7 Issues that Church Planters Face: Systems, Processes and Cultures

Systems, Processes, and Cultures

Planters usually begin their planting journey with great intentions. Their strengths tend to be relationships and their passion is often looking toward Sunday mornings. With certain exceptions (large start-up teams, ideal locations, well funded) churches will not maintain the momentum that most church planters seek are wanting. Start up is not easy, but it is often when the church has the most receptivity in the community. Openness and response from open people create a sense of momentum. But, that momentum must be transferred to systems. In new contemporary churches, intentional systems, processes, and cultures are critical to long-term impact in new contemporary churches.

My friend Darrin Patrick explains that in an interview we did a few months back. In regards to church planting, I asked him, "Why do most churches stay small?" Darrin explained:

Largely because most pastors don't know how to build systems, structures, and processes that are not contingent upon them. Most pastors can care for people, but don't build systems of care. Most pastors can develop leaders individually but lack the skill to implement a process of leadership development. When a pastor can't build systems and structures that support the ministry, the only people who are cared for or empowered to lead are those who are "near" the pastor or those very close to the pastor. This limits the size of the church to the size of the pastor.

Yet, now it seems that most planters know the importance of creating healthy systems, processes, and cultures in the type of churches we have been discussing. In most cases, their focus is to reach lost and other unchurched people and see the church grow numerically and in spiritual maturity. Nowadays, most planters link a growing church with healthy systems, processes, and cultures. The terms, though different, are often used interchangeably. In this study, the most commonly cited areas of importance for these systems include reproducing leaders; generosity; externally focused, missional living; small groups; worship planning; strategic planning; and evangelism.

Rather than focus on those systems right now since those each require a long blog post, let's look at five key considerations when addressing the issues of systems and processes.

1. God's Part and Our Part -- Healthy systems, processes, and cultures enable and facilitate growth, but don't cause it. The Apostle Paul explained that we cooperate with God in the planting and watering of the seeds, but that it's God who makes the seeds grow. "I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth" (I Cor. 3:6 HCSB). Establishing healthy processes, systems and cultures is part of that cooperation.

2. A “Fix-It” Mentality -- Most planters tend to ask good questions regarding systems and processes including, "How do we reach more people?" or "How do we keep moving forward? The answer may include the creation or revising of a system or process. But a narrow focus can lead planters down the wrong path when they conclude, "If we just fix [fill in the blank], then we will grow." Issues are often much deeper.

3. Assessing Health -- Systems, processes, and cultures will emerge from the pre-launch phase. The only question is whether they are healthy or unhealthy. Will they create leverage for growth and momentum, or will they create barriers and obstacles, adding to a planter's stress?

4. Pre-Launch Behaviors -- The pre-natal phase in a mother's womb is vital to an infant's health after birth. The things a mother does and does not do during this time have lasting impacts. Likewise, the things a planter does and does not do during pre-launch phase have a lasting impact for years to come. Planters either intentionally create leverage through the establishment of healthy systems, processes, and cultures, or they risk creating barriers and obstacles.

5. Urgency and Accountability -- When building a new house, most localities require an occupancy permit before a family can move in. A permit guarantees that the basic systems (i.e. water, sewer, electrical, lighting, etc.) are healthy and functioning. There is no equivalent standard or requirement in new churches. As a result, many new churches are birthed with the equivalent of no water, no electrical and no lights. Basic systems might include disciple making, evangelism, leadership development, and volunteer mobilization. The "Tyranny of the Now" and the lack of accountability structures impacts a planter's ability to create healthy processes and systems in three ways:

6. Capacity -- Everything tends to fall on the planter's shoulders. Although the planter would like to slow down and "do it right," a planter often gets caught in the urgent accepting, living with unhealthy systems. Many planters recognize the dysfunctional cycle, but get stuck in it, further adding to the stress and discouragement.

7. Choices -- Leaders make daily choices to focus on production or production capacity (in the work or on the work). Sometimes it seems that production never stops, easily consuming all of the planter's time. Sunday to Sunday pressure alone can be overwhelming. Making wise choices is one of the keys to managing the roles. Building healthy systems, processes and cultures is a function of good strategic planning around available capacity.

