What’s the most strategic way your church can advance church planting in North America? I’ll give you a minute………ok, the minute is up, the nine periods in a row represented a minute of time. So what’s your answer? Below are the two most common answers we hear in our training workshops:
#1) Give money. There’s no way around it, planting a church requires a lot of resources, and plants with healthy support bases tend to start off more strongly than those without them. Thus financially supporting a plant is without a doubt a strategic way to advance church planting. But as strategic as it is we don’t believe its the most strategic way.
#2) Start a residency. It seems that churches who are really serious about church planting start residencies. Residencies provide specialized training & coaching for soon to be planters. This kind of training was unavailable to most planters even a decade ago. Residencies help planters avoid major mistakes and maximize their impact – starting a residency is definitely a strategic way to advance church planting in North America, but we still don’t believe it is the most strategic way.
Though very helpful, funding & residencies fall short because they presume an abundance of something that in reality we don’t have an abundance of….qualified church planters. #1 presumes there are qualified planters to give money too – #2 presumes a source of qualified planters who just need some fine-tuning before they launch. The reality is that presumption is incorrect. A few years ago our staff had the opportunity to talk with the president of one of the largest church planting organizations in North America. What he said made a lasting impression on us: “It’s not a lack of money that is keeping us from planting more churches, it’s a lack of qualified planters.”
Though funding & residencies are important, our ability to move the ball down the church-planting field will be limited unless our churches intentionally develop leaders who become planters. Imagine there’s a pond where you’ve always fished that suddenly becomes a sensation – every fishermen in town starts fishing in that pond. What’s going to happen? Unless someone stocks the pond, it’s going to run out of fish.
Well church planting is a lot like that pond. Over the last decade interest in church planting has exploded. More churches than ever before are starting residencies and looking for potential planters to train (Google returns 43,300 results when you search for Church planting residency). But unless we stock the pond with qualified planters we won’t make much more planting progress than we did ten years ago.
Which is why we believe the intentional development of strong leaders is the most strategic contribution our churches can make to church planting. You might say that exponential church planting is fueled by leadership development.
Over the last few years, in response to this conviction, my church (The Summit Church) has made a concerted effort to beef up our pastoral development opportunities. Over the next several weeks I’ll share a few of the lessons we’ve learned along the way, in hopes that your church will avoid the mistakes we’ve made and benefit from what we’ve learned.
By intentionally investing in aspiring pastors we hope to fuel church planting in our generation. If you or someone you know is an aspiring pastor or planter interested in being intentionally mentored and intensely trained while gaining meaningful ministry experience we’d love to be in touch, you can learn more about this opportunity and apply at SummitRDU.com/Apprenticeship.
Josh Miller (@joshmiller0604) serves as Director of Assessment for Summit Network and as Associate Church Planting Pastor with The Summit Church in Raleigh-Durham, NC.