In an increasingly digital world, the birth of a new social platform, Threads, offers unique opportunities for churches to connect with existing members and reach a broader audience. But what is Threads, and how can churches make the most of it?
Understanding Threads A brainchild of Meta, formerly known as Facebook, Threads emerged as a direct competitor to Twitter, boasting over 70 million sign-ups within the first 48 hours of its launch. Unlike other social media platforms, Threads focuses on real-time updates, similar to live tweeting.
Key Features of Threads A post on Threads, known as a ‘Thread’, is currently limited to 280 characters, similar to Twitter, allowing for quick, digestible bites of information. This limitation encourages brevity and conciseness, fostering a fast-paced, dynamic communication environment.
What Makes Threads Different? Threads is not just a Twitter clone. What sets Threads apart is its emphasis on real-time interactions. As users post updates, followers can view and interact with them as they unfold, creating a sense of immediacy and presence that other platforms don’t offer.
It is also getting a boost based on the demographic it is starting with compared to Twitter. Threads is an Instagram app that automatically connects people to the audience, friends, or followers they already built on Twitter. A new person to Twitter is coming into a culture set by an older audience without theses connections.
In short, young people are more excited about Threads than Twitter, and it is boasting some early energy as a result.
Unlike Facebook or Instagram, which emphasize visual content like photos and videos, Threads is primarily text-based, focusing on the power of words.
While TikTok features a short-video format, Threads encourages discussion and engagement through written content.
Limitations of Threads As with any platform, Threads has its limitations. The character limit may restrict in-depth conversations, and the text-based format might not appeal to those who prefer visual content. However, Threads offers an unparalleled immediacy that promotes real-time interaction, setting it apart in the social media landscape.
Conclusion Threads presents a fresh opportunity for churches to adapt to the digital age, fostering a real-time, interactive connection with their congregation. As we continue to navigate the digital terrain, the key is not to abandon traditional methods but to embrace the possibilities these new platforms offer. The message remains unchanged; it’s just the medium that’s evolving.
Is the Attractional Model (AM) a way for churches to funnel new attendees into discipleship or does it produce churches whose only focus is “a way of ministry that… [makes] Christianity appealing?” While many of the fastest-growing churches in America utilize the AM, criticism of this approach has risen. It is effective at gathering new people, but some believe these churches are compromising their missio Dei for relevancy. Is it possible to have a church committed to being attractional and making disciples? This research will present that the AM works as a funnel for discipleship as long as the same commitment to attracting the lost to weekend services is present in a church’s attention to missional-style discipleship.
In How to Make Big Decisions Wisely, Alan Ehler presents a biblical framework for making decisions utilizing the power of story. His goal is “to bring together biblical wisdom and the best scholarly insights to help you shape your story in the best way possible.” He accomplishes this by teaching a model of decision-making he calls “Story Shaping.”
Story Shaping has a “four-step framework for decision-making: (1) Read the Backstory, (2) Catch God’s Story, (3) Craft a New Story, and (4) Tell the New Story.” The Story Shaping method is used in this research to address the discipleship problem facing AM churches. It will become clear that there are various opinions on the AM and multiple approaches available for discipleship in the local church. As Ehler states, “if outside experts or others involved cannot agree on the right approach, or if there seem to be multiple options with equal chance of success, then an intentional decision making process like Story Shaping is warranted.” 
Read the BackStory
A few simple questions must be asked to “read the backstory” of the AM. In Ehler’s first step of the Story Shaping process he says one should “ask questions about the existing strengths of an organization and uses those to determine what must be eliminated when change is made.” The research will ask questions that examine the AM’s backstory to help determine its ability to lead people into a discipleship process.
If its critics are correct, then the AM has a discipleship dilemma. In an article written for the Gospel Coalition, Jared C. Wilson says that in the AM, “there is no significant attention given to life or discipleship beyond the weekend worship service.” According to Richard Green in an article for the Keystone Project, the AM “does not make disciples.” Green continues by saying the AM’s methods lead to “a form of Christianity which has allowed [an attendee] to be a Christian without being a disciple.” L.E. Brown cautions that because of the AM paradigm, “the Church in America faces a significant existential threat that will eventually sweep countless congregations into history’s dustbin.” These warnings paint a picture of crisis for those who seek to utilize the AM for their congregations. These churches may be growing in size, but are they making an eternal difference in their communities and their members’ spiritual formation?
Should attractional churches even be concerned with discipleship if they see large attendance numbers in their weekend services? The most evident reason church leadership should make discipleship a top priority is that going out into the world and making disciples was the last command given by Christ in Matt. 28:19-20 (NIV): “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.”
The Apostles also continued to emphasize the importance of discipleship. In one of the most well-known discipleship relationships in scripture, Paul tells Timothy, “And the things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable people who will also be qualified to teach others” (2 Tim. 2:2). In His masterwork, The Master Plan of Evangelism, Robert E. Coleman says, “The ultimate goal of Jesus for his disciples was that his life be reproduced in them and through them into the lives of others.” Coleman proposes that Jesus had no backup plan for world evangelism other than his investment into people who would do the same for others through discipleship. It can be gathered from these examples that a church’s commitment to discipleship is paramount.
