It’s been said that planting a church is not the most dangerous job in the world, but it is the most hazardous — to marriages, families, and one’s relationship with God.
Having an engaging and strategic sending/parent church is critical to equipping planters to lead and finish well.
Below are our three key areas that West Ridge Church employs to shepherd new and existing church leaders effectively. I also would add that this is more of an art than a science. We have gleaned best practices from other leaders, denominations, and organizations in our efforts to constantly improve. Our model is simple: Engage, Equip, and Encourage.
- Proactive availability. It’s one thing to be available when a church planter calls; it’s a totally different thing when the sending church prioritizes connecting with and engaging a new leader on a regular basis.
- Be present. We underestimate the power of being present. Plan a Sunday to visit, regardless of the distance.
- Staff accessibility. From the beginning, we have instilled in our staff that when a church planter calls, we are to prioritize the follow up and “lead with a yes.” We invite our planters to engage our staff so as to share any best practices we have developed, as well as our failures, in the hopes that they don’t repeat them.
- Financial. Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also (Matt. 6:21). Church planter support needs to include financial support.
- People. One of the keys to being a sending/reproductive church is to invite your people into joining this crazy journey called church planting. We tell planters they can farm our people, but not our staff. CP interns are allowed to engage people in their target community. If they are planting in a remote location, we allow them to invite people to move. It’s crazy and scary, but it’s also so exciting to see that when people move, God backfills with new people.
- Resources. Along with staff access, whatever resources we have, we want to allow planters to leverage them. Even as I write this, I have a Mevo camera in my truck for one of our planters that is going to use it for a few weeks, to demo it before they invest in one.
- Events. Each year we host church planters and their wives at an annual event, which is designed to develop them and their marriages. We have a lot of fun loving on them and their wives.
- This is possibly the most under-estimated element, yet provides the greatest impact.
- Prayer. Jerry Falwell said that “nothing of eternal significance happens apart from prayer.” Andrew Murray has also said that “prayer is not something we do before the work; prayer is the work”. We have a monthly all-staff prayer event in which we pray for all of our planters and global missionaries. I also do a prayer walk every Sunday morning, specifically to pray for all our planters throughout the country, by name.
- Text. After my prayer walk, I send an individual (not group) text to each planter with a note of encouragement. Whatever the Holy Spirit gave me is what I send. You can do this Sunday morning, or Monday (the day that most leaders want to quit), or at other points in the week.
- Cards and notes of encouragement. We send out birthday, anniversary, and kid’s birthday cards for each of our planters. We sometimes include a small gift, based on what they like. (You have to get to know them to know what they like, Starbucks, Chick-fil-A, Coldstone ….)
- Engage your church to care for and encourage them. We are a church of small groups. We have invited every small group to adopt a church planter for two purposes: prayer and encouragement. We ask the planter to complete a simple profile with questions about family, anniversaries, birthdays, favorite colors, restaurants, sports teams, etc. We then encourage our small groups to adopt the planter and get creative with caring for them. Anyone can send you a care basket on Christmas or other strategic date. What would it look like for the planter to receive a care basket, card, or whatever on Ground Hog’s day? We have heard countless stories from planters around the country who have received cards, gift bags/boxes from small groups at crazy, God-appointed times. One planter in Boston received a card in the mail with a check in it. The amount of the check was the exact amount of the cost to fix his car, which had broken down the same day.
- Wives. We are constantly looking at ways to encourage and support pastor’s wives. This needs to be a creative and intentional element of the sending church plan.
Published March 27, 2018