Proven Criteria for Planting Healthy and Growing Churches
It was Dr. John Kaiser who helped us crystalize in our church planting endeavours what many of us had already begun to practice. He called it the criteria for health and growth. When those of us who were involved in church planting saw these, we immediately agreed to their relevance to our church planting in Canada in the 21st century. Variations of these criteria are being used by most healthy church planting ministries throughout North America, regardless of their evangelical stripe. These are also the kinds of things that are considered when funding is being sought for a church planting project. So what are these criteria for church planting health and growth?
A committed church planting pastor
Nothing or nobody impacts the project more than the church-planter. Like many other endeavours, leadership is key. Modeling is the most important influencer. In vision, passion and commitment, the church planter needs to lead the way. The planting pastor needs to be fully committed with time, talent and treasure. Howard Hendricks was known to say, “If you want your people to bleed, than you need to haemorrhage.”
Our greatest challenge in church planting is to find qualified church planters. What do we mean by qualified? Here is a simplified list of gifts, character traits and skills we are looking for in a church planter:
- He has a passion for souls and a proven ability to lead people to Christ. J. D. Payne has defined biblical church planting as evangelism that results in new churches. If we are not able to do effective evangelism in our ministry context, we cannot hope to plant a community of faith that will in turn reproduce.
- He is humble yet courageous. These are essential spiritual leadership qualities.
- He is able to recruit and retain other leaders around him. Ministry impact in a community is directly proportional to our ability to raise up and equip new leadership.
A church planter assessment
The planter is properly assessed and recommended as a church planter through an objective church planter assessment process. The goal of the process is to qualify the candidate rather than eliminate them. Anybody can win the game with a star player. They can go out and make it happen in spite of you. We are also looking for that next level planter, the one who knows how God has uniquely wired them so that they are aware of some of the pitfalls to which they could be susceptible as well as the types of members they need on the team in order to complement their giftedness.
A committed and equipped launch team
We are looking for a large enough trained team of believers committed to giving and serving in the plant. We take a systems approach to church planting. Our best analogy would be that of the birth of a baby. At birth, we are looking for sufficient birth weight with all of the baby’s systems functioning properly. Likewise in a church plant, in that there are certain systems that must work adequately for the new plant to thrive and a sufficient enough number of committed individuals to make the various systems work properly.
We believe that healthy church planting projects begin by being accountable preferably to a mother church or to their regional church planting commission. The autonomy of the local church is the result of the project not the means. It is earned as the young church develops local leadership and demonstrates its ability to function maturely on its own. Historically, church plants were autonomous from birth and needed to sink or swim on their own.
We are looking for a significant commitment to the project by parenting/partnering churches of people, prayer and finances. These parenting churches need not be located near the new church plant, though that is ideal. Clear expectations can be laid out during the planning phase. In the same way that established churches have mission committees to oversee their investment in missions, they also should have a task force that oversees their own reproduction as a congregation. We will make serious advances in fulfilling the Great Commission in our generation when every healthy local church sees church planting as one of their ministry objectives.
Initial & ongoing training of planter and launch team
Planters take specific training in church planting and then, in turn, train those who will be working with him. Church planting training is available in our Fellowship across Canada in both official languages. Properly assessed and trained planters approach their projects with passion and confidence. They are more apt to recruit and equip the leadership on their team that will help them succeed. Growing leaders are learners. Life-long learning needs to be a part of any individual’s ministry experience.
A planter benefits significantly from a relationship with a church planting coach. Effective coaching is the key to successful church planting. Coaching has been introduced to the French region through SEMBEQ and is now part of our DNA as a region. In that context, one would expect that all our church planters are coached either by experienced church planters or mother church leadership. Pastors of our multiplying churches have had basic church planting training to facilitate their coaching of planters.
Mission giving right from the start
In the French region, all our churches are encouraged to give 5% of their revenue to the region to support our common vision and objectives. Other regions have similar objectives. Church plants either start with that amount in their budgets right from day one or they work up to it over a short period of time. From the time of the first worship service forward, the church plant is encouraged to support church planting, a national ministry and one or more Fellowship missionaries working cross-culturally. We want to plant multiplying churches which in turn invest in planting other churches. We also encourage them to allow their unique giftedness to benefit the broader Fellowship family rather than keep it to themselves.
These are the criteria for church planting health and growth. The proper DNA needs to be built into the young congregation from the start. Unfortunately, young congregations can get set in their ways rather quickly. A church planter and his team have the privilege and responsibility to build health, growth and multiplication into their projects right from the start.
In the past, we have been known to send out a young willing couple to plant a church with a small stipend, some prayer support and a hearty “May God bless you real good!” By God’s grace, some churches were started. Some couples didn’t make it!
Today, we prayerfully recruit, assess, train and coach our church planting couples. They in turn recruit and equip a mission-minded launch team that assists them with the plant. By God’s grace, we plant more churches and more couples not only survive in ministry but thrive!
We can all be involved in building the kingdom of God through church planting. May God increase your passion and stimulate your participation in church planting in the days ahead! Don’t hesitate to contact your local church leadership or Fellowship regional personnel to help you get started.