Now that the AM’s dilemma has been established and why it is essential to be solved, it is now important to define the AM and its strategies. Two opposing views on what the AM is will be considered, along with a third that seeks to find common ground between the two.
One predominant view of the AM that has already been reflected in this research is that the AM seeks crowds more than mission effectiveness. This point of view is represented in a review of The Prodigal Church by Joey Chen. In his paper, he states that Jared C. Wilson believes pragmatism and consumerism are the two ideologies driving the attractional church. Chen explains these two points further by saying Wilson “criticizes pragmatism because it assumes that ‘what works’ is wise and beneficial. He identifies consumerism as being ingrained in the Church Growth movement but questions whether consumer desires should be the primary concern of the church.” In Wilson’s perspective, churches are misguided if they believe “that the customer’s interests are legitimate.” Based on these insights, it can be concluded that Wilson’s definition of the AM is one where a value system of prioritizing consumers’ interests above other missions of the church is present. This perspective questions whether an approach is valid simply because this is what brings people into the church building on Sunday Morning.
In his book, The Attractional Church: Growth Through a Refreshing, Relational and Relevant Church Experience, Billy Hornsby gives many examples to describe what an AM church looks like in practice. A straightforward definition he gives is that they are called attractional simply because they attract large numbers of people. What is it that they are attracted to attend? Is it a compromising of the message of the gospel in order to shamelessly get them in the door? According to Hornsby, people are attracted to these churches simply because they are “refreshing, relational, and relevant church experiences.” He says a good word to describe these kinds of churches is “life-giving.”
The contradicting perspective on even how to define the AM is rooted in someone being a part of one of two camps: missional or attractional. Interpreting the story of the AM is based on one’s own experience or connection to one of these groups is what Ehler calls “our story reading glasses.” It is from these two groups that a “controversy over the most effective way to expand the kingdom of God”  has been argued. According to Dr. Jesse Wilson, this “is an argument that the church cannot afford.” He offers a definition of both to find common ground between the two ideologies. He says a missional church “is about the (1) missionary status of God and His church… (2) …incarnational ministry… [and] (3) …actively participating in the missio Dei, or mission of God.”  He then defines the attractional church by saying that the AM “hungers for lost people, …believes in worship excellence, [and] … creates a loving community.”  These two definitions create a clearer picture of how the attractional church can be defined, a glimpse into its methods, and why it has taken on criticism because of how it differs from the missional approach to church growth.
The researcher’s experience with training, planting, and leading AM churches finds a definition from Sam Horn to be the most accurate. He states, “AM churches believe the primary purpose of weekly corporate worship is to attract lost people, disengaged Christians or the unchurched to come to Jesus, accept the Gospel and reconnect with the church.”From this definition of AM churches, an evaluation of AM discipleship dilemma will be conducted. To use this definition alone, though, and not include the perspective of the missional and attractional proponents’ opinions on the AM would be incomplete. All that has been covered is vital to moving forward because in both the criticism and defense of the AM, the issue of discipleship is front and center.
Catch God’s Story
The research will now attempt to “collaborate with God in shaping [the AM] story”  in the second step of the Story Shaping process. This process is in line with “the principles of practical theology, which seeks to ‘interpret the revelatory realism of God’s action in concrete lived experience.’” From this perspective, the research expects God to be involved in the story of the AM and will attempt to “catch” that involvement in this next section.
The AM does not derive its “primary purpose [from] making Christianity appealing,” as Wilson claims. This would stifle God’s work through repentance. Instead, the AM embraces a “growth mindset that sees[s] themselves and others as capable of learning and improving.”  This is seen in how the AM takes a friendly approach that draws people to church so repentance can occur. The AM abandons the reasoning of churches that refuse to adjust their approach with the change of culture due to a “fixed mindset.” Hornsby says that “theologically, the attractional church’s message is biblically based. It is not “the content of the message but rather… the style of presenting it” that the AM seeks to change.
One can further observe God’s involvement in the methods of the AM by comparing them to how Jesus ministered. Hornsby says that an attractional church’s “real success can be measured by the number of souls that come to Christ and the impact the church has on its community.” This example reveals that the attractional church model seeks to be evangelical, not for gathering alone, but for multiplication and the glorification of God in the community. Jesus often gathered crowds and cared for their needs when he taught (Matthew 5-7). God is involved in attempts to gather people to hear the gospel, as displayed in the AM, and not just church gatherings that are believer-focused.
