10 Steps to Effective Church Planting
Over the last 20 years I have had the opportunity to observe and participate in new church development both in America and overseas in Cambodia. I had the unfortunate circumstance to close the doors and do exit interviews with members of a church planted through telemarketing; was a charter member of a new church started by the Mother church method; was (along with my wife) the fourth family to join another church plant begun as a house church; and finally had the privilege to organize another new congregation in a cross-cultural setting. The ten steps of church planting come from the lessons I learned from my experiences.
Preliminary step: The ten steps assume that a founding pastor has already been selected, but if that is not the case then a necessary preliminary step is to select a church planting pastor with the right spiritual gift mix and physical stamina for the job. Those who answer the call of new church development are nearly jack of all trades. Usually those who start new churches have a mix of evangelism, leadership, some shepherding skills, and administration gifts.
1. Develop Personal Self-Discipline in Your Walk with Jesus
2. Strengthen Your Prayer Life and Pray Daily for God's Guidance
3. Pre-determine the Core Values of the New Church Plant
4. Select Your Main Target Location and Audience
5. Select The Church Planting Method Most Appropriate for Your Style and Target Area
6. Operate on a Modest Budget
7. Find an Easy Access Facility Appropriate for Your Target Area and Budget
8. Design a Plan for Networking, Evangelism, Follow-up, and Discipleship Training
9. Get Out and Meet the People
10. Get People Involved as Soon as Possible
Step One: Develop Personal Self-Discipline in Your Walk with God
New church development can be extremely lonely at times and often there is little accountability for personal growth and good time management. Learning to be self-disciplined is an essential characteristic for church planting pastors. This means staying in God's Word and cultivating a close and vibrant one-on-one relationship the Lord who called you.
Step Two: Strengthen Your Prayer Life and Pray Continually
The Bible says that unless God builds the house, the builders build in vain. It is possible for a charismatic person to organize a great organization or club, but impossible for anyone to plant a church that is pleasing to God unless they rely on God to make it happen. Prayer is the act of admitting that God's will cannot be accomplished unless God is in it. If the Lord is not directing the new church plant, then like Moses the church planter should refuse to continue the effort.
Step Three: Pre-Determine the Core Values of the New Church
While most Christian churches adhere to the same core doctrines, not all churches emphasize the same core values. Before the church planting pastor begins reaching out to the neighborhood, he should sit down (and if possible with his spouse and other willing volunteers) and determine the core values or underlying assumptions upon which the church will operate. Most likely these values will coincide with the gift mix and personality style of the leadership.
Step Four: Select Your Target Area and Audience
Effective new church development defines its target area and audience. Undoubtedly, God's church is open to all comers, but few churches if any can be all things to all people, especially new church plants. This is not an American marketing ploy. When Saddleback Church began its ministry in 1979-80, Rick and Kay Warren took the time to scope out the area and define Saddleback Sam and Sally, so that they knew how to reach out and touch them in a way that they would respond. Of course, you want to teach everyone about Jesus, but who is your primary audience? Which segment of the population are you best suited to touch with the gospel?
Step Five: Select the Church Planting Method Most Appropriate for Your Chosen Location
There are a number of ways to start a new church. The first church I pastored was begun through telemarketing in a campaign called Phones 4 You. It was a phenomenal way to get the word out about a new congregation in town. The idea was based on the law of large numbers. For this particular start-up, the planting team made 20,000 phone calls to folks in the target area and on the first day over 200 people showed up for the Easter Sunday service. Another way to plant a church is by the Mother church/daughter church method. By this way a large church decides to start a new congregation in a new part of town, selects a pastor staff, and encourages a block of the existing congregation to help out in the beginning stages of the new church. The mother church also helps defray start up costs with special contributions. A third and probably most common manner to start a church is begin a grass roots effort by way of a Bible study meeting in a house. Neighbors are invited and the group grows until it is a church in its own right. The method most appropriate for your situation will be determined by the available resources and support.
Step Six: Operate on a Modest Budget
One church plant I observed had everything going for it including experienced elders and core members, but its initial budget was beyond the means of the new fledgling congregation. New church groups will be filled with people who barely know about God and Jesus and who know very little about who to support the work of the ministry. Many will be reluctant to give their money at least in the beginning.
Step Seven: Find an Easy Access Location and Facility
Location. Location. Location. Effective church plants meet in locations which are easy to find and have plenty of parking. They may not afford a corner lot but the will go for the next best thing in accordance with their budget.
Step Eight: Design a Plan for Networking, Evangelism, Follow Up and Discipleship Training
Successful new church development is not done in a haphazard manner. It functions best by purpose and intentionality. So before you go out and storm the neighborhood, you have to prepare a step-by-step plan for meeting new people, telling them the good news about Jesus, following up and assimilating them into the congregation, and teaching them how to be disciples of Jesus.
Step Nine: Get Out and Meet the People
Once you have found the place and designed a plan, you have to get out and carry out the plan. Church planting is all about getting out and touching people's lives with Jesus. If you are using the home Bible study, grass roots method of new church development, one effective tool to get to know the people in your neighborhood is to partner with a group like Canning Hunger and collect can food for a local hunger shelter or something like that. Each weekend of the month, you and other members of your planting team go door to door asking for donations for a food bank that helps the poor. As you make the journey each week, your neighbors will get to know you and soon you will have opportunities to invite them to a home Bible study or to your new church. The walk acts like an icebreaker to meet people and tell them about God's great love.
Step Ten: Get People Involved as Soon as Possible
People stick around when they have an emotional attachment to the church. The sooner you can trust them in the work of the ministry, they sooner they will assimilate into the church body and feel a connection to the congregation. Some church planting pastors want the new people to be perfect Christians before they trust them to help with God's work. But, God has given each person gifts to share in the workload of the ministry.
Remember That Ultimately The Church Belongs to God.
Pastor Sam Barr in comment made in November 2010, reminds us of this important point. Utlimately, the church will grow and thrive according to God's sovereign will. In the end, the church belongs to the Lord and if the Lord does not build the church then the church planters plant in vain (Psalm 127:1).
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Church planting is an opportunity to partner with God to bring the light and love of Jesus Christ to a new neighborhood. These are only a few vital steps to successful church planting.