Making Sure Your Church Plant Has Roots

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Church planting is downright scary. Ironically though the thing that causes the most fear has nothing to do with connecting with people we have the privilege of pointing to God. What keeps us up at night is not about what we'll teach on when we gather, new leaders / elders that we're developing, or really anything to do with gathering and mobilizing the church. It has everything to do with financial sustainability.

Every church planter begins the process of planting having been plotted somewhere on the continuum between being (a) fully funded and (b) zero funding. The end goal (or at least one them) for planting is to ensure self-sustainability for the church planter. This is nothing new and is common knowledge. However, where we struggle is that we think merely in the short term. Sure, the planter may have a full time salary for 3-4 years which means no outside employment is needed, but then what?

Let's also be open and honest in the state of church planting today. No one really plants churches from the harvest. While we may talk the game most of us gather core groups of other believers and grow accordingly. Sure, there may be a couple of those who don't identify with Christ on the periphery, but they don't make up the bulk of our church planting efforts. Because to truly plant from the harvest will take a lot longer than the 3-5 years of funding for a self-sustaining church.

Then what?

Roots. What are you going to do to ensure you're sending down deep roots for the long term? When church planters land in their new home community they hit the ground running. They have to. They don't even have the time nor luxury to begin sending down roots. However, most of us also know that it takes a number of years to really make relational inroads. It's almost like after being in a place for 5 years is the time to begin planting.

I've heard and seen the same storyline repeated in city after city. Church planter moves to new city. In the first few years the core group blows up a few times. Maybe by year 3 they have 20-40 adults. The pressure is on as the financial clock is ticking before the funding runs dry. The church planter has the option to (a) begin finding a new ministry elsewhere, (b) keep raising funds convincing supporters that the new church will support them soon, or (c) get a job and settle in for the long term.

Last week I had coffee with a planter in the same boat. Three years in and the funding ran dry. However, he got a job doing something he absolutely loves! In many ways it is just as meaningful and invigorating as church planting. Now all of a sudden (a) his life revolves around people who don't identify with Christ, (b) he is doing something he loves and is passionate about, and (c) he has long term financial sustainability regardless of how slow or fast the church develops. Even in our conversation he expressed how much fun he is having. He has no plans to move or leave his new home city.

Obviously everyone's story is different. My goal today is not to berate nor belittle. Instead, to simply get you thinking about long term. When I first planted in my late 20s that was the farthest thing from my mind. But getting a job and doing something I loved while planting was one of the most meaningful and impactful experiences of my life. Still to this day 15 years later my life has been influenced significantly from it.

What are you going to do the send down roots?