In recent years, we’ve witnessed a florescence in church planting. It’s one of the areas in which the North American church is showing signs of life. As a result of the movement’s vitality, people are being reached, discipled, equipped, and sent out as faithful witnesses to Christ in the world. While the momentum around church planting is clear and commendable, it is important to note that church planting is not for the faint of heart. I speak from experience when I say that church planting is wonderful, but it is difficult–really difficult. It is crucial for church planters to possess a strong sense of calling, ongoing support, and trustworthy resources. Here are some resources and support systems that will help you on the journey.
1. Church Planting Networks and Tribes
Since church planting can be difficult and isolating, it’s crucial to find a tribe of other planters and pastors who can help you navigate the journey. Thankfully there are other networks specifically created to equip, encourage, and resource church planters. They all possess different theological distinctives, outreach approaches, and philosophies of ministry, so you should be able to find the one that best fits you and the calling God has placed upon your church.
- The Association of Related Churches: ARC churches are often characterized by large launches and services are marked by high production excellence. They have churches nationally and internationally.
- Acts 29: Acts 29 churches are reformed in their theological approach and are a part of a larger tribe, The Gospel Coalition. They have a strong national and international presence.
- The Ecclesia Network: Though smaller than other networks, Ecclesia churches have a more missional orientation.
- V3: V3 is the church planting initiative of the Virginia Baptist Mission Board (although it does not work exclusively with Baptist church planters).
- Also see Stadia Church Planting, the Summit Network, and the Church Multiplication Network.
2. One-on-One Coaching
One of my greatest regrets in planting our church is that I didn’t use a church planting coach early on. Securing the right church planting coach is more valuable than reading 50 books on church planting. A good coach will help you navigate the complexities, while also reminding you to focus on what is most important, all the while cultivating an intimate relationship with Christ. Find a coach through your denomination or the church planting networks listed above.
3. Church Planter Boot Camp Training Events and Modules
In addition to joining a tribe and securing a coach, I recommend attending a church planting intensive training week. Several denominations and networks provide formal training opportunities throughout the year taught by seasoned practitioners on broad topics like theology, missiology, and ecclesiology and more practical topics such as finances, worship, and children’s ministry.
Check out the training programs available from the following networks:
- Association of Related Churches
- Acts 29
- Church Multiplication Network
- The Ecclesia Network
- V3 Movement
4. The Shaping of Things to Come (Alan Hirsch and Michael Frost)
This book isn’t written specifically to church planters, but it’s one of the first books I would require church planters to read. One of the roles of the church planter is to exegete the culture and the context in which you have been sent. This book helps you to understand your surroundings. It also has important implications for churches in the future.
5. Center Church (Tim Keller)
Pastor and author Tim Keller draws from decades of local church experience, moving from the broad to the particulars, all while never sounding formulaic or trite. His three foci–the gospel, the city and movement–frame this book well for any church planter. It’s a large resource that requires much time to digest, but it is well worth it.
6. 10 Most Common Mistakes Made by New Church Starts (Jim Griffith and Bill Easum)
This small resource helps church planters keep focused on the most important elements of planting. Even if your philosophy of ministry or approach is different from that of the authors (and it may be), you’ll find nuggets of wisdom, challenges, tools, and encouragements throughout.
7. Planting Missional Churches (Ed Stetzer and Daniel Im)
This book is clear and straightforward, giving any church planter encouragement and the practical tools to succeed. It addresses a wide array of topics: from why to plant a church, how to conduct worship, how to do spiritual formation to the specifics of picking a name and logo, securing a meeting place, and addressing the needs of children and young families in your church.
8. Mission-Shaped Church (Rowan Williams)
It may seem odd to recommend a resource outlining data on the state of churches in the U.K. (many of the congregations are a part of the Church of England), but this resource can help church planters in North America prepare for the future. Commissioned by the former Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, this book is well researched and has huge implications for the local church.
I’ve recommended this site to dozens of church planters who are just starting out. Most church planters feel overwhelmed by the organizational, financial, and legal logistics that are required when starting a church. This site gives you a clear step-by-step checklist and walks you through the process, eliminating stress and allowing you to focus on the more relational- and pastoral-specific areas of church planting. (Newchurches.com is another great resourcing website.)
10. The Great Giveaway (David Fitch)
David Fitch (theologian, practitioner, and church planter) offers a critique of modern individualistic approaches to church, while covering much-needed topics such as evangelism, leadership, preaching, engagement in justice and definitions of ministry success. This book also goes beyond mere theory and provides concrete communal practices.
*For a more extensive list of church planting books, see this Goodreads shelf on the topic.
J.R. Briggs is the founder of Kairos Partnerships and pastor of The Renew Community, in the greater Philadelphia area. He has written and co-written several books for ministry leaders, including Fail: Finding Hope and Grace in the Midst of Ministry Failure, Eldership and the Mission of God and the forthcoming book Ministry Mantras (IVP). You can find him on Twitter at @jr_briggs