The Four Stages of a Church Plant

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You often talk about the different stages of a church plant. What are they?

What should we be doing in the planning stage?

  • It is possible to over-do the planning stage. There are church plants in the Bible that had no planning at all.
  • This is a useful stage for people who God has spoken to about going to a particular place. They need to make a plan to relocate.
  • Part of planning is getting to know the area – what other churches are there, what people groups, etc.
  • The more planning you do, the more helpful it can be.
  • Part of planning is working out whether you will be doing one church plant or multiple church plants.

What are the key conversations to have in this planning stage?

  • Build some relationships with existing church leaders in the area that you will be planting.
  • Look to people who could move with you as part of the team – building the team and casting vision happens at this phase.

What are the next few things to do then to get the ball rolling in the pioneering phase?

  • Planning is great, but faith is greater!
  • Pioneers are often the first people into a new place.
  • Sometimes the first people there will not be the key leaders.
  • Opening your home and being hospitable to people is very important.

How should you spend your time during the pioneering phase?

  • Part of it can be about establishing the family in an area – settling kids into a school, buying a home, etc. This is like building a base camp.
  • After this, you can begin to gather a  group in a house.
  • If you are moving to a group that is already gathered, your pioneering can be much more orientated around that group.
  • Getting yourself established and forming your group are both a key part of this stage.
  • Homes and coffee shops have a big role to play.

What do you want to see in place in the pioneering phase before moving forward to the next stage?

  • What you build in at the beginning has a big effect later on.
  • Because the early stage is so relational, it is easy to build something that doesn’t have capacity to scale.
  • You need to build in expectation for the future (for example, if worship is a priority for you, you need to build worship in at this stage).
  • This can be hard, but if you don’t build things in at the start then it’s hard to put them in place later.
  • Years ago, the conventional wisdom was to get to 30 or 40 people and then launch, but today (especially in the UK) you won’t often get that number prior to launching.
  • It can vary based on a a few key factors: the gift of the leader and where they function best; how many and what type of people you have; what type of venue is available.

What are some of the opportunities and dangers of moving into the next phase?

  • The workload will increase as you will be doing a lot more things.
  • The leader’s gift mix needs to be broad – you need to be good at multi-tasking.
  • Opportunities are that it is more public, more people will be engaged and there is a real chance to get momentum.

What are the priorities for what a church planter should be doing at this planting stage?

  • Only do a few things, and do them well.
  • Learn to delegate. Try to get a core group taking the weight.
  • Many church planters struggle at this phase because it is a mix of them taking the initiative and yet sharing responsibility with others.

What are the things that mark the difference between the planting stage and the planted stage?

  • Years ago it was defined by numbers, but this can be quite restrictive – especially when planting into more difficult situations and nations.
  • Being reproducible is key – can it replant itself again and again?
  • There needs to be a multiplication of leadership.
  • There should be an outside verification that it is planted.

So when you reach this stage, the church planting doesn’t stop?

  • Absolutely!
  • This stage is actually the means to another stage – multiplication!

Do you have any final thoughts or words on this?