Investigating Church Planting

This is the second part of a look at how pastors move to new posts.  It’s partly for those of you who are interested in how I’m spending my days at the moment but also I hope these two articles will be helpful for those who are considering a call to the pastorate or calling someone.

As you know, we are currently carefully discerning between 2 or 3 options. Two of these are traditional pastorates but the third will moving to an area to be involved in pioneer church planting.  Within that context there is the possibility of this involving a re-plant which would mean going to a church with a few people left. There would be a building and a small salary for a few years.  To some extent we would therefore follow the existing process. However, it is most likely that we will start completely from scratch. So, how does one go about that?

Well, first of all, there isn’t an existing church to call us. That makes the need for an external call a little more challenging.  There may not even be other churches with church planting on their agenda yet to call you as a planter sent from them. This won’t mean they are anti planting or that they are disinterested. However, it may not seem like the pressing issue for them or they may be wary about committing resources (people, time, money that they do not have) to something else.

So, I would suggest that the route map is this. First of all, start conversations. Those should be with the leaders in your own existing church. Do they think this is a mission that they would support and that you might be appropriate for? You will then want to talk with church leaders in the region/vicinity of where you are considering going.  Whilst it may not have been on their radar, do you get the sense that as soon as you raise the possibility that lights are going on? 

Talk more widely with other Christians leaders, especially those with a regional/national outlook. What you’ll start to hear is either

“That’s a terrible idea”

Or

“That’s so wonderful to hear. I often go through that area. There is a big Gospel need. You could be useful there.”

The next stage to look at is whether it is possible to make the move. We’ve started to investigate this by looking at things like house prices and jobs -both the possibility of Sarah finding a post and me doing some tentmaking type work.

Then you want to get a feel for whether there might be support and partnership. This starts with the nearby churches. In my mind, ideally we would want to be members of an existing church . There would be three reasons for this

  1. It is about as clear an indication as you can get in the absence of a church calling you to their pastorate that you are welcome and wanted.
  2. It provides you will fellowship and accountability. You are not a lone ranger and you aren’t self-selecting your accountability.
  3. If you are starting from scratch then you need to build up trust. “Hello  we wondered if you want to come and look at the Bible with us and maybe start a church” is probably going to leave your new neighbours thinking a cult leader has moved in. Whereas if you don’t have the conversation about why you are there at some point then they may just think you are a layabout. On the other hand, if you are able to say “Hi, we are linked to Grace Community Very sensible church” and the church are looking to see if there are things we can do to support people in this area…” you are more likely to get a hearing.

For me then, if we spend a few years in an area and end up with just a small community group for an existing church and have encouraged that church in its mission too then that isn’t wasted time.

The other thing you need to be talking about is support. Are there people willing to pray for you and willing to support the planting work financially. Those will also start to provide early indications as to whether you have people willing to come with you at some point.

I hope this article proves helpful for anyone considering getting involved in planting. I’d love to talk to you if you are. We will also be talking in more specific detail soon about the opportunity we are looking at and would love to hear from people with an interest in that area.[1]


[1] We are particularly looking at the needs in the West Yorkshire region at the moment