10 Things You Should Think About Before Planting a ChurchBy Bradley Bell
November 10, 2021
What do you need to know before planting a church? Is there more to it than being called? Can you just “build it [a website or Facebook page] and they will come”?
The truth is, there are a lot of things to consider before planting a church. One should not simply jump into it because he was inspired at a conference.
Here are ten questions to ask yourself before you take the leap.
What are your motives?
After years of being a church planter and pastoring aspiring church planters, I have stopped assuming the motives behind the desire to plant a church. Instead, I ask. And not just about what’s on the surface. I want to know about the monstrous iceberg hidden under the surface: the story, the personality, the wounds. This often gives a clearer picture of the deeper motives underneath the sense of calling. The last thing you want is to be in the midst of church planting and realize that it had all just been about proving yourself to someone. Have you thought beyond the surface about your motives?
What does your spouse think?
When a man tells his family that he wants to plant a church, the nobility of such an endeavor can put his spouse in an awkward position. Anything less than compliance can feel really unspiritual and unloving. She needs to be able to respond honestly without coercion or consequence. If you really believe that your marriage matters more than your ministry, then unity with your spouse should be a definitive factor. What would it profit you to plant a church and lose her? Ask her what she really thinks.
Who has assessed your readiness?
Wouldn’t it be cool if there were experts who could accurately assess the results of a post before you even send it? “This will get 100 likes” or “This will make 10 people unfollow you—including your biggest future donor.” Well, in the church planting world, that’s actually a thing. There are organizations and networks with experts who assess the readiness of a potential church planter. Sure, it would be painful to hear that you’re not as ready as you thought. But wouldn’t you rather find out now while you still have time to grow and prepare, rather than after your church plant is a dumpster fire?
Have you considered training?
Imagine soldiers shipped off to war without basic training. They don’t know how to handle a weapon, how to work as a unit, how to follow orders—nothing but some camo and boots. It ain’t gonna be pretty! That would be a lot like deploying into church planting without taking advantage of the rich training available to you. So the experts assessed you and said that you need to grow in your theology, administrative skills, and boundaries? Cool. There’s training to develop that.
Have you considered a residency?
To extend the analogy here for a moment, following basic training most soldiers move on to Advanced Individual Training (AIT). It’s at AIT where they then learn how to perform tasks in their occupational specialty. No doubt, church planting “basic training” is great. But your AIT—where that training gets hands-on and soul-deep in the context of relationships—can happen in a church planting residency. Residencies allow you to be mentored, put your gifts and skills into practice, and launch from within a local church.
How do you really feel about funding?
Church planting sounds awesome…until you get to the funding part. Raising thousands of dollars, taking a startup style risk, likely facing a big pay cut—these are sobering realities. So then, are you sober? Have you looked at the numbers of a consolidated budget? Have you imagined a-day-in-the-life of full-time support raising? Have you conceded to the necessity of a side hustle for the foreseeable future? Make no mistake, there is great joy and wonder in God’s provision. But it will come with some sleepless nights. Are you cool with that?
What will be your leadership structure?
One of the inevitable realities in ministry is that leaders reproduce themselves—for better or worse. The leadership structure that you establish from the beginning of a church plant will set the tone and shape the culture of the church indefinitely. Have you given thought to that structure? I would urge you to consider a structure that is elder-led rather than solo-pastor or polity-ambiguous. But if you’re going to do that, you’ll need to be thinking about your potential fellow elders. Have anyone in mind?
Do you know your context?
Of course, if you’re wanting to plant a church, you probably already have a place in mind. But do you really know that place? Not just it’s modern aesthetics, trends, and demographics. Do you know the culture, the language, the story? Perhaps it’s helpful to think like a missionary in this regard. It’s called contextualization. What is the spiritual narrative of the place, and how does the gospel uniquely address and redeem that narrative? Think about it.
Who will be your Band of Brothers?
It’s easy to think of church planting in terms of tribes: denominations, networks, associations, regions, etc. But you’ll need more than tribal affiliation to stay healthy. Who will be your Band of Brothers? These are the people within the tribe who offer ongoing support. You don’t pick up your phone and text your network. No, you text that guy in the network who’s got your back. Have you considered who might make up that band? Have you thought about how to develop those relationships?