God’s involvement in the AM process is further displayed in the book of Romans. Paul quotes the prophet Joel when he tells the Romans that “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved” (Rom. 10:13 NIV). He then goes on to explain how one comes to salvation. “How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them (Romans 10:14)? From this, it can be concluded that hearing is necessary for believing, which is required for salvation. Since discipleship cannot begin without salvation, we can rightly say that creating opportunities for people to hear the gospel is paramount for discipleship to take place eventually. With this understanding, we can “catch God’s story” in the AM strategy for evangelistic gatherings to create a funnel for churches to engage in discipleship.
God can use weekly church services created with unchurched people in mind to see new attendees connected to the church, but does that mean these services are effective at creating disciples? The next step in the Story Shaping process will present ideas to understand this area better.
Craft a New Story
In this section, an attempt will be made to“craft a new story” about the AM and discipleship. Ehler describes this step as including three different elements. The word craft is used to show a person’s involvement with God in finding the best possible solution.He describes this step as “a story” so that a person does not become paralyzed into believing there is only one way forward. This is certainly true when making disciples in the local church. Many options are available. This research aims to find the best options for the AM to make disciples. The final component used to describe this step is the word “new.” The reason why Ehler uses this word to describe the third step in his Story Shaping Process is that the results “will change the future for [the person involved in the decision making process] and perhaps others.”
To craft a new story for AM’s effectiveness in discipleship, attention will first be given to an explanation of how discipleship takes place. In a post called “Jesus’ Upside Down Strategy” at EmotionallyHealthy.org an example is given between modern-day discipleship vs Jesus’ discipleship strategy. The author claims that “Jesus focused a disproportionate amount of time discipling the Twelve…” The article goes on to explain that programs and services can distract ministry leaders from the critical work of discipleship. Honest attention is given to “the great tension of the big and the small” in churches. Then the author asks the question that this research is attempting to address as well, “How do I focus on the few… when modern culture demands the big… and now?” Two models of discipleship are presented along with a graphic that depicts both to answer this question.
The first graphic represents “modern-day discipleship.” This can also be described as the AM’s discipleship method because “attend” is at the top of the funnel (Fig. 1).
The interpretation of the AM shown in Figure 1 paints a picture of a discipleship funnel with little impact on the Great Commission. The “Jesus Discipleship Strategy” in Figure 2 tells a different story of many disciples being released to fulfill the Great Commission.
These two funnels do not have to exist in a contradictory relationship. Benny Perez says he sees great value in both the attractional and the missional model. According to Perez, they “do not need to be in opposition to each other.” Perez says that when Jesus spoke to crowds, he got on their level by using stories. Jesus was attractional in his presentation of the gospel in order to connect with as many people as possible. Perez models the example of Jesus by avoiding insider language in his church that outsiders will not understand. He says that taking this approach allows his church services to be geared toward both believers and unbelievers. According to Perez, the experience does not end with the weekly worship service. He says, “when people come to church… there should be a ‘wow factor.’ Then, when people leave your church, they should leave with the understanding that they too are on a mission, living life with a higher purpose.”
A new model for discipleship can be derived from the Both/And approach of Perez, and the Jesus Discipleship Strategy presented in the Emotionally Healthy Discipleship article. In Figure 3, a model is presented where many of the upside-down funnels are taking place in one church because, first, a come-and-see approach was taken by a church. Many Jesus Discipleship funnels can exist in one church using the AM as a larger funnel that feeds this smaller funnel. This is how a church can commit to making disciples once new people are connected to the church.
The new story for the AM should involve a commitment to its current strategy of attracting people who otherwise would not come to church while also embracing a missional “perspective of sending people out into the community, [and] encouraging… members to evangelize in those places.”
Tell the New Story
Ehler’s final step in the Story Shaping process is to “Tell the New Story.” He calls this step “making your decision happen.”  How can AM churches tell the new story of being both attractional in their weekend services and missional in their approach to discipleship? In Deep & Wide, Andy Stanley suggests that discipleship in past models increased people’s knowledge without growing people’s faith. To tell the new story for his church that he wanted to be both deep (missional) and wide (attractional.). He states his approach to discipleship is to “lead people into a growing relationship with Christ” and “a growing relationship equate[s] to growing faith.” From this, Stanley developed “five faith catalysts” that include: “practical teaching, private disciplines, personal ministry, providential relationships, and pivotal circumstances.” These “faith catalysts” correlate with Ehler’s encouragement to “frame the plan with a clear model” when telling the new story.
Chris Hodges suggests four simple steps that help “tell the new story” of discipleship through a faith journey that includes “know God, find freedom, discover purpose, and make a difference.” As Ehler teaches, these four steps are “simple” and are created with the target audience in mind.” These four steps could have easily been called salvation, church membership, discipleship, and leadership. Instead of framing the discipleship journey with traditional language, Hodges prefers to lay out the steps in a way that is “refreshing, relational, and relevant;” which is how Hornsby describes an attractional church’s weekend services.
