A Burden – I remember the first time somebody mentioned to me that some men plant churches for reasons other than a God-given burden. I was shocked. It had never occurred to me someone would have another reason. For some people it is the popular, convenient, or even least problematic way for them; however, before anybody begins the process of planting a church, they should make sure they have received a burden from God. God has given me a burden to plant Faith Baptist Church of Roseville, CA, and the lines below attempt to encapsulate the things I did to prepare.
Research – Research is essential. What is the history of the area? What is the average age? What types of industry are there? What are the demographics? What do people do for fun? What are the religious stats? The census bureau, the ARDA, city data, Glenmary Research, and the census bureau 2010 interactive demographics map are all very helpful sources of information. It is also essential that a church planter prepare by interacting with other church planters. Come up with a list of questions and call a dozen men who have experience in church planting. Attend church planting conferences. Read several books on church planting. Call a dozen pastors within a couple hour radius of the target location and ask them questions about the area. Subscribe to the newsletters of a dozen current church planters.
Team– Although there are several models for church planting, a church planter should have a team concept. The book of Acts makes it clear that gospel ministers accomplish effective gospel ministry through extensive partnerships. This means building partnerships with several other churches, preparing a core group of people to serve as a launch team, choosing a mission board, connecting with a sending church, sending a newsletter, and involving hundreds of individual people. A team enhances the church planters ministry in many ways. A team will pray for and fund a church plant. A team can provide tangible support (i.e. mission teams, supplies, move in and move out help, food, etc.). A team can provide ideas from many perspectives. A team can protect the church planter from making errors, and the church planter has the ability to mobilize his team and their friends towards the pursuit of U.S. church planting.
Survey Trips– Plan to make several trips to the target area. It is a good idea to have been in the target area for combined total of several months (if not most of a year) by the time the church actually starts. People can smell an outsider, and it is not a good idea to be an outsider when the church planter is supposed to be the one they are trusting to be their pastor. Being a local means the church planter has an opinion about which grocery stores and gas stations to go to. He might have a favorite local park or restaurant. He might even have met some of the local leadership, business leaders, police officers, or EMS workers.
The Pioneer-Pastor– The words “pioneer” and “pastor” don’t really go together. But when it comes to church planting, consideration needs to be given to the combination of these roles. A pioneer needs to know how to get things going. He has to be a good administrator. He has to know how to manage people. He has to know how to be very hands on, and yet be very good at delegation too. He might have to switch between those gears a moments notice. All this and much more is a part of being a pioneer. Asking a pioneer to be a pastor is like putting gas in a diesel engine or vice versa. There is not time to discuss this at length; however, it is needful for the church planter to consider. There is not a quick fix, and it is a matter of prayer. Usually the church planter is very good at one or the other; yet, if one or the other is neglected, it usually brings significant challenges to the church planting ministry.
Family – Intense preparation is par for the course for a church planting ministry, and it is easy for the church planter’s family to fall through the cracks. Not only does his family need to be ready, they need to be more than ready. Church planting compounds family relationship weaknesses, which can sometimes have devastating long-term effects. If the husband-wife relationship has some strain before the church starts, it will be compounded over the next couple of years. If the father-daughter relationship is on E before the church starts, it will be on the rocks during the initial days of the church. If the father-son connection is weak before the church starts, the church planters son will look for that connection in other places during the initial days of the church. The church planter needs to proactively shepherd his family into the strength of the Lord before he starts the church.
Business/Legal– Unless the church planter has started a church before, he will probably be surprised at the amount of paperwork and legal groundwork that he needs to work through. He needs should seek advice from others to make sure he properly sets up the church business entity on federal, state, and local levels. He will need to setup a church bank account, proper financial procedures, and proper accountability. Poor preparation in these areas can cripple a new church.
Giving it all to the Lord – We must learn to do everything we can do to plan and prepare. But, then we need to search our hearts to make sure we have given it to the Lord. There is a survey out there that shows the longevity of a church planter is directly related to his expectations. If the church planter has done everything he can do to prepare and then given it over to the Lord, his hope and expectation is in the Lord. That means that whatever the Lord brings, he is okay with it. This will produce a healthy atmosphere in a church plant. And finally, the church planter should be a man of prayer. It is hard for man of action to truly be a man of prayer. But, part of giving it all to the Lord is regular and substantial times of prayer. Anything less is an open door towards taking the ownership of the outcome from God.
Nathan and Katrian Bate are preparing to launch a new church in Roseville, California. You can find out more about their ministry at California Church Planting.
This article was first published in Sowing and Reaping, Nov/Dec 2012, the newsletter of GFA Missions.
- http://www.census.gov [↩]
- http://www.thearda.com [↩]
- http://www.city-data.com [↩]
- This is a catholic research center, but there are some good stats – http://www.glenmary.org [↩]
- http://2010.census.gov/2010census/popmap/ [↩]
- http://archmin.org/conference [↩]
- http://uschurchplanting.com/category/books/ and http://www.gfamissions.org/ministries/church-planter-resources.html [↩]
- Sometimes a mother church is used in place of a mission board. Other times, a combination of a mother church, sister church, and mission board is used. We have a mission board, a sending church, and a sister church. [↩]
- http://www.gfamissions.org/images/stories/church_plant_survival_rates.pdf [↩]