it out. The best will walk you through an in-depth development of a pathway for starting a new church. As with selecting books, be discerning. A few offering solid training: the EFCA, Acts 29 Network, Global Church Advancement, Converge Intl., The Church Multiplication Training Center (CMTC), and BMM’s School of Church Planting (for unaffiliated Baptists & where Ken Davis co-teaches), etc.
c. Work through a church planting manual or resource tool that walks you through the development and implementation of the planting process. These self-guided tools are helpful in developing your own contextualized strategy plan for your future plant. Two good ones: Robert Logan’s The Church Planter’s Toolkit and Logan and Neil Cole’s Beyond Church Planting. Both come with CD’s to listen to as you work through an accompanying self-study notebook. Both are available from www.churchsmart.com. You may also want to check online tutorials on church planting such as those at NewChurches.com. Contact me for other online training options.
d. Consider being mentored by a veteran church planter in a year-long internship before starting your own work. Contact me for possible men and sites.
e. Consider enrolling in an evangelical seminary offering a church planting concentration for comprehensive biblical, theological and practical training to be an effective 21st century church planter. This would particularly be beneficial for those aspiring to be career (“catalytic”) church planters and/or trainer/coaches for church planters. Baptist Bible Seminary, where I teach/coach, offers one of the best Master of Divinity in Church Planting programs in the nation, balancing classroom instruction with on-the-job training and internships. We also now offer a 36 credit-hour Master of Arts in Church Planting & Renewal degree, available totally online or on campus. For information on both of these degrees and planting course offered, check out our website here.
9) Nail down your philosophy of ministry, approach and model. Before getting too far ahead of yourself, get clarity on your personal philosophy of ministry, model and church planting approach. Make a list of 5 questions that will shape your scorecard and strategy (e.g. Who are we trying to reach? What kind of believer are we trying to produce? How will we measure success? etc.) Be aware and deliberate on who and what shapes your values, strategy and approach. Write out your mission, vision and core values for the proposed new church. Get clarity on your philosophy of ministry.
10) Develop a financial and fund (friend) raising plan. Build a solid financial foundation for your plant. You’ll need either a parenting church or partner
churches! Connect with a fellowship of churches or planting network that can support your planting vision.
11) Affiliation. Don’t do it alone. Again find partners. Find at least one “home base” (e.g. a local sending and/or parenting church, an association of churches, a planting network, a sound evangelical denomination, etc.) that will sponsor you and from whom you will seek counsel, fellowship and be accountable. Don’t be a lone ranger!
12) Find a coach/mentor and begin meeting with him at least monthly and ideally on a weekly basis. Have a least one person who is speaking substantively into your life (other than your spouse) and with whom you are transparent. Don’t plant if you are unwilling to do this. Get a coach who has been there and can be your trusted consultant and friend. There are numerous evangelical coaching orgs assisting church planters. Most charge a fee but it is worth it. Some veterans may agree not to charge you. Bottom line: be accountable and teachable!
13) Recruit committed launch team members who compliment your gifts, strengths and weaknesses—and buy into your mission, vision and core values. Look for teammates with a track record in making disciples who will work with you to begin making disciples in the community to which God has called you. Be sure you all on the same page (have agenda harmony)!
14) Recruit someone who is knowledgeable of legal matters. Consult with him when applying for an EIN, articles of incorporation, state tax exemption certificate, federal non-profit status, setting up a bank account, obtaining liability and property insurance, adopting a children’s and youth risk management policy, etc
15) Get Free Resources. NewChurches.com has a ton of free resources including launch plan checklists, demographic reports, and equipment lists. Take advantage of them. Also check out PlanterApps for a comprehensive list of free (or inexpensive) online services / resources. And don’t miss the huge number of resources listed topically at www.churchplantingsupersite.com ; they also list equipment failed planters are willing to give away to new planters.
16) Get an Online Launch Management Plan. This free online tool will help you develop and manage your launch plan. Church planting is hard. There’s a lot to do. PlanterPlan.com will help you start a new church by keeping track of all the details so you do the right things at the right time. And so you can focus on people, ensuring everything you do contributes to unleashing God’s blessing on your church plant.
17) Be sure you are settled in your core theological convictions and ready to teach and preach the whole counsel of God with passion and competence. Church planters must be especially conversant with ecclesiology and know what a NT church is—and what her biblical-assigned mission is. I recommend you read Mark Driscoll’s fine book, Vintage Church and then balance it off with Mark Dever’s Nine Marks of a Healthy Church. Kevin DeYoung and Greg Gilbert’s What is the Mission of the Church? is excellent. Ed Stetzer’s Breaking the Missional Code is helpful to show you how your church can/must become a missionary in its community. As you consider your overall basic church design, be sure you can clearly distinguish church forms from church functions (biblically prescribed purposes).
18) Be Christ-centered and Gospel-focused in your personal life and planting ministry. Model commitment to the glory/supremacy of God, to the ultimate exaltation of Christ, and to clear exposition of the Gospel. Be sure to first preach the Gospel to yourself on a regular basis before you preach it to others! There are a lot of good resources on being Gospel centered available today. I like the current emphasis but wish writers would emphasize the second coming work of Christ as much as His cross (first coming) work! For a God-centered approach to ministry, read John Piper’s Let the Nations Be Glad. His first chapter alone—on mission flowing out of our worship—is worth the price of the book.
For further assistance or help with questions, contact Ken Davis at: kdavis@ClarksSummitU.edu. You can also call me at 570-585-9269 or 570-466-4824.