8.  Time -- Time is one of a planter's most precious resources. Starting a new church involves hundreds of tasks. Most of these tasks do not involve connecting with lost people or building healthy system. That can be a stretch for a lot of planters and a great source of stress.

Systems, processes, and culture are essential. Sustainability and fruit are almost always advanced when a planter understands that importance.

7 Issues that Church Planters Face: Casting Vision and Avoiding Mission Drift

Casting Vision and Avoiding Mission Drift

One recurring theme was around the church plant losing sight of their direction. Respondents expressed vision casting and avoiding mission drift in several different ways. Eliminating pressure from "churched" people; navigating distractions from "good ideas"; making decisions consistent with mission; defining priorities for growth; and balancing evangelism and discipleship were challenges leaders confronted to avoid mission drift.

Here are five key considerations:

1.     Clarity -- The concept of "drift" implies leaving a clearly defined and understood standard. Planters should not assume that because their expectations are clear and compelling in their minds that they are clearly understood by the rest of the team.

2.     Core Values -- Most planters have a strong sense of mission and vision that drives them. These same planters often have less clarity about their core values that shape what they do and how they do it (the compass that guides their north direction). Will Mancini described the task of what he called "High Definition Leadership" as "constantly bringing the most important things to light." [Will Mancini, Church Unique: How Missional Leaders Cast Vision, Capture Culture, and Create Movement, San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 2008, p. 52]

3.     Mission, Vision, and Values -- The pre and post launch phases are vital to establishing core values that create a strong foundation. Although not explicitly articulated in their responses, it appears planters tend to confuse or interchange what most people refer to as the concepts of vision (dream of preferred future state), mission (corresponding activity) and values (non-negotiable principles). The result is a lack of personal clarity internally before the external challenges that cause mission drift begin.

4.     Ministry Philosophy -- Mission, vision, values and leadership culture form the foundational elements of a plant's philosophy of ministry. Ideally, a planter's ministry philosophy is clearly defined before starting. However, for many planters, it is a work in progress. As a consequence, the philosophy of ministry can be more influenced by negative shaping factors such as scarcity culture, "church people" on the team, and peer comparisons. In Planting Missional Churches, I call this danger "vision hijacking."

5.     Non-Negotiables -- Most planters do not have the capacity, financial resources or team needed to develop a comprehensive strategy. Instead they narrow their focus to 3 to 5 "table banging" priorities they will be "mean" about in the early days of the church. The limited number of priorities becomes the filter for saying "yes and no" to ministry initiatives and is vital for avoiding drift.


Although I have not been prescriptive in these blogs I do recommend taking a look at Will Mancini's free Clarity Quiz to help you continue to assess your work. Accountability through networking is vital to address every issue planters face. Sadly too many planters try to make it alone reading books and websites. A great opportunity to network is coming in Orlando in April. The Exponential Conference will provide numerous next level opportunities for church planters. The conference is coordinated by my partner in this top issues project, Todd Wilson (Director of Exponential).

7 Issues that Church Planters Face: Launch Team Development and Mobilizing Volunteers

Launch Team Development and Mobilizing Volunteers

When starting churches such as those we have discussed, core (launch) team size becomes more important in larger, well-funded starts where more defined ministries are provided at the start. Mobilizing volunteers is an issue regardless of size of the launch team. Whether it is the well-funded, full-time planter or the part-time, bi-vocational planter, both expand their ministries' impact through volunteers.

The research project, headed up by Todd Wilson and the Exponential team, that serves as the basis of this series identified five key considerations in launch team development and mobilizing volunteers.

1.     Healthy Launch Teams are Mission Critical When Seeking to Start in the Way We Discussed. -- In his book, Planting Fast-Growing Churches, author Stephen Grey identified 21 differences between fast growing churches and struggling ones. Among these was the importance of healthy launch teams. Grey found that 88% of fast-growing churches had a launch team in place before launch compared with only 12% of struggling churches.