What is the result of Hodge’s attempt to bridge the gap between the attractional and missional models with weekend services that are “empowering environments [that] challenge you to your core in an atmosphere of encouragement” and a simple and inviting discipleship program? Church of the Highlands, the church Hodges pastors, has grown to 24 locations. As of 2019, the church has 51,153 people in weekly attendance. While this growth is impressive compared to the average church size (65 in weekly attendance), does it mean Hodges and Highlands is effectively making disciples? According to the Highlands Legacy Report from 2021 the church’s members regularly serve over 21,000 people in the community through outreach efforts and served over 15,000 people on the church’s annual service and outreach day called “Serve Day.” The church also gathers 4,856 prisoners weekly across 21 Alabama correctional facilities for Sunday worship. Through the church’s local and global efforts, 87,653 people were baptized in 2021.
The Attractional Model for churches can work as a discipleship funnel as long as the churches who use this strategy include a missional mindset to equip believers for the work of the ministry once they are connected to the church. Churches cannot, as Cross states, “relegate the majority of ministerial work to paid clergy whose professional training has provided them with various forms of work we call ministry.” This is because “God is not pleased with sacrifices arising only from [church attendees] lips but demands the service of [their] lives.” If AM churches are content to only gather and not properly prioritize discipleship with the same commitment that they give to excellent weekend services, then they are laboring in vain. This does not need to be the case. As many churches have shown, for example, Andy Stanley’s Northwood and Chris Hodge’s Church of the Highlands, churches can utilize a simple onboarding process for discipleship that complements their attractional weekend services with great success.
Brown, L. E. “Missional Ecclesiology in the Book of Acts.” Journal of the Grace Evangelical
Society Autumn2011, P65 (2011)
Chen, J. (2016). Book Review: The Prodigal Church: A Gentile Manifesto against the Status
Quo by Jared C. Wilson. Great Commission Research Journal, 8(1), 131-134. Retrieved
Church of the Highlands. Last modified October 17, 2022.
You have heard the saying, ABC: Always be closing. In ministry the phrase should be ABD: Always be developing leaders (including recruiting leaders). When recruiting people for your church plant, consider reaching those far from Christ, finding people who need a church to grow in their faith, and gathering leaders who can help you support the mission of the church.
“If I were running a company today I would have one priority above all others: to acquire as many of the best people as I could [because] the single biggest constraint on the success of my organization is the ability to get and to hang on to enough of the right people.”
Jim Collins, author of Good to Great
Such a good thought for church planters in the recruiting phase. I believe this also applies to all seasons of any organization. Leaders are the skeleton that supports church growth. You can swell without good leaders. You can gather by taking advantage of seasons and great planning for an event. But sustainable growth requires great leaders and teams of leaders to hold the pieces together. Leaders are the ones who transmit the values and culture into others.
“Leaders are the skeleton that supports church growth.”
Understanding the following three phases of pastoring helps you develop leaders while taking care of everyone else in the church.
Reaching new people. If your church plant is not reaching out to those far from God, then you are missing the point. A new church should not merely add a new worship service to a community. It should be an outpost of help and rescue, actively displaying the love of Christ by helping people meet their spiritual and physical needs.
Caring for members. Members easily can be overlooked in the mix of starting a new church or growing an existing church. Alternately, they can become the total focus of a church that then unintentionally ignores other groups. Being a wise pastor means continuously providing love, encouragement, and correction to members. We must cry with them and celebrate them. Our goal with this group is to help them take one step at a time in their faith, patiently caring for them along the way.
Developing leaders. Leaders require a different type of attention and plan of action. We don’t love any group more than another, but to love everyone equally, we must love each person differently. As a church planter, keep your eyes open for gatherers. These are people who carry their own influence and have a desire to share that influence with you to grow the local church. The goal is to let them know they are appreciated, while encouraging them to carry the culture. They may get more access to you, and this investment is significant. When the time is right, you will multiply your efforts by delegating responsibility to your leaders.
To summarize, we must focus on recruiting three types of people: New people, through service and outreach; new members, through gatherings and pastoral care; and new leaders, through access and individualized plans. This is not only an important strategy for church planting; it is an effective approach to get and hang on to the right people and help your ministry achieve its mission of reaching the community and growing Christ-followers.
HOW DO YOU PLAY BASEBALL WITHOUT A BAT, BALL, OR GLOVE?
In the new environment created by the COVID-19 pandemic, church planters learned that the way to home plate may not begin with first base. While the aim to launch a large church remains, how they achieve this goal looks different from before. Church planters already face the unique challenge of starting a church without a permanent space, committed people, or residual income; but now, even the ability to begin accumulating these necessary resources for the launch of a new ministry has been removed.
High-Touch Impact in a Low-Touch Environment
The ARC church planting process typically begins with start-up parties to bring people together. These interest gatherings allow people to meet others who are part of the church launch, hear the vision of the church, and express their level of interest. During the pandemic when people are uncomfortable meeting together and event spaces are not available, church planters have had to be creative in connecting with others. Aaron Burke, the pastor of Radiant Church in Tampa, Florida, says we need to figure out how to “create a high-touch impact in a low-touch environment.”
