Church Planting Networks
Planting a new church is one of the loneliest and most vulnerable tasks one can undertake. Momentum can be allusive. Area churches can be at worst territorial, at best uncaring. The needs in the community greatly outweigh the capacity of the team. The loneliness can be stifling.
One solution: The Church Planter Peer Network. Getting together with other planters for prayer, encouragement, worship, and collaboration can broaden the perspective of planters to decrease the role loneliness plays in the church planting process.
Research has shown the validity of church planting networks. In the Church Plant Survivability and Health Study realeased in 2007, by the North American Mission Board’s Center for Missional Research, a survey found that church plant survivability increased by 135 percent when a planter met with a group of church planting peers regularly.
A 2003 study on the effectiveness of the Church Planting Process (meaning an Assessment, Basic Training, Field Supervision/Mentorship, Peer Network, etc.) in affecting attendance at new church starts, a survey of 600 church planters revealed that first year attendance was over 50 percent greater in the churches planted by those participating in a peer network.
As I speak with those that supervise and work with us church planters, the difficulty of getting network participation usually comes up. Why? Let me speak for myself:
- Pride. To be a planter you’ve got to have a bit of an independent streak and that can lead to an arrogance that says “I don’t need others” or “I don’t have time for others” or “I don’t care what others are doing.”
- Insecurity. Church planters are usually forced by circumstances to perform outside of all the boxes and decisions are made with little positive or negative input and uncertain consequences before or after. Insecurity about ideas can make a planter fearful of negative peer criticism, so we stay away.
- Competition. Probably one of the most disgusting things among ministry peers is territorialism and competition. As if one person or one ministry or one approach could possibly reach an entire area with the Gospel.
One of the best things that planting a church has done for me is drive away my independence. I am more certain than ever of my need for God (remember, we’re never alone as we go into the world – Matthew 28:19-20), my need for others, and my desire to invest and add value to those working to expand God’s kingdom through church planting. I’ve planted a church without a peer network and now, planting my second church, I’ll be leaning on peers in church planting for prayer, encouragement, and collaboration.