You Are Not Alone
Leading Voices Weigh in on Top Challenges Facing Today’s Church Planters
Todd Wilson (Exponential.org) and Eric Reiss (Church Marketing Solutions) wrote an eBook a few years ago that highlighted the need for key areas of support for all church planters. With this as a reference, here are key resources you need to be aware of (if not intimately involved with!) as you contemplate planting a church.
Thousands of these planters struggle with logistics and challenges face in starting a new church. Regardless of the church model, approach or heritage, most church planters will benefit from maximizing the use of these concepts.
“Planting a church is like having children. There is nothing more difficult or more rewarding than raising kids”
— Mark Batterson
We would love to hear from you on these topics, whether you agree or have a better idea. Keep in touch as we continue to refine this site for the benefit of all church planters.
- Planter Assessment
- Support Networks
- Management Team
- Bookkeeping (Accounting Services)
- Family Support
Assessment is the process of discerning whether a potential planter is called to plant a church and whether the person is right for a specific new work. Assessment is often broken down into a pre-assessment (self-assessment) and a formal assessment (assessment by an independent group or organization).
The formal assessment can be as short as one day, but is more often 3-5 days in length. A formal assessment is often done in a group setting with other potential planters and includes a combination of interviews, group exercises, essays, and assignments. The evaluation team observes the potential planters in a number of different situations. Most assessments result in a detailed report and a formal debrief. Many assessment centers produce a report on each candidate. This report includes strengths as well as developmental suggestions and makes a recommendation as to a candidate’s ability to plant a church within the next 2 years.
Coaching is considered a best practice of church planting and is required by the majority of church planting organizations and denominations. In fact, according to the Leadership Network, planters who have a coach are twice as likely to plant a healthy church that survives. Coaches offer an experienced perspective on the unique tasks and experiences a planter will go through. More than just providing sage advice, the coach will help bring out the best in the planter’s thoughts and planning process. Often times, coaches are able to explain things from a “been there, done that” perspective. Coaches also make you accountable. When a planter has developed plans to make 10 networking calls by the end of the week, does he really want to call his coach and tell him/her that he didn’t do it? This level of accountability will generate motivation. Coaches can also be the planter’s confidante. You can tell your coach anything. He can share his true thoughts, feelings, and emotions about what is happening in the new church. These people are rare in the life of a planter, but much needed. After spending time in a coaching relationship, many leaders will continue to intentionally seek out a coach for the rest of the time in ministry.
A planter will face many trials and temptations. Being a pastor can be one of the most lonely jobs a person can have. But it doesn’t have to be. You should seek out a mentoring relationship with someone who understands the unique trials a planter faces. This person should be someone the planter trusts and someone who can speak truth and wisdom into his life. You should feel like you can tell the mentor anything and that he will treat you with love and grace.
Sponsoring organizations provide a lot of added value to the planter in the form of services and credibility. To begin, the planter should become familiar with the many different church planting organizations. Most denominations have their own church planting organizations. Also, there are several regional or state-level church planting organizations such as Orchard Group, Waypoint, Florida Church Partners, etc. There are also many national-level church planting organizations such as Stadia, Acts 29 Network, Association of Related Churches (ARC), the Gateway Leaders, etc. You should explore what the beliefs and planting strategies of these organizations are to determine if they are a good fit.
Sponsoring organizations can provide much credibility to the new church. It can helpful when fundraising to be able to tell other churches and individuals that you are being sponsored. It shows that church planting experts have found the planter and the project to be viable and worth investing in. It can also help in the target community as the planter networks with existing churches, businesses and other Christians who may have moved to the area from one of the partnered churches.
Many sponsoring organizations provide key services and support to the planter, such as: coaching, assessment, training, bookkeeping, project management, administrative support, spouse support, etc. This support can save the planter a great deal of time and effort, resulting in more time to spend in the target community with non-Christians. Starting a new church is not something the planter should try and do alone. Sponsoring organizations bring an essential level of support that can help maximize the health of the new church.
