The nature of church planting in the United States and Canada has changed rapidly over the past decade. Previously, a single church often could handle the broad responsibilities that come with sending out a church plant. Additionally, the church plant mostly would resemble the parent church in model, target demographic, and mission. But all of this is changing, meaning now "it takes a village" of churches to plant a single church and that parent churches have to learn new ways of connecting with and understanding the different expressions of church plants that they are sending out. As we've listened to established congregations and church plants throughout the Western U.S. region, here are ten important ways we've identified that established churches can support church plants:
1. Prayer - No amount of technique or skill will make any church planting vision happen. Above all, a vibrant network of praying pastors and congregations is critical for the planting and development of new mission-shaped churches.
2. Curiosity - Church planting has changed drastically in the past ten years. Ed Stetzer, a well-known authority on church planting, recently said, “The only trend in church planting right now is that there is no trend.” In other words, churches of all different models and shapes and sizes are being planted, and context is critical. Don’t presume to know the church planter’s context better than they do. In order to support new church planters, ministry partners need to be curious about what planters are learning about mission and discipleship, what they are experimenting with, and what their ministry metrics are. Listening to church planters not only helps you understand them better, but it is also a great opportunity to encourage the development of your own faith journey and congregation!
3. Presence - Established churches are encouraged to support church plants through their presence at worship services, community events, and other gatherings. When groups of people from a supportive network of churches show up, it can be a great encouragement to church planters!
4. Volunteering - Church plants need help with the same kinds of things established churches do, but usually have a much smaller pool of people to draw from. Volunteers from established churches can provide an incredible gift to the core team of a church plant by assisting with childcare at worship services, helping with setup or teardown for any gatherings, and volunteering in other contextually appropriate ways.
5. Mentorship - Church planting and pastoring can be lonely work. Pastors who are further down the road of ministry have a lot of wisdom to offer church planters, especially through the gift of listening. Don’t be afraid to reach out to a church planter. Giving them a call and listening to their challenges could be exactly what they need.
6. Recruitment - A key component of growing a church planting movement is identifying and developing new leaders. While these leaders might come through denominational ministry channels, it is crucial to raise up leaders in your own congregation to be sent out. It is also important to build relationships with other Christian leadership institutions in your area, such as colleges and seminaries.
7. Credentials - A very basic way for an established church to support church planting is by holding the ministry credentials of a church planter, which also involves providing encouragement, care, and oversight of the church planter’s life and doctrine.
8. Facilities - One of the biggest ways that established churches can assist church plants, particularly ethnic minority church plants, is by sharing their facilities for free or at a deeply discounted rate.
9. Residency Host - As part of a leadership development process, established churches are encouraged to with their Classis to develop 9-12 month ministry residencies for church planters. This is a unique opportunity for a church to both receive additional ministry leadership assistance and help an emerging leader gain valuable ministry experience.
10. Financial Support - In addition to the support church planters can pursue through a partnership with Resonate Global Mission, financial contributions from the Classis and from churches within the Classis are extremely valuable. While financial gifts go a long way, established churches can also offset the financial costs of a church plant by providing accounting assistance, offering administrative support or reimbursing pastoral expenses.
Other Ideas? - Do you have other ideas about how churches and Classes can contribute to a church planting movement? Let us know! Leave a comment below or email Ben Katt at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This resource was written by Ben Katt (Resonate Western U.S. Regional Mission Leader), Mirtha Villafane (Resonate Local Mission Leader, Classis Greater Los Angeles) and Tomas Ivens (church planter, Ethnos Community Church)