by DAVID HOUSTON — So, you want to be a church planter? Nothing could be more exciting, more challenging, and more meaningful. It certainly has been all of that for me. Planting a church can launch you into a new ministry career or can greatly expand and deepen your present ministry.
That has also been true for many others and for myself. Most of all, is it one of the most strategically effective ways of advancing Christ’s kingdom on earth (see Church Planting, Attendance, and New Leaders by Walt Walker).
Some might even say, “If anyone has enough faith and dedication they can go and plant a church.” Admirable intentions. However, successful church planting usually doesn’t work like that. The challenges of successfully planting a church force those who go, as well as those who send them, to first ask two basic questions:
Are you called to be a church planter?
Are you ready?
The Better of Many Approaches
In my thirty-four years as a church planter, pastor, and now consultant/coach with Every Nation Churches, I’ve seen and studied just about every approach to church planting one could imagine, all producing varying degrees of success. There is the sink-or-swim strategy (I know all about that one), the throw-money-at-it approach, the massive-team concept, the secret prayer-invasion tactic, the conspiracy-of-kindness church, the attractional church plan, the big-bang theory, the missional cells model, and so on. Many of these strategies contain valuable elements of establishing and growing new congregations of believers. But none will guarantee church-planting success.
__We tend to be more deliberate now, testing that sense of calling and evaluation the level of preparation.
In the last twenty years, the body of Christ in general (and Every Nation as a particular movement) have come a long way in its understanding of the process of church planting. The process and strategy have also been somewhat demystified. We are far less likely to simply attend a prayer meeting, feel a sense of calling, buy a ticket, and go. Not that this approach has not or will not be successful; but the people and the endeavor often suffer a lot of difficulties — many of them unnecessarily. We tend to be more deliberate now, testing that sense of calling and evaluation the level of preparation. One aspect of this approach has been the development of church planting networks and affiliated assessment centers.
The Every Nation Assessment Center: What It Does and Does Not Do
Kevin York is the Executive Director of Every Nation Churches and Every Nation Ministries. Kevin and I have been participating in and observing assessment centers across North America for nearly ten years. Putting together an assessment center unique to Every Nation mission, vision, and values has been a slow and deliberate process. The strategy that has emerged has been very successful. The Every Nation church-planting success rate is double the national average in terms of membership at the two-year mark (see Success Rate of Every Nation Church Plants by Kevin York).
There are a lot reasons for this success, not the least of which are the efforts at the Every Nation Assessment Center, helping people discern their own calling and readiness. The Assessment Center helps people answer these two basic questions:
Is it evident that you have the calling and gifting to plant a church?
If you are called to plant a church, what do you need to do next to be prepared to plant in a specific city or region within the next twelve to eighteen months?
The Every Nation Assessment Center is a rigorous, three and a half day immersion experience for church planting candidates and their spouses. We talk with attendees about their history of fruitfulness in past ministry roles, as well as their experiences in previous entrepreneurial activities. We believe the best predictor of the future is the past.
__We give them our recommendation on the BEST ministry lane for them to run in.
Because we want to give them the best possible chance at succeeding in what God has called each person to do, we typically have one assessor for each candidate couple, We also have a licensed marriage counselor that sits down with each couple to help them gauge their readiness to sustain the pressure and weight of a church plant.
As seasoned church planters and trained assessors, it is not our purpose to tell attendees whether or not they CAN plant a church. Rather we give them our recommendation on the BEST ministry lane for them to run in. It is then up to them and their sending church or pastor to decide the next steps.
We do not do any training at the Assessment Center. That comes later. What we do focus on intently are the preparedness, character qualities, and giftings common among successful church planters.
Every Nation ABC3
The Assessment Center is only the first of Every Nation’s efforts to help church planters launch healthy, self-sustaining, reproducing churches. We refer to the ongoing process ABC3, which stands for:
Assessment Center — The Assessment Center is open to any potential church planter who plans to plant their church in the next twelve to eighteen months and is designed to help them discern their calling to church planting by affirming their strengths and identifying weaknesses.
Boot Camp — The objective of the Church Planter’s Boot Camp is to give church planters practical skills that will help them break through current statistical norms by planting healthy, vibrant, and growing churches.
Clusters — Clusters are regional gatherings of pastors and church planters with the aim of imparting vision, discussing best practices, and deepening relationships.
Coaching — The objective of coaching is to help pastors and new church planters to develop their leadership skills in order to succeed in their given church context.
Consulting — Once a church plant has been established, Every Nation provides trained consultants to help pastors grow healthy churches and develop strategies to effectively engage their cultures.
The Every Nation 2020 North American Church-Planting Initiative
The 2020 North American Initiative is a focused and concerted effort by the Every Nation churches of North America to establish influential churches and church-planting centers in twenty potential cities. It means that we will concentrate on eight strategic centers lacking an Every Nation church, and each existing church will continue efforts to plant churches throughout its region. All will continue to establish student ministries that make disciples and train leaders for Jesus Christ. See The 2020 North American Initiative by Russ Austin.
David Houston is a church consultant for Every Nation Churches.