From the Worldwide Faith News archives www.wfn.org
Church planters weigh systems plan
George Conklin <email@example.com>
24 May 1996 19:23:28
May 23, 1996
Mennonite Board of Missions
Contact: Tom Price, director of information
Phone: (219) 294-7523
Church planters consider systems for success
CORAOPOLIS, Pa. (MBM) s As he shared experiences from his life's calling
with about 50 church planters and others April 14 at the annual Mission
Leaders meeting here, Tom Nebel paused for a moment of self-assessment.
"It is a funny business we are in. Sometimes it is a rotten calling. You
are always trying to turn the work of the Spirit into a science,"
confessed Nebel, co-author of Empowering Leaders Through Coaching and
director of church-planting movements for the Great Lakes district of the
Baptist General Conference.
In his tenure, Nebel has planted churches and coached others as his
district has begun 40 new churches in the last decade. The knowledge
Nebel has gained in that process points to the need for using
reproducible strategies in planting churches s an insight that dates back
to the different experiences of John Wesley and George Whitefield in the
"Whitefield preached. Wesley organized," said Nebel, noting that
Wesley's influence still continues today through thousands of churches
that were brought into being through his methodical approach. "George
Whitefield led thousands of people to Christ. But the thing that made
Wesley go was this institution called the Holy Club. 4 In the generation
following John Wesley's life, more people came to Christ than in his
Nebel identified five "primary systems" church planters and coaches
should set up if they want to create a movement of churches committed to
Intercessory prayer groups supporting the church planter.
Recruitment strategies for finding church planters, coaches and
Ways to assess whether someone is cut out for church planting.
Ongoing coaching and support for church planters.
A plan for generating funding for new church starts.
For each of these systems to be effective, Nebel said, they must be
reproducible, reliable and able to outlive their originator. A system
also ensures that the work is less dependent upon individual
idiosyncrasies. "In this business, you can't let your vision shrink to
the level of your reality," he said. "I'm not going to let my vision be
held hostage by what currently is the real situation."
Nebel served as the keynote speaker at the annual Mission Leaders
meeting at the Gilmary Diocesan Center near Pittsburgh. The event was
organized by Mennonite Board of Missions of the Mennonite Church, the
Commission on Home Ministries of the General Conference Mennonite Church
and the Conference of Mennonites in Canada.
In addition to Nebel's daylong workshop, the mission leaders
participated in two clinics on coaching church planters, led by Glen
Yoder and Dick Landis of Eastern Mennonite Missions, as well as a
workshop, "Creative Ways to Grow a Church," by Bob Kettering, director of
new church development for the Church of the Brethren.
"We so often reap a limited harvest because we sow a limited vision. We
need to sow a larger vision," said Kettering, who also serves as interim
coordinator of networking and training for The Andrew Center, an
Anabaptist resource agency. "Too often, I find Christians in the church
are not running the race, they are running in place."
In his work with The Andrew Center, Kettering helps churches receive
training for evangelism and congregational vitality.
"Many churches have lost their focus and forgotten their first love," he
said, quoting a story from Max Lucado of a childhood fishing trip ruined
by foul weather. "When those who are called to fish don't fish, they
fight. But when those who are called to fish do fish, they flourish."
Just as not everyone enjoys fly fishing, not all pastors are cut out for
church planting, according to Nebel, who emphasized the importance of
assessing all potential church planters. In assessment centers now being
operated by many denominations, potential church planters and their
spouses go through a rigorous series of interviews to test their ability
to do this special kind of ministry. About 40 percent are not
recommended, while only 30 percent receive unconditional approval,
according to Nebel. Assessment centers will give "conditional approval"
to another 30 percent, who usually are instructed to get additional
training in a specific area.
"There are some people who want to church plant who should not church
plant, and there are some people who don't want to church plant that
should," Nebel said. "You learn over time you are really doing people
favors by telling them no if they should (not be church planters)."
The church-planting movement, itself, is entering a period of
responsibility in which church leaders are becoming more conscientious
about supporting church planters, according to Nebel.
"Here is how denominations typically support church planters on the
field: You drop them in behind enemy lines," he said. "If it goes OK and
(the church plant) survives, we put a '1' in the win column. If it
doesn't survive, we don't say we messed up."
Increasingly, however, church leaders are re-examining practices that
devalue people in favor of fast growth. "We want to be careful we aren't
chewing people up. 4 We are not going to slow the movement, but we are
going to come up with ways that we do not have to constantly be crazily
creative (to get the job done)," Nebel said. "You have to have some
minimum standards as to what we would say is a successful church plant."
Successful church plants according to Nebel: Do not begin "preparatory
worship" until they have at least 40 adults. There generally is a 2:1
ratio of adults to children. "A church afte a grand opening will be two-
to-three times the size of the launch team one year after its launch, "
A church should be able to support itself in two years.
In addition, Mebel sees small towns as good soil for more church plants.
"A lot of people are just ignoring that market," he said. "If you get
inexperienced church planters, I would encourage them to look at the
Tom Price Photo Available
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