Published January 17, 2017
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.
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 to which God calls you. Most of these are statistically shown to increase the survivability and effectiveness of a church plant.
1. Seek the Lord for guidance regularly and prayerfully, regarding God’s call to plant, where, with whom, funding and strategy. Realize your dependence upon Him—ultimately He must build His church through you and your team (Matt 16:18)!
2. Seek confirmation from other mature Christian leaders. 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 the senior pastor where you currently serve (or have recently served) and evangelical pastors and church leaders who currently serve in the target community to which you feel God calling.
3. Get informed.
- Read as much about church planting as you can. Look for principle-based, non-model specific resources that will focus you on making disciples through a relational process. Beware of overly pragmatic, outcome-based books that seem to be saying, “If it works, do it” and measure success by weekend service attendance. Contact Ken Davis for his recommendations.
- Visit church planting websites. I recommend www.churchmultiplication.net, www.churchplantingsupersite.com and www.namb.net/church-planting/ among others.
- 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, find out what God is doing in your own city and what approach will be best for your target community. Consider getting into a coaching network or learning cohort with other planters.
4. Complete a Pre-Assessment. If you feel called to plant, first complete one or more online pre-assessments on church planting to discern if God has “wired” you for planting. A solid and recent online assessment tool is the Church Planter Candidate Assessment (CPCA) produced by LifeWay Research with 11 evangelical denominations. Talk to Ken Davis about getting assessed via the CPCA at a discount rate under Project Jerusalem. Another excellent online tool is the Church Planter Profiles
5. Make Sure you Have Spousal Support. Church planting will likely take a greater toll on your spouse and kids than you. If you have one, make sure your spouse is 100 percent behind the effort and that you bring them along in the decision-making and journey.
6. Complete a Formal Assessment. Attend a multi-day formal assessment. 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. It will 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 Ken Davis for an updated list. Most of these groups charge a fee and want you to come with your spouse.
7. 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.
- Consider attending a national church planters’ conference like Exponential.
- Attend a more focused “boot camp” intensive training event. The best will walk you through an in-depth development of a pathway for starting a new church. Be discerning. A few offering solid training are 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 and where Dr. Ken Davis co-teaches), etc.
- Use 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 are Robert Logan’s “The Church Planter’s Toolkit” and Logan and Neil Cole’s “Beyond Church Planting.” 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 Dr. Ken Davis for other online training options.
- Consider being mentored by a veteran church planter in a year-long internship before starting your own work. Contact Dr. Ken Davis for possible men and sites.
- 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. Baptist Bible Seminary 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 and Renewal degree, available totally online or on campus.
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 five 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.
10. Develop a financial and fund-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. Don’t do it alone. Find at least one “home base” that will sponsor you and from whom you will seek counsel, fellowship and be accountable.
12. Find a coach/mentor and begin meeting with him at least monthly, 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 organizations 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 who 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.
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.
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 and resources. Don’t miss the huge number of resources listed topically at www.churchplantingsupersite.com; they also list equipment planters are willing to give away to new planters.
16. Get Converge Online Launch Plan Management. This free online tool will help you develop and manage your launch plan. Visit the Converge website for a free account.
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 New Testament church is—and what her biblical-assigned mission is. I recommend you read Mark Driscoll’s “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 I wish writers would emphasize the second coming work of Christ as much as His first coming (cross) 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.
Dr. Ken Davis, Church Planting Director and Director of Project Jerusalem, Baptist Bible Seminary
Ken Davis has been in church planting for over 35 years. He served as chair of Baptist Mid-Mission’s North American Church Planting Ministry Council, and he co-founded the School of Church Planting, which has provided training for over 350 church planters worldwide. At Baptist Bible Seminary, he has recruited, trained and coached church planting teams which have launched eight new churches in Northeast Pennsylvania and one in New York City. Davis came to BBS after serving 19 years as the missions professor at Crossroads Bible College in Indianapolis, a school specializing in training leaders to reach multi-ethnic urban America.