5 Things to Keep in Mind when Planting Near a Military Community

By Jon Ransom

All gospel – no gimmicks

Military towns are inundated with gimmicky entrepreneurs and their schemes. From pawn shops, to used car dealers, and pay day lenders (semi-extortionists), military communities are ripe with business people greedy for quick gain. Some church plants in military communities are tempted to embrace gimmicky methodology too. Perhaps it’s because of an overbearing partner church expecting quick ‘wins’ in return for investment. Please don’t be this church. Perhaps it’s because of the pressure to constantly replace people who rotate out on orders or deployments. Maybe it’s simply out of sincere desire, willing to do anything to draw crowds on Sundays.

Don’t give into the temptation to go gimmicky with the gospel. Jesus and His gospel deserve better.

Preach and live the gospel. Patiently make disciple-making disciples. You will face tough, slow, seasons. Faithfully persevere.

Though slower and messier than some planters and partner churches prefer, the biblical model works.

Sell your Hybrid – buy a truck

This is no gimmick. Nor is it an over-realized attempt at contextualization. Contrary to what you may be thinking, this has nothing to do with the fact that so many service members are from Texas that the DOD has probably considered forming them into their own service branch.

Why a truck? Military families move, a lot. I don’t mean the move that is made once every 2-3 years between assignments. Young enlisted families sometimes move 1-2 times per duty station. Plus, belongings get moved around a lot as people prepare for, or return from deployments. If you want to serve people in a meaningful way, and you live in a military town, buy a truck. With the price of fuel you’ll probably need to find another supporting church, but you will NEVER lack opportunities to meet and serve people in meaningful ways.

Not one core team – two

Shortly after our public launch, I breathed a sigh of relief…well, started to. We had launched. Our worship gatherings were ‘public’, our missional communities were discovering their rhythms, and our core team was solid!
Then it hit me. In under 12 months, nearly EVERY member of our initial core team would be gone, either returning to civilian life, getting deployed, or moving duty stations. If you intend to plant in a military community, you must be aware of this reality. Turnover is constant, and can be brutal.

Pray, plan, and work towards two ‘core teams’, recruiting and equipping team members who will be willing and ready to step in as others step out.

Steward – not slave

Our culture is obsessed with body image and health. If you think people in average American cities worship these idols, you should see how we take that idolatry to another level in a military community. Folks in the military need to be physically fit and healthy, we all know this. But, even still, there is a line between stewardship and slavery.
Planters should be healthy and fit too. But, there is an important difference between being fit and being a fitness freak, between stewarding your body for God’s glory and the good of those you serve, and being it’s slave. Exercise should be a means of stewardship – not an idol to worship. Church planters should demonstrate to those they disciple what it looks like to believe: “while bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way.”

Rank structure – missional implications

You don’t need to be a veteran to serve as a planter in a military community. Many planters, with no military experience, serve effectively in military communities. If you don’t have a military background, one of the aspects of military life you should be familiar with is rank structure and its social implications. Rank structure is similar across the service branches, but each branch has its own unique culture that develops around that structure. These realities have profound missional implications. If not properly understood, and not redeemed by the gospel, rank structure can stand as one of the greatest hurdles to unity and effective missional living. But, when properly understood, and redeemed by the gospel, making disciples across the ranks who make disciples across the ranks can become one of your greatest force multipliers.

Published July 9, 2015

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Jon Ransom

Jon serves as one of the planters/pastors of Pillar Church in Oceanside, CA, which is home to Marine Corps base Camp Pendleton. Pillar Church is part of a family of churches (www.pillarchurchsbc.com) which is working to plant a network of gospel centered, church planting churches, throughout the Marine Corps community, and near other military installations (www.praetorianproject.org). Twitter: @jj_ransom @PillarOceanside