Church Planting for the Long Term

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Often times we’re surrounded by institutions that have been around a while. Some are truly historic (relatively-speaking) while others are so ingrained in American culture it’s hard to fathom life before they came onto the scene. Take Starbucks for example. Regardless if you enjoy their coffee or not (we all used to hang out there at one point in time) they are an American iconic brand. Funny thing though they started in 1971. If you’re like me, most of you didn’t even hear about them until the … mid-90s? Maybe early 90s? Meaning, there were around a good 20 years before people started catching wind of them.

So why do we plan or assume that a church plant has to “pop” between 3-5 years? And if it doesn’t then its deemed somewhat of a failure … or at least “underperforming.” In our instant-everything culture it’s like we don’t allow room for things to breathe and develop naturally. Instead, it’s gotta pop NOW … take off … go viral. Unfortunately this has crept into the ministry world and planters who’re not “killing" it” 2 years in are derided. Worst case scenario, if you’re like me then 18 months in you’ll get your funding yanked because your plant isn’t progressing fast enough.

What if we planted for the long term?

Crazy idea, I know. Right?

What if we didn’t start measuring anything until 10-15 years into the plant? I get it … denominations wouldn’t go for it and this doesn’t bode well for the hype video for the next yearly gathering for your church planting network. But, it would be healthy. Also, since we’re talking in terms of decades we’ve already answered the whole sustainability conversation by then.

By year 10, however it happened, the planter would have long been sustainable. Assuming slow incremental growth they’re probably bivocational (or trivocational). As a result there’s no pressure to “pop” and “blow up.” There are multiple pain points that our cohorts address but one of the primary ones is in terms of long-term sustainability. While there are no guarantees our focus is to help you begin to address that and make plans for the long term. Who knows? Maybe by year 10, year 15, or year 20 you’ll actually pop and really take off.

Do you have the patience to see this through?

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Written by Sean Benesh

Director of Intrepid