2.     Church Planting is a Team Sport -- When a planter and family moves into a community without team members, the risk factors increase. The difficult becomes even more difficult. For "parachute drop plants" where the planter has few existing relationships, team building and volunteer mobilization can be slow and difficult.

3.     Pre-Launch Tasks vs. Relationships - Most planters are good at relationship building. However, planters report that they spend a disproportionate amount of time in the pre-launch phase focused on administrative details (e.g. facilities, marketing, equipment, legal issues, etc). These administrative issues compete with the time needed to build relationships and teams. The paradox is that strong teams can help with the endless details associated with launching a church. However, unavoidable administrative details limit a planter's time available for relationship and team building.

4.     A Core Group of Believers is not always a Good Thing -- This may sound like a contradiction to # 2 but hear me out on it. When partner churches provide core teams it can be a win. But a planter must be aware of the challenges. Having a team of volunteers in place before the planter arrives has its pitfalls. Often the team expects the planter to adapt his or her vision to fit the team's desires rather than submitting to the planter. The planter needs to provide visionary leadership and the partner churches' volunteers must be prepared to operate differently while helping the plant.

5.     New Church Core Teams Experience Fallout -- A painful reality of the early days of church planting is that core team members leave. Many planters report discouragement resulting from the loss of good friends from their core team. Losing half of the planting launch team within the first years is common. Planting is hard work. Weary volunteers can end up searching out existing, stable churches to call home. The planter should be emotionally and spiritually prepared for relational losses.


Awareness of the issues and intentional strategies are critical for launch team and volunteer mobilization. Planters tend to put too much confidence in their ability to relate to people as the solution to every challenge in church planting. More is needed, specifically a plan and the development of leadership skills.

7 Issues that Church Planters Face: Financial Self-Sufficiency and Viability

Financial Self-Sufficiency and Viability

Originally Posted by Ed Stetzer

Now, I should not have to add this to every post, but since I am about to talk about funded church planting, there is always someone who comes by and says, "But you don't have to do it with money, you could be a house church." Yes, I get that. I'm for that. I write about that probably more than you have (unless you are Neil Cole or Felicity Dale), and I invite others to talk about that.

But, during small church week, I am asked if I'm anti-megachurch. During megachurch week at the blog, people complain that I don't like missional-incarnational communities. Then, I talk about bi-vocational ministry and "clergification" and people ask if I am against paid ministry. You get the point. So, consider this "contemporary church plant week" and thank God for what He is doing in those kinds of churches. And, if you are in a different setting, listen in and learn about a different way to do things than you are. It will be good for you.

In surveying these leaders, leadership development was the first issue, but finances were a close second in frequency.

In our conversations, the financial issue was a big concern for many planters. We found that money management in the church, and personally for church planters, are ongoing concerns. Internal giving (and the lack thereof) and external fund raising are other concerns. Often these issues are not confronted but avoided, which can lead to all sorts of personal and ecclesial disasters for the planter. And, put on top of all that, for most planters the administrative/financial part of ministry is what they enjoy least.

The financial strains of planting represent one of the most significant challenges for planters. Many planters come from a relatively safe and stable job (including pay) into an entrepreneurial, risk-taking endeavor with an uncertain future. Often planters are thrust into fund-raising for the first time in their lives with little or no training. Many plants take years to become financially self-sufficient, relying on other churches and donors. The journey to financial self-sufficiency often places a heavy burden on the church planting family.

In Viral ChurchesWarren Bird and I talked about the need for financial self-sufficiency. Self-sufficiency is almost always assumed as a goal (and rightly so, from a missiological perspective). For centuries, it has been a missiological axiom that churches should start and get to the point where they support themselves (and, among other things, reproduce themselves). But, as this chart shows, it can take awhile.


The chart shows the percentage of church plants that reported they were self-sufficient at each year mark (assuming they were still in existence, with about 2/3 of those started in year one still existing in year four). (You can see Viral Churches for all the research info.)

So, what are the big considerations? Here are a few based on the interviews and observations. There are several things to consider, but here are five ways to break this down.

1.     The BiVo Challenge - The financial realities of planting leads many planters to be bi