5 Kernels of Advice for Prospective Church Planters

After working with and serving dozens of church plants over the past couple of decades, here are 5 kernels of wisdom I’d share with a church planting prospect AND the way you and your church can be a helpful part of the solution:

Be prepared to do what I call “secondary” fund raising. Nearly every church planter has to raise a good amount of funding before his plant gets under way. On the day his plant finally launches he usually thinks that grinding task is done. Most are surprised when they have to enter a second round of fund raising a year or 18 months into their plant when outside funding begins to taper before internal giving catches up.

If you’re serving in an existing church… be open to supporting a new church financially even if it’s already up and running. Chances are the support you give at this later stage will feel far more significant to the planter and his project than the big chunks of funding he gathered prior to launch.

Be prepared to pay your “relational rent” with the preachers of nearby churches. Many of our church planters don’t make the time to develop relationships with preachers around them, whether from our ‘tribe’ of churches or others. They view this as an expense of their time rather than an investment. It won’t be long, however, before they need help using a baptistry at the last minute, borrowing extra folding chairs for a big event, or using a bounce house or popcorn maker for an outreach event.

If you’re serving in an existing church… be open to loaning resources to your nearby planter like these that you might take for granted. Take the initiative to take the planter out to lunch periodically and ask him what resources he could use for upcoming events. After you’ve helped a time or two you’ll enjoy a developing collaborative relationship.

Don’t hurry to form an Eldership team, but don’t wait too long to start the process either. Most of our church plants follow the wisdom of installing their first class of elders between years 3 and 7 of their plants, most often in years 4 or 5. More critical errors can be made selecting and installing elders too soon than too late. By the same token however, most church planters wait at least a year too long to begin developing an initial, internal leadership team that helps the planter shoulder the load of leadership as difficult decisions are make during years 2-4.

If you’re serving in an existing church… be open to serving on the management team of a church plant to provide the important role of oversight and accountability for the planter until the new church has a godly group of elders to take your place. After about 18 months assertively lead the planter to begin the process of organizing a local leadership team to work in sync with the management team.

Be prepared to lose some of your best people before your church’s 2nd anniversary. Nearly every planter thinks it won’t happen to him, but almost every planter is wounded when one of their closest friends and leaders from the launch team leaves the plant a year or more after launch. Often they’re leading a ministry, hosting a small group, or a close relational supporter of his wife.

If you’re serving in an existing church… take the time to connect with your local planter during these critical stages of a plant after the hoopla of the launch has long worn off. Ask him how he’s doing relationally and how his wife is doing. Ask him if he’s been hurt by any key people leaving. Listen. It’ll mean far more than you know.

Be prepared to lead for the long haul, not just the immediate post-launch phase. Most church planters are what we call “inebriated on vision”, unable to view their church plant past the first few months after launch. Many of our planters who’ve spend even a couple of years as the “lead dog” at a small country church rather than only as an associate at a larger church have a better perspective on what it’s like to lead a church week in and week out through the annual cycles of ministry.

If you’re serving in an existing church… view your nearby planter as a colleague, not a competitor. Let him know you’re just as excited about his church for years 4 and 5 as you were for weeks 4 and 5. Invite him to join you when you go to conferences or other events. Most of our planters need a local mentor in ministry to help them learn the skills not of a planter, but of a pastor.

Tim Cole headshot - circle smTim Cole
Director of Church Planting


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