How can My Church Start or Support a Church Plant?
Reaching the unchurched of the Mid-South Region is too big a task for one church to handle. Planting Churches is one of the best ways for us to begin to impact the lostness of the region. And every church can get involved in the planting of new Churches. How? The sky is the limit. There is no right or wrong way to support church planting. The question is, what are you willing to do? How big of a commitment are you willing to make?
Here are really three basic levels of commitment that will exclude no church from involvement. Here are a few suggestions that others have acquired through the years.
1. Parenting / Reproducing
Is God calling your church to reproduce and send out from your membership to plant a new church or a new campus? To multiply at this level you should go about it with the same veracity as you would with a new building project or capital campaign, utilizing all avenues of communication for a sustained period of time. During a building campaign, the last thing you want to hear from a member of the church is, “I’m not sure why we need a new building.” You work hard to get everyone on the same page through sermon series, letters, special web pages, banquets, personal testimonies, visual displays throughout the building, commitment Sunday’s, personal home visits, and more. If planting a new church with momentum and a great potential for survivability is our goal, we should want every member to be on board and to do away with some anti-church planting thoughts like– “I don’t see why we need a new church” or “Those people can just come to church here” or “Sending out people will hurt our church.” Here are a few ideas to prepare your church for off-campus multiplication:
• Answer the call from God to reproduce through off-campus multiplication. Ask, did we hear from God ? This type of endeavor requires a vision from God that will be owned by your church and its leadership.
• Bring a Church Planter on staff. Part of this person’s job description should be to cultivate congregation and community for a new church. Devise a strategy that will allow the congregation to see him as an insider and whereby he can build trust with the people. Allow him to have regular pulpit opportunities, write newsletter articles, attend staff meetings, etc. Buy in and trust is so important if you want this to move quickly, so maybe this person is already on your staff or has a relationship with your church that makes them insiders.
• Prepare a Message series on Church Planting. The Book of Acts may be a good place to start. Bring the series to a close with an invitation to be part of a planting team or to help with the new church in some tangible way. One church devised dozens of ways that every member could be involved starting with things like prayer and making cookies for a block party, ending with the invitation to join the Core Group for two years.
• Along with a message series, guide small groups and/or Sunday School classes through basic missiology and importance of church planting. Take everyone in the church through a sustained study on planting a church and lead them to consider weekly their part in God’s Mission in general and specifically the need for a new church.
• Make a long-term commitment to the development of the new church. Parenting is the best description for this extensive role in expanding the kingdom. Parents nurture, train, discipline, encourage, and celebrate all the child does. Take that role with the church plant. With quality cultivation and core building and great parenting, it won’t be long before your church will be a GRANDPARENT! And then we are well on our way to a Multiplication movement.
In every community across our nation there are unreached and unchurched “lost” people groups. Church planting is the number one solution to stemming the tide of spiritual darkness in our region, America and the world. There is no right or wrong way to support church planting. You may even find that it has a positive impact on your church. As a matter of fact, new research shows that churches that sponsor new churches tend to grow themselves. Ed Stetzer and Warren Bird in their book Viral Churches point out a study of church-sponsoring churches showed that worship attendance increased 22 percent and giving increased 48% for the five years after sponsorship of a church plant. And whether your church grows or not, until everyone in our communities has an opportunity to hear the Gospel we must push forward. Reproduction and multiplication of new churches is the fastest and healthiest way to bring God’s kingdom to all peoples. As each church does what she can do, we can together reach more people and make more disciples in fulfillment of God’s Great Commission.
2. Partnering / Sponsoring
Maybe your church is not ready to be engaged in church planting as a parent church. This should not preclude your church from coming alongside those who are parenting and planting. Investing in a local church plant is one great way to help your church see just how vital and exciting it is to parent a new church. A few ideas for investing and sponsoring are:
• Become a financial co-sponsor. Put planting in the budget at whatever level you can. Most of the co-sponsors for the churches planted in our region have been between $50 and $200 per month. Some have given a one-time gift. It takes money to minister and a financial contribution encourages the planter and communicates commitment to the Great Commission.
• Adopt a church plant for your VBS offering. The kids will love the story about a church that meets in a Movie Theater, Fire Station or Rodeo Arena or baptizes in a swimming pool. And it may plant seeds in their hearts that will lead them into a career on mission.
• Conduct a local mission trip to assist a church plant in outreach efforts. You can visit a local church plant to assist with block parties, door to door work, servant evangelism, etc.
• Invite a church planter to attend conferences with you and your staff. Most church planters have followed a call and are choosing to live paycheck to paycheck. Most do not have the funds for conferences. Invite them to go with you. Offer to pay part of the way or challenge your church to pay their way. Pay or not, invite them along to enjoy and learn from you and your team.
• Sponsor a date night for a church planter and his spouse. Research is showing that church planting families are under great duress. There’s very little money and time for unwinding and recharging.
• Offer your office equipment and or space to a church plant. Allow a church planter to make copies, send faxes, and cut post cards. Minimal expense that will meet a huge need for a guy that offices out of a spare bedroom.
• Offer your facilities to a church plant. Let them use them for core group meetings, leadership meetings, Thanksgiving Banquets, and housing for short-term mission teams. Extend the usefulness of your facility to expanding God’s kingdom by simply saying yes to a church plant.
3. Friending / Encouraging
Church Planting is a difficult, lonely task, filled with uncertainty and vulnerability. You and your church can strengthen and encourage a church plant, as well as demonstrate a kingdom mindset, by reaching out a hand of friendship. This can be done with little or no expense to you and your church. Here are a few ideas:
• Put a church planter on your weekly prayer list. The real battle against the kingdom of darkness is free through Christ’s sacrifice on the cross. As your church prays for the lost to be saved, take the new church and planter to the throne of God as they reach out to the unchurched in your community.
• Buy a church planter a cup of coffee once a quarter and ask him how it’s going and offer him your insights about the community. Ask him about his family. Demonstrate a desire to see the church succeed. If you don’t have a desire to see him succeed, then repent and get over the idea that your church can reach everybody in the community. Also, encourage the Woman’s ministry to remember the church planter’s spouse and support her when possible. Just simply treat them as you would want to be treated. Seems like I saw that principle written in red somewhere.
• Invite a church planter to share during your Wednesday night prayer meeting, to Sunday School classes, to promote special missions offerings, etc. Exposing your church to the story of God’s work in your community will benefit the church by opening their eyes to needs in their Jerusalem and Judea.
 Stetzer, Ed and Warren Bird. Viral Churches: Helping Church Planters Become Movement Makers. (San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass Publishing, 2010).  Farmer, Jeffrey C. “Church Planting Sponsorship” (Ph.D. Diss., New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, 2007). His findings are based on survey responses from 309 Southern Baptist Churches that sponsored a new church in 1999; Farmer conducted his survey in 2006.