Church planting looks a lot like merging onto the highway via an on-ramp. It’s a bit risky, a bit challenging, and a bit scary. But it’s a necessary step towards moving your church toward multiplication.
Today, I want to offer four practical ways to get involved in church planting. The most important thing is to start small. We don’t want to merge onto the highway going 100 miles per hour. We want to be able to merge onto the church planting highway and then, once we’re used to it, we want to ramp up our speed and invest more heavily.
Here are four small steps your church can take at the beginning stages of planting.
1 – Partnering with another church
New churches are almost always willing to accept guidance and resources from older, more experienced churches. Sending staff members and volunteers to a new church can be a really great way to extend help. This doesn’t have to be a full-time commitment. It can look like mentoring sessions with pastors or small group leaders. It can also look like giving a new church feedback after a service or sharing videos with a new church that will teach them important lessons about planting.
The most important part about a small partnership with a new church is simply getting your church’s feet wet in the realm of planting. Partnering gives us a chance to see what multiplication can look like on a small scale, which then helps us become more eager to take bigger steps. Everything we do here is a baby step towards deeper involvement later.
2 – Invest in a church outside of your cultural circle
Churches, for better or worse, tend to be apprehensive about starting churches in their area that are reaching the same people that go to their church. I think it’s a fear thing, but we tend to shy away from planting churches similar to ours because we don’t want to lose members at our church.
Let me be clear. I am not saying that is a good thing, but I am saying we can strategize to address it — to get multiplication started from which we can build on.
One way to counter people’s fears is to work with a church that’s outside of your typical cultural demographic.
For example, if your church considers itself to be Anglo, you could try investing in a Latino church plant. Or a Korean plant. As always, think carefully about how to partner and empower the church plants, but that can be a start.
This same principle can be applied to other parts of ministry in your own church. If your church doesn’t want to plant a new church, you can still get involved in multiplication by starting a new ministry. This could look like the formation of some new group or ministry.
The idea here is that we’re reaching new people in the kingdom and getting the congregation accustomed to multiplication.
Of course, at some point, your church should step out of its comfort zone and move towards multiplication through church planting on a larger scale, but investing in a church outside of your cultural circle is a small step towards the bigger step.
3 – Create a culture of multiplication within your church
As I’ve already alluded to, part of alleviating some of your members’ apprehension can come from simply talking about multiplication. Making multiplication (of disciples, groups, and churches) a regular part of your church normalizes it. Over time, people will be more comfortable with the idea, and this is where breakthroughs happen.
Although the last article in this series focused on developing a culture of multiplication, I want to reiterate what we can do as church leaders to normalize and grow this culture. A key step is getting your church leadership—your elders, your worship team, and any other leaders—educated and on board with multiplication. That way, the culture of multiplication can be emphasized in every part of your church.
We can also emphasize the culture of multiplication by using language that encourages it. In past experiences with church planting, I’ve been very strategic with the words I use to talk about multiplication. I made sure that I always brought up multiplication as an important value for our church. I made sure that I emphasized that we would be multiplying in every part of our church, from small groups to eventual church planting.
Creating a culture of multiplication begins with placing an emphasis and value on the idea of church planting itself.
4 – Keep casting the vision
Finally, the biggest key to initiating investment in church planting and multiplication: keep casting the vision. Keep believing in God’s calling for your church.
Keep encouraging others to understand and embrace the calling as well. We can hold meetings for our church members where we educate them on church planting. We can create sermon series on the topic if we feel called to do so. We can also encourage our church members to ask questions and have open discussions with church leadership about their feelings towards church planting.
The important thing to understand is that we can’t force people to invest in church planting. We have to educate them and encourage them in the hopes that they’ll embrace planting as a way to grow our churches and advance the kingdom.
At the end of the day, I believe that with gospel preaching, multiplication teaching, and the power of the Holy Spirit working through each of us, we can create cultures of multiplication that will lead to more new churches around the world.
Ed Stetzerholds the Billy Graham Distinguished Chair of Church, Mission, and Evangelism at Wheaton College, serves as Dean of the School of Mission, Ministry, and Leadership at Wheaton College, is executive director of the Billy Graham Center, and publishes church leadership resources through Mission Group.