How About Planting Churches With Youth Leaders on Staff?

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We go through detailed and strategic interviewing, testing and discernment to ensure that those who are interested in planting churches have the gifts to do so. I’ve learned through experience that in our narrow focus on finding the right individuals to plant churches, we never look beyond that to youth pastors for the plants. I’m thinking that’s not such a good idea.

I realize that church plants start with virtually no money and a very, very small staff. (Often just the planter and his/her spouse.) That makes sense from a financial strategy. I wonder though, if it makes sense from a community outreach strategy. If we want to draw interest and attention from a neighborhood, including the youth has to be a priority.

I’m on the mission and multiplication team at my church. With our most current church plant, we will most likely begin with a church planter and a youth leader. God led us to this decision by bringing this youth leader to us. He had been working with youth in the very neighborhood where the church plant will be birthed. He had relationships with students from all the local schools and had focused on assistance programs for poor in the community and in the schools.

When that plant begins to hold services, we will already have credibility in the neighborhood and in the schools. We will have a large group of students who are interested, and I suspect their parents might be interested as well.

This all sounds great, though it also increases the financial risk of a church plant. I’m anxious to see how God uses this tag-team of planter and youth leader to birth a church in a community that holds plenty of hurting and lonely people.

What do you think? Is this a good idea? Is it financially possible to plant a church with a larger staff? Share some thoughts on this.

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Paul, it seems to me that for a church to reach a community, it must be at the intersections of that community and involved with the institutions which are valued within the community. Schools are the epicenter of every community; they are the largest intersection. At our church, we have spent a full year trying to get involved in our local public elementary school. You just saved yourself a year and then some!! Plus, to find someone who is already in the community as opposed to having people "enter into the community", is a God-send. This is an ideal model, and for it to happen organically is the Holy Spirit confirming your call in the community. As someone interested in community based outreach, I have a couple of questions for this church plant:

(1) Is the youth leader under the leadership of the church planter? Or are they complete partners?

(2) Are both positions fully funded by your church?

(3) Is the goal to be a Young Life type model that bubbles up into a church?

Great Topic!

John Burden, Providence Church, Holland MI

Thanks John.  We too believe the Holy Spirit has led us to this relationship with a youth leader and the community. I can't wait to watch the Spirit continue to work in this relationship.

To answer your questions, the relationship between the youth leader and church planter is still being developed. I suspect that the accountability for the plant will fall on the church planter, so in many respects the youth leader will report to the planter. Though again, I think that will depend a lot on their relationship and their cooperative efforts to use God's gifts in this planting process.

Both positions are fully funded by our church. It was a sell to the consistory, but they understood the opportunity and embraced it.

I'm not sure if the goal is to be a young life model or not. I suspect it will. At this point, youth around the neighborhood know there is a place they can hang out and be accepted...and parents know it's a place where their children can be in a healthy and safe environment. There's a lot more to do to expand the relationship with students and their parents, but the momentum is there.

This was something I did in 2004 working at the then church plant of Friendship Community Church near Sioux City, Iowa. I was a Theology/Youth Ministry grad from Dordt College looking to get involved in ministry. I was paid part time through a Home Missions grant and supplemented my income by working at local farm. It was a great position and allowed me to connect with many different people and had a great relationship with the church planter.  I worked with the church for about 6 months before getting married and looking for a full time ministry position. However the experience had a lasting impact and after moving and doing ministry in Southern California, I took a 3 Evangelist Training Program and was ordained and have desired to teach what I learned and saw while working at the church plant, even today while doing ministry in the Niagara Peninsula the church plant experience continues to come through. As a youth leader searching for what to do this experience gave me direction and would recommend it to anyone.

Rick Roeda, Mountainview Christian Reformed Church, Grimsby Ontario 

What a cool story Rick. Thanks for sharing it. 

I think the challenge is always going to be in finding the funding for a youth leader at a church plant and then finding a youth leader who is willing to step out in the uncertainties of planting. Sharing stories like yours can help on both fronts.

In your case, Paul, it sounds like a good decision to plant with a youth leader on staff. This confirms my belief that if God wills something it comes about naturally and the path he desires us to take is obvious.

On the flip side, your experience should serve as a lesson (if not warning) for churches who are considering a new direction or the addition of a new staff position. If a ministry just isn't clicking with the community or if church leadership is forcing an agenda upon the congregation, that might be God's way of saying, "not yet" or "no" to a course of action. I'm not suggesting we appease the status quo, but we need to be willing to admit something didn't work and then set our thoughts on what God has gifted our churches to do.

It's good to hear a story about something that "just works." I hope that continues in all areas of your church plant.

Mark VanDyke, Sumas CRC, Sumas WA