Virtual Dinner Partiers
To accomplish this, some have created DoorDash Dinner Parties to meet with others interested in joining their launch team. The church orders meals for everyone through a delivery service, and then they all connect on Zoom. Others have followed up one-on-one conversations by delivering small gift cards, a tangible reminder, and an expression of the church’s heart.
Reach Out is the New Outreach
Explaining the shift churches are making during this time, JJ Vasquez, pastor of Journey Church in Winter Springs, Florida, says: “Reach out is the new outreach.”
Casting a wider net can be accomplished by streaming your start-up party on Facebook. Those who confirm attendance receive pizza delivered to their homes. The meeting is still open to anyone who wants to attend without having to make a reservation. These are fun and engaging meetings.
You may begin your meeting with a game. One church planter asked everyone to “count all the times our logo is on the screen, and the winner gets free church swag.” The only catch was the pastor had no idea how many times the logo was on the screen. Everyone who sent in a response received the free church gear. This was a fun way to keep people engaged.
Turn cold leads into warm leads.
The bases and the base paths may look different, but the principles of a large launch remain the same. Turn cold leads into warm leads. Put people first and connect with them in a low-pressure environment to measure their interest. Then follow up one-on-one to see if they are fit to join the launch team. These meetings between the church planters and those interested in taking the next step can be held online through FaceTime, Zoom, or Google Hangout.
Holding in-person weekend services is a continual problem because the spaces typically used by church planters are not available. New precautions have made it difficult for churches to launch in schools, theaters, and other shared venues.
HOW DO YOU PLAY BASEBALL WITHOUT A BAT, BALL, OR GLOVE?
As municipal and business leaders determine the next best steps for public safety, those wanting to start new churches have been forced to wait, indefinitely, for restrictions to be lifted before they have the opportunity to gather in person.
To navigate this new reality, ARC is helping churches launch virtually. When the outbreak began, our team made an immediate pivot to find the best resources for online church and get them to pastors as quickly as possible. Our ARC Launch Team shifted its approach by reaching out weekly to our church planters and offering counsel, resources, and training to enable them to launch online.
We have also temporarily adjusted our funding model to help churches start strong online. We have consulted churches, leaders, and businesses with online streaming experiences to create essential budgets and tools needed to launch virtually. When churches cannot launch physically due to restrictions in their areas, ARC is ready to come alongside them and see their dream of planting new life-giving churches become a reality.
What do you consider as the key factors when choosing who will be on your leadership team? Some leaders prefer to elevate people who show commitment even though they may not have the same level of charisma or gifting as someone else. Sometimes we put people in leadership positions because they are talented, even though they still need to grow in some areas. It is a delicate balance, but here are three areas to consider that I think will help when selecting the people who will work directly with you.
ATTRIBUTES OF A TEAM MEMBER WHO WILL LAST
Character When you promote someone, you send a message to everyone else in your ministry of what you celebrate and what gets your attention. Often, a person’s character goes unnoticed, but you must show that it is a priority for you by elevating leaders who have demonstrated integrity.
We want the stars that will shine the longest, not necessarily the brightest. If you desire team members that will last, then make sure that their character is strong enough to support and sustain their gifting.
Capacity While faithfulness is essential, it cannot be the only attribute we identify for promotion. Capacity also needs to be considered. This area of leadership covers a person’s giftedness and ability to continue to grow. Just like the area of character, it may take time to evaluate a leader’s capacity fully.
It is important to note that the same person who is good at doing a job may not be the best person to manage and motivate others to do that job. When you form a leadership team, you have to have people who can do the job and lead the people doing the job. Accomplishing this takes identifying someone’s capacity to grow into the role of being a leader.
Chemistry For a team to last, there must also be chemistry. I believe you need to like the people that report directly to you. You do not have to be B.F.F. with every leader in your church. You need a variety of people and personalities to minister to the different types of people who walk through your doors. On the other hand, you should not have someone on your top leadership team who you do not look forward to seeing when you meet.
It would help if you also considered how a leader interacts with the other people on your team. Someone can have character, be gifted, and make your day when you see them, but if they do not get along with the rest of your team, you will have issues. Make sure they are not telling you just what you want to hear when you are around while not making an effort to get along with others. Your team has to have chemistry if it is also going to have longevity.
Bonus: Calling One thing that often gets overlooked is that transition is a natural part of every team. Not everyone will be with you forever. That’s how swamps are made. Water flows in, but it never flows out. Sometimes someone has to go to make room for someone else you did not know you needed. You want your team to be committed, but you also want to make room for other people’s calling and the bigger picture of what God is up to in people’s lives.
Church planters are like the special forces of ministry. It takes courage to launch out into the unknown to serve people you have never met. It’s a worthy cause and one filled with lots of surprises along the way.
Some of the things I have learned working with church planters at ARC is what you would expect. Church planting is risky. You should get lots of experience leading and teaching in a local church before launching out. It requires a lot of coffee. Others were a surprise to discover.
