Monday, August 13, 2007

Answers to some questions

Recently I have been asked to answer some questions about church planting and Kairos. I thought the blog would be a way to interact with these questions in a more public venue.

What insights have you gained and/or lessons have you learned on church planting in the United States?

1. There is a new receptivity developing in at least parts of the US. The west coast, for example, is an amazing area of new church planting activity. We are finding people open for spiritual conversations. It does take them time to develop faith. The concept of believing in God is not familiar to them. They often ease into the idea that they are believers.

2. The most effective church planting groups in the US (Baptist General Conference, FourSquare, Vineyard, Evangelical Covenant, Southern Baptist) have:

a. Developed systems for assessing potential planters, training and coaching planters and funding the new churches for the first 3 to 5 years. They do not tend to work ad hoc or as isolated entities (i.e., an individual church learning everything from scratch).

b. A culture of expectation. As these groups have become more practiced, they have developed a culture of expectation and success towards church planting. Starting new churches becomes the norm, not the exception, and they expect that most of them will do well. I am amazed at the consistently positive response we receive from these groups. They are encouraging; they want to see our planters succeed. They are willing to share resources.

3. Our fellowship has a lot of men and women who are ready to plant, but they want and need help. The task is too daunting for most of them to leave established ministries and jobs without having others walk alongside them. A ministry like Kairos provides such an impetus as well encouragement and confidence that lets them make the decision.

4. Potential planters in our fellowship often do not have a background in evangelism, very few of them have experience in growing, healthy churches and virtually none of them have experience in a recently planted church (5 yrs. old or less). This means we have a lot of training, expectation building and reorientation of ministry that we help planters develop.

5. How little our fellowship knows about or understands church planting today. Our primary reference for a model goes back to the 1960s and “living room” based church plants. Typically there were a few members of Churches of Christ in a location. Someone opened up their home for the gathering. Other members moved in, joined, and Bible studies (“cottage” meetings, Jule Miller filmstrips, etc.) where conducted with friends and neighbors. Most church members we talk with now perceive church planting as either a church split or an existing church must “hive” off 50 or 75 members to another location. We need other models to work from.

Today the 1960s pattern is seldom effective, vis a vis the “stateside mission” church that grows to 35 or 50 members and plateaus, requiring continued external assistance for many years in order to survive. Our culture is now suspicious of Christianity and much faith-based activity. To plant new churches that can become self-supporting in 4 or 5 years and vitally influence the unchurched community in our new context requires more intentional effort and comprehension than the living room model provides.

3 comments:

Jason Campbell said...

Thanks for the insights, Stan. We don't often get to hear too many of these sorts of conversations, it's nice to have them "transported" in a way that we get to participate.

I've been pleased to see how far many in our fellowship have come in support of church planting in the short time we've been at work in these fields; I'm eagerly looking forward to what God has in store for our Restoration brethren...

Dwayne Hilty said...

I think we may have been given the same survey. I noticed them on your blog and purposely waited to read what you had to say until after I had a chance to respond. Good thing too.

Looking forward to talking about some of this stuff in coming conversations.

Kyle Turney said...

Do you approach church planting mostly as a way to bring the gospel to a new people? Or is it effective when churches grow in size to a certain point in an area to plant a new church in the same area (effectively to prevent a church from getting "too big").

Kyle