A group of us had some great conversations at our New Life Leader’s Conference last week about planting healthy, life-giving local churches. New Life has planted three successful churches in the last four years, and we talked at the conference about the reasons each of them is thriving.
1. There was a prayerful evaluation of the lead pastor.
One of the reasons many church plants fail is because the wrong person is leading the effort. For our three plants, each of the leaders submitted to an evaluation from our local elders and a stringent evaluation from the ARC Churches, a great organization you can send your potential church pioneers to for evaluation.
2. There were resources to send with them.
Church planting is certainly not a business enterprise, but a church plant can fail for the same reason a new business can fail—no money or resources. Our local church set aside a portion of our mission’s budget so we could send money with the church-planting team. It certainly was not all they would need, but it was enough to get them started for a few months in a new city.
3. A local congregation sent them.
It is so important for a church-planting team to have an extended family. We believe when a key leader on our team is sent to plant another church, we should celebrate like at a wedding. So many times, a church does not allow talented leaders to leave and it feels like a divorce. These leaders start leading their church like abandoned orphans instead of sent sons. I talk about the strengths and pitfalls of both scenarios in my new book, Sons and Daughters.
4. There were systems and plans to help them launch.
We believe in leaning into the wisdom of those who have gone before us. There is not a need, in most cases, to reinvent the wheel with systems and procedures for things like guest follow-up, children’s ministry in a mobile location, sound equipment that can stand the riggers of setup and tear down every week and building a dream team of volunteers. Again, the ARC Churches is a great place to learn many of these things.
5. There is coaching and support going forward.
All of the above can be in place and the church plant can still fail. We must be willing to come alongside our leaders in those first few months, but also in the years that follow. All of us need mentors, overseers and coaches. Most importantly, we need friends who love us and will take our call when we feel discouraged and alone.
Church planting is a spiritual battle that only can prevail if there is abundant prayer surrounding a faithful leader who will teach the Scriptures and build authentic community.
It is not easy, and it costs more than any of us think, but our nation and world needs new churches to bring light into the dark corners of our culture. May we be ready to help them do just that.