5 signs your church is ready to partner with a replant

By Bob Bickford

In the world of church replanting, finding and developing partnerships between stronger and weaker churches is absolutely critical, if we are going to see a decline in the closure rate of congregations.

Fortunately, interest in replanting is increasing, and stronger churches are looking for opportunities to connect, serve, and resource congregations in need. Here are five ways you can know if your church is ready to explore partnering with a replant.

1. Your church has discerned a call from God to partner with a replant. We often tell potential replanters, “If you are simply testing the waters and looking for a ministry position, please don’t consider replanting.” We’re serious. Replanting is, in our opinion, one of the most difficult ministry assignments anyone could ever take on. Decades of decline often are due to spiritual demise, leadership and organizational dysfunction, disconnection from the community, and usually also aging, dilapidated, and outdated facilities. In replanting, you’re not just starting at zero, you’re probably starting at -10. Your church must be called to engage with a replant. We, in our own strength and wisdom, don’t’ seek out the difficult ministry opportunities, but God calls some of us to work in the very difficult places.

2. Your church understands the pace of replanting. A church that needs replanting presents you with multiple needs all at once, and each of them could be at Threat Level Red. Forward progress in any one area can be hampered by needing to move slowly, overcoming reservations or fear and providing abundant reassurance to those who are part of the legacy group. Plans and proposals often have to be evaluated and edited in response to “unforeseen circumstances” that threaten to derail or at least delay momentum. Replanting is never 1, 2, 3; it typically is 1, -3, 4, -2, 1!

3. Your church is ready to embrace the messiness of replanting. Replanting a church with existing legacy members, who are important and matter to God, is a highly relational endeavor. It may be easier to simply think you can dismiss the remaining members, but it does not honor God to overlook them or see them as obstacles hindering your ministry. They must be seen as your ministry. One of my favorite verses is Proverbs 14:4, which says, “Where there are no oxen, the manger is clean, but abundant crops come by the strength of the ox.” A mentor of mine summarized this verse like this: “No mess, no ministry.” If your church wants a partnership with no hassles and no messes, then keep walking right past replanting. But understand this: Ministry is always messy.

4. Your church embraces a biblical definition of success. Most replants don’t explode in attendance, baptisms, and budget monies given to missions or ministry. Replants typically take five to seven years to grow into sustainable local congregations. They may never break the 200 barrier. If your church is willing to embrace replanting success as seeing people come to know Jesus and the community made noticeably better, your church is probably ready to partner with a replant.

5. Your church adopts a servant, not savior, mindset. The church that needs to be replanted likely has made decisions in the past that contributed to where it finds itself today. They know that; you know that. But there likely was a time, somewhere in its history, when that church was healthy and vital. They need help and hope that comes from a servant willing to walk alongside of them, helping them become who God has called them to be once again. As a partner church, you’re not there to be their “savior;” you’re there to serve them for the sake of the gospel.

Partnership is demanding and difficult, yet it represents one of the best hopes we have for declining and dying churches to see better days, for the glory of God.

Published January 25, 2018

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Bob Bickford

Bob Bickford is a Replant Pastor in suburban St. Louis, serves as the Associate Director of Replant for the North American Mission Board and is the co-author of Am I a Replanter,  Pathways to Partnership and the Associational Replanting Guide. Follow Bob on twitter @bobick