Here are 4 things you may not have considered about church planting:
Fundraising is easier and harder than you think.
When you make fundraising about the vision and the people you are going to reach, then it becomes much easier to make the ask. You are not asking for you. You are asking for the people you are going to reach. This frees you up to step out because you know what people are giving to is going to make an eternal difference.
This doesn’t mean fundraising is easy. In fact, in some ways fundraising is harder than you think. It is not something that starts or stops in the launch phase of a church plant. It starts long before you have the need by being faithful and considerate in the way you build relationships. It continues long after the launch because your church will continue to utilize financial resources to grow, reach more people, and serve the hurting and overlooked.
There is a language to church planting.
You must learn and speak the language of a church planter if you are going to start a church. When Jesus spoke he used stories and illustrations that were common to those he was speaking to. Church planters must use the same principle when starting a church.
You speak the language of a church planter when you translate insider Christian language into messaging everyone can understand. One way to do this is by communicating your reason for planting a church in a way that is meaningful to not only someone who already values faith and spirituality, but those you hope to reach as well.
How you leave one season determines how you enter the next.
If you want to reap in favor, then you need to sow in honor. Even the best transitions can be challenging because a disconnection is taking place. When you speak well of, honor, and respect the wishes of your sending pastor you are investing in your own future by attracting loyal followers yourself.
When you go into your city it can be easy to only think of the needs of your new church plant. But remember, you are entering a community of existing churches. One day, you will be on the other end of a new church planter moving into your area. Lead the way with honor. Create an environment of unity in your city by asking how you can serve the other churches in your community instead of asking what they can do for you.
It takes longer than you think
You may be able to launch your church with ARC in as short as 6 months. This doesn’t mean everything you hoped to see will happen right away. It takes time to grow. Many times God has to grow your capacity as a leader before your church’s capacity to attract people can increase as well.
There are many aspects of your vision to start a church that will not be online for day one. Trying to get everything going all at once can lead to discouragement in you and exhaustion in your team. Dividing your focus prematurely can also lead to you not giving the essentials the attention they deserve. Parts of the vision will be realized on day one, others the next year, and still others in the years to come.
Church planting is an exciting journey filled with unexpected twists and turns. It also brings the reward of witnessing the miracle of new faith community being born first hand. If you like to find out more about starting a new church with ARC, we’d love for you to connect with us. Please go to arcchurches.com and click “start a church.” We have some free resources available to you just for reaching out.
If you are a church planter then I would love to hear from you! What were some things you didn’t expect that you found out after launching out to start a church?
*This post first appears as a contribution on KevMill.com.
How do you know if you are a church planter? Well, if you like to wear button-down plaid shirts, then there’s a good chance you were born to plant a church. Just kidding! But it is an odd recurring phenomenon I have noticed…
There are lots of personality tests out there, and spiritual gift assessments you can take that can help you determine if you are a good fit for church planting. Ultimately, if God has called you to it, then He will equip you for it. It doesn’t matter if you fit in any particular mold or not.
If you are wondering though, here are some characteristics I have noticed effective church planters possess.
5 Attributes of a Church Planter
Evangelistic The heart of the Great Commission to make new disciples of Jesus. Is soul winning a burning passion of yours?
Authentic Are you comfortable being yourself? There is a difference in learning from others and wanting to be like them at the expense of being your authentic self. It is important to know the difference. If you aren’t comfortable being yourself, then others will have a hard time being comfortable around you as well.
Engaging You cannot rely on marketing tools or other people to build your team. You must be able to attract people to the vision God has given you. This happens through being authentic and speaking the everyday language of people outside of the church. Are you someone who can engage in modern culture, or do you speak in preachy religious terms?
Honoring You must honor where you came from, and the churches in the area where you are going. You may know “honor-speak,” but do your actions and attitudes match your words? If you are not ready to honor, even when it hurts, then you are not prepared to be a church planter.
Life-giving You must believe the best in others. You cannot claim to have great faith, without having great faith in people. The people God sends to help you launch your church are your greatest assets.
ARC has an assessment process that does a great job giving feedback on people’s readiness to plant a church. We don’t determine your call, because we know that is between you and God. We do our best though to help you find the right timing and circumstances to launch strong. Visit arcchurches.com to find out more about our process and to apply.
What attributes do you think make a great church planter? I know there are more than just what I mentioned. I’d love to hear from you!
Over the years at ARC I have seen some successful as well as some not so successful approaches to fundraising. Here are a few quick tips if you are looking to raise money for a church plant.
Mistakes Church Planters Make with Fundraising
The biggest mistake people make is not making the ask at all. Don’t be afraid to ask someone to give to something you know is going to be good for the people you are reaching as well as well the person who is giving. It’s better to assume that people want to have the opportunity to be a blessing and are looking for an opportunity to be a part of what God is doing.