It is a principle of life that if you want to be good at something you must practice and train. Professional athletes train hours every day just to stay good at what they do. They do it for a paycheck and the fame. Paul provides some strong direction for us to consider:
“Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last; but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. Therefore I do not run like a man running aimlessly; I do not fight like a man beating the air. No, I beat my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize.” 1 Corinthians 9:25-27
The stakes for planters are much higher, as we are dealing with the eternal. Athletes compete against each other. Planters wage war against an unseen enemy who knows our every weakness. Training is considered a best practice of church planting. You should seek out the best trainers available through books, conferences, and boot camps. You should also develop a plan to continue learning and training in order to stay at the top of his game.
There are many great resources for training these days! We’ve heard lots of war-stories about times in the past, but with the internet you get lots of options–perhaps too many! Take a look at our PlanterPrep page as one place to begin. Here are a handful of training providers to help you on your journey.
Most new churches do not put Biblical Elders in place for several years. This places an increased burden of responsibility on the planter. During this critical time, a planter needs the spiritual coverage of wise counsel. In the absence of a Biblical Eldership, the planter needs a trusted group of Godly people to provide spiritual coverage and wise counsel to the new church.
Where a Biblical Eldership is not in place, the planter should consider forming a management team. Management teams typically:
- Provide advice, counsel and potentially approval on a wide range of issues including staffing, facilities, budget, etc
- Provide oversight to ensure the new church is remaining true to its vision, values and beliefs
- Provide accountability for results to defined goals and expectations
- Provide spiritual prayer coverage for the new church
- Ensure the planter is maintaining healthy boundaries
- Are selected by the planter
- Consist of 3 to 7 people
- Include one representative from each group that is providing significant financial support
- Remain in place until Biblical Eldership is put in place (and they have a say in the timing of this) and/or the new church is financially self-sufficient.
- Are recognized in the church’s Bylaws as the initial leadership team for the new church
- Meet at least 2 times per year during the first 2 years. Preferably meet monthly if possible.
- Are involved in at least budgeting and staffing decisions
Resist the temptation to skip a management team. You need the spiritual coverage and wise counsel of Godly people who are committed to your new church.
In addition to a management team, the Planter should consider forming a local accountability group with at least one other pastor in the area.
We must be above reproach in how we handle our finances (i.e., everything from bookkeeping to what we spend our money on). There should not be even the slightest hint of impropriety. As clearly demonstrated in the Bible, Satan does some of his best work through sex and money. Even the smallest honest slip with our finances has the potential for scandal. For legal and for accountability reasons, the church must have clear, secure, and reliable financial processes.
Financial controls in the church are aimed at preventing two types of problems:
- Actual loss of proper control of finances (e.g., losing money, improper disclosure of personal information, theft, violation of IRS or other legal requirements, writing checks with insufficient funds).
- Perception of loss of adequate control of finances (e.g., individual carrying weekly offering through the lobby in a see-through plastic bag, offering left in an unlocked car, church staff renting luxury sports car rather than compact car).
Avoiding both of these types of problems is very important. The easiest way to get audited/investigated by the IRS is a public scandal involving money. In the extreme, a church can lose its 501(c)3 status, be fined, and prosecuted. A lack of confidence by members in the church’s ability to manage finances will impact financial giving.
At a minimum, the new church’s financial system should include:
- A checking account
- Ongoing reconciliation of monthly account statements
- Financial accounting including processing and tracking accounts payable (expenses) and accounts receivable (income) (i.e. writing checks and making deposits)
- An accountable reimbursement process
- Generating ongoing financial reports including cash flow and budget variance
- Payroll process for staff (including filing required reports and paying all required taxes)
- Maintaining financial records and files
- Donor management system
- Receiving, counting, tracking and reporting weekly Tithes and Offerings
Each of these processes is covered by a separate PlanterPlan action. The following link is a good place to start.
Planting a church is difficult for the planter’s family, too. What a tragedy it is when a planter ends up with a successful church but a failed marriage. You is being supported by coaches and mentors, but who is caring for the church planting spouse?
Most church planting organizations provide spousal support networks. Here is an excellent example: http://www.churchplantingwives.com/
Get your spouse connected! Find out what your denomination or sponsoring organization has for church planting spouses.
We’ve listed several links to PlanterPlan throughout this page. This tool is designed to help you, to help you think about details you didn’t know existed. It is the cumulative experience of dozens of church planters — you really should invest some time understanding what we put out there for free. The upgrade is there for those who want to go deeper.