A subtle difference between a church plant and a split….

Church Plant Commissioning

Church Plant Commissioning

This past Sunday one of our associate pastors along with 60 people walked up to the front of the worship service to announce that they were leaving our church to start a new congregation just ten minutes away from our church. But it wasn’t a church split as it might sound. It was an intentional church plant, one of more than a half dozen our church has planted in the last 15 or so years, several of which have planted daughter churches of their own. It began with a relationship with a church planter over two years ago. He and his wife were brought onto our staff as a part of our pastoral team. He performed pastoral duties along with the other pastors. Relationships were established. Trust was built, and after a year and a half he was allowed to begin to talk about his vision for planting a church and invited to begin recruiting people to the new plant from within our congregation. Four weeks ago, they began to meet as a church in a large room within our campus prior to their launch which takes place next Sunday. Our church will support his salary 50% the first year, 33% the second year, and 25% the third year. In addition, we’ve helped them secure the lease on their building, and thrown a “baby shower” to get them on their feet. A healthy process resulting in a healthy launch!

As I reflect on this experience, a number of principles emerge as foundational to the success of a church plant on this model:

1) It is the clear vision of the church’s leadership to be a church planting church. Our previous pastor lead the church for 30 years in this vision, and was responsible for the six church plants during his tenure, which has evolved into a church planting network including our daughter churches, their daughter churches, and some adopted churches into the network.
2) Our current pastor and our board continue to share this vision. It is not viewed as a threat to our growth or our budget to give people and their contributions away.
3) The senior pastor and the church planter have a great relationship built on trust. They served together in a previous ministry. They like each other. Neither one would sabatoge the other’s ministry.
4) Our church is a generous church. We are willing to give people away, even some of our best people, to multiply the ministry of the church. We are losing some of our staff and some of our most gifted people to this church plant.
5) The daughter church shares the DNA of the mother church. That helps launch a church with a unified vision. They don’t have to spend their first year haggling over their beliefs and their philosophy of ministry.
6) They have financial viability right from the start. With the backing our church provides and the strong base of committed members, they won’t have to raise support as many church planters do.
7) They will have a permanent presence from the start. They were fortunate to find a facility that another church was vacating in a very strategic location next to a large mall. A lease gives them a physical presence in the community in which they are located.

Two decades ago I came alongside of a church plant that came out of a split of a large congregation. After a year of meeting together, the leadership imploded for lack of a clear vision and philosophy of ministry. The church struggled to get its bearings and eventually dissolved. The principles observed in this church plant bode well for its future.  Richard Bergstrom, ChurchHealth