The second mistake is making too strong of an ask. This can happen in multiple ways. One way is by asking someone for money who you do not have any relational equity with. You start fundraising, not with a meeting when you give a pitch, but by genuine relationship long before you make an ask. You may not always have that opportunity for long term relationship though. In this situation you want to make sure that you ask them to pray about getting involved instead of asking for money the first time you meet with them.
The key to overcoming both of these mistakes of being too shy or too bold is to not make it about you. Make fundraising about the people you are reaching and the person who is having a chance to get involved with what God is doing.
Practical Steps to Fundraising Well
Prepare for a fundraising meeting by finding out about the person you are meeting with.
Start the meeting by asking questions about them and their vision. This way you can better connect your vision to what they are already passionate about.
Share your needs, but also share your vision, and your practical plan for sustainability. How are you going to get a return on their investment?
It’s always good to follow up and thank the person for their time with a personal note.
Being authentic and truly caring for each person you come into contact with may be the best fundraising strategy you can employ.
Most pastors don’t get into church planting because they are passionate about fundraising. They step out in faith out of a love for God and people. I think we should keep these two things in front of us when fundraising. God is our source, and fundraising for a church plant is just one more way we can learn to lean on Him more.
If you would like to find out more about starting a new church with ARC, we’d love for you to connect with us. Please go to arcchurches.com and click “start a church.” We have some free resources available to you just for reaching out
*This article first appeared as a contribution in the ARC Magazine.
“If you can do any other job other than church planting and pastoring, do that!” Joe and I looked at each other and joined the chuckles coming from other future church planters sitting in the room. We had a combined twenty-two years of ministry under our belts and knew God had called us to plant a life-giving church in Pensacola, Florida. So, what could go wrong?! The short answer is: Everything.
Nearly three years into leading and pastoring Echo Life, I think back on the cautionary statement spoken to the eager church planters. Would we have ever chosen a different route? No. We know through and through this is exactly where we are supposed to be and what we are called to be doing. But this has single-handedly been the most challenging and difficult three years we have experienced in ministry.
Reaching the Summit
Mount Fuji, though it is a mere 12,388 feet tall, is no joke. I have had the opportunity to summit this mountain twice. On both occasions, we began the ascent at midnight, guided only by our headlamps and a small, braided cord leading to the top. The climb is virtually straight up. The terrain is made up of unstable pumice stones. The air is thin, making it difficult to breathe. Most of my climb was alone, in the dark, feeling light-headed, stumbling my way up, and rolling my ankles at least 30 times. This is also church planting.
I would love to say that everything has been a beautiful mountaintop experience, but that would be so far from the truth. It has been a lonely uphill climb full of bumps and bruises. For several months now, I have felt like I have been struggling up a mountain and have only seen the light of day for a moment. This is the kind of discouragement that leaves you sitting on your laundry room floor weeping and asking God if this really was the right move (by the way, the enemy is a jerk and loves to kick you while you’re down. Don’t pay any attention to the thoughts you have in these dark moments. Find a friend who can share a light with you and show you that you are still moving in the right direction).
Kings Digging Ditches
As I have been fighting my way through the deep, dark, discouragement, my time with Jesus has landed me in 2 Kings 3. Three kings have come together to fight against Moab and they find themselves wandering in the desert and completely out of water. They call for a prophet and Elisha shows up on the scene and gives them a word. “Dig ditches all over the valley.”
I imagine these kings looked at each other in disbelief. Surely they knew about the exodus story (kind of a big deal). They knew God had provided water from a rock, manna from heaven, so surely He could do it again! But no, God instructs the people to…dig…ditches.
This is the desert. The sun beating down, the tools are primitive. The prophet continues, “You won’t hear the wind, you won’t see the rain, but this valley is going to fill up with water…This is easy for God to do; he will also hand over Moab to you.” (2 Kings 16-19 MSG)
Can you imagine crying out to God for help and then Him telling you to do some back-breaking work in the desert. “Dig ditches.” How many? How deep? For how long? When is the rain showing up again? How are these going to be filled? The people had no answers but instead had an opportunity to operate in faith and obedience.
Filling Up the Valley
Like many other believers and pastors, I am in a season of digging ditches. I am asking God for provisions, and I know He will provide, but the nagging question of when and how make faithful obedience even more difficult. Add to that the age of social media and I’m over here looking at other churches wondering why they got the provisions and I’m still having to dig with no end in sight.
This is where I have been the last several months. Many days of tears, frustration, anger, and feeling abandoned by God. Then I remember, “ You won’t hear the wind, you won’t see the rain, but this valley is going to fill up with water…this is EASY for God to do…” My responsibility is to be faithful. My responsibility is to obey. My responsibility is to dig in where I am placed and not check to see whose ditch is already finished.
Maybe you’ve been digging for weeks, months, or years. Maybe you feel like your ditch is significantly deeper than the people around you. Maybe God is preparing you to be a well of great depth for future generations. Maybe He is preparing you for far more than you could ever imagine. Don’t give up! Don’t keep looking for the wind and rain, but know and believe that He is faithful. He sees you. He will answer you! Keep digging! You are not alone.
