We see a new movement of the Spirit. Across the world and across our country, there is a new movement of church planting that is going on. We want to join with what the Spirit is stirring up and do our part to create a generation of faithful and effective church planters who are actively planting reproducing churches, who are connected to and learning from each other, and who are reaching new generations of followers of Jesus.
We see resources and opportunities. Our denomination, the ELCA, is spread nationwide. Even though we have been in numerical decline for some years and many of our churches are aging institutionally, we still have lots of gifted people, financial resources, and locations (nearly 10,000). The good news is that many unchurched people continue to be open to having their lives transformed by the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Importantly, widespread research shows that new churches are eight times more successful in reaching unchurched people than churches over 40 years old. There’s both potential and a great opportunity for new churches to be planted across our denomination. One crucial missing element is an acute shortage of trained and equipped church planters. The truth is, church planting (and the process to develop church planters) is a difficult and challenging process at every step in the process.
We see great potential to come alongside existing churchwide, synodical, and seminary efforts in a collaborative way to add value to the system by helping in the ongoing development of a church planter pipeline, especially in the following areas…
- Grass-roots advocacy and promotion for church planting
- Practitioner-based, hands-on equipping, training, and apprenticing
- Ongoing peer support, encouragement, accountability, and coaching
This will be done by four mutually reinforcing activities.
1. Holding a yearly Church Planters Training Intensive
Our goal is to have 20-25 participants per year who are effectively trained in the practical aspects of church planting. Our goal the next three years = 60-75 potential church planters trained with the tools they need to take the next step in planting a church.
2. Establishing a Church Planter Residency Program
Over the three-year pilot program at Redeemer Church in Chicago, we hope to give thorough training and rigorous experience to each intern, so that he/she would be ready to go on immediately to plant a new church after finishing the internship. Our goal the next three years = 3 fully-equipped and experienced church planters.
3. Expanding the Lutheran Church Planters Network across the ELCA
We envision the church planters network as a peer-driven, action-oriented “network of networks” focused on promoting, equipping, and supporting church planters. This is a low-cost, relationship-based, and “viral” approach that can provide personal support, encouragement, accountability, and a developing esprit-de-corps. Local networks can be think tanks that share resources and best practices and can advocate for church planting in their area and provide opportunities for collaborative church planting. Our goal the next three years = 5-6 new local networks in several synods or metropolitan areas.
4. Providing Coaching and Consulting for Church Planters
Even the best learning experience can fade if it’s not reinforced. Timely follow-up coaching and consulting can be invaluable in the demanding task of planting a new church. We want to help fill that need where we can.