You can follow Suzannah on social media at @SuzannahDriver. You can find out more about the church she pastors along with her husband Joe in Pensacola, Florida, at echolifechurch.com.
I came across this excellent article recently and thought it would fit nicely with the collection of blogs I am currently writing. I asked Tahe if he would mind sharing it on my site, and I am thrilled he is contributing. You can find the original post at yaresource.com.
How Are You Feeling?
You ever get the sense you don’t like the way things feel in your ministry or on your team?
Maybe you have excellent team members and a well thought out strategy, but still, something doesn’t feel right? It’s nothing you can point to specifically, but something just feels off.
You could have a culture problem.
Why Culture Matters
Many leaders talk about the importance of culture. Pastor Chris Hodges of Church of the Highlands teaches that an organization is built around people, systems, and culture. If an organization isn’t healthy and growing, there is a disconnect somewhere between these three.
People is about recruiting, developing, empowering, and placing the right people in the organization.
Systems are about the structures and processes in place to support, grow, and deliver the vision of the organization.
Culture is the overall feel, mood, norms, and environment of the organization.
Pastor Chris goes on to say that though all are important, culture trumps them all.
Good News and Bad News
Your church has a culture, and your team has a culture. Your culture is either working for you or against you. You can have culture either by decision or default. And when it comes to the culture, there’s good news and bad news.
First, the bad news. The wrong culture can take years to change. Pastor Craig Groeschel has said changing the wrong culture will take two years, and if you can find out a way to do it faster, he’d love to know.
Now, the good news. You can change the wrong culture.
Four Keys to Building Culture
Culture is the product of what we Communicate, Demonstrate, Celebrate, and Tolerate.
Culture begins with what you say. Communicating the values you have and aspire to have will give people language and a clear culture goal.
Though it is important to talk “it,” it’s vital to walk “it.” We, as church leaders, can, unfortunately, be the worst at communicating values we never demonstrate. Changing culture begins with changing you. People are most likely emulating the environment you’re creating.
People will naturally gravitate towards what you celebrate. You can say that what matters most is seeing people’s lives being changed until you’re blue in the face– but if all you ever celebrate is attendance – that’s what your team will take note of.
Whatever you tolerate will dominate. You can communicate, demonstrate, and celebrate the right stuff, but if you tolerate the wrong things, then they will be what will always dominate the culture.
Being Intentional About Culture
It’s essential to see that even Jesus was intentional about building the right culture within His followers.
Communicate – Matthew 5-7; Jesus’ sermon on the mount teaching his followers what the values and ways of the kingdom are.
Demonstrate – Mark 3:14; Jesus called the disciples to be with Him so they would see what He’s like, and He sent them out to do the same.
Celebrate – Luke 10:20; Jesus didn’t want His followers rejoicing in spiritual power, which would have led to pride. Instead, He taught them to celebrate their salvation, which leads to humility.
Tolerate – Matthew 16:23; Jesus wouldn’t allow even wrong mindsets in His disciples. He would deal with it instantly, knowing little problems cause significant dysfunction over time.
One of the most effective ways to provide clarity around building the right culture is core values. The core values themselves are not the culture necessarily, but provide accountability and clarity around what the culture should be. Think of core values as buoys in the ocean or guardrails to a roadway. They mark boundaries and keep the culture in check.
Core values can be both observational (things that are already happening and in place) and aspirational (things you desire to be in place but aren’t yet).
Examples of Core Values
Church of the Highlands
Love God Love People Pursue Excellence Choose Joy
We are faith-filled, big thinking, bet-the-farm risk-takers. We are all about the “capital C” Church! We give up things we love for things we love even more. We wholeheartedly reject the label mega-church. We will do anything short of sin to reach people who don’t know Christ. We will lead the way with irrational generosity. We will laugh hard, loud, and often. We always bring our best. We are spiritual contributors, not spiritual consumers. We will honor Christ and His church with integrity.
Here are some questions to help build values, and move your team or ministry towards the right culture.
1. How would you describe the culture of your team?
2. What would you say are the current values of your team? These can be words (i.e., integrity) or phrases (i.e., presence filled worship) or both.
3. What values are you in lack of that you’d like to see a part of your team?
4. Are you “tolerating” anything in your culture that is working against you? If so, what is it?
5. Think about a brand new person joining your team. What would you want them to feel by the time they left?
6. What’s your favorite thing about your team?
Where Culture Begins
The big takeaway? Culture begins with you.
The most effective tool you have for building the culture you want to feel is being the culture you want to build.
Tahe Governor is the pastor of Collective, the 18-30 young adults ministry of Bethany Church in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. He carries a deep passion for young adults to come to a true biblical understanding of what it means to be a disciple of Jesus and to lead them in living it out. Instagram: @tahegovernor / Facebook: facebook.com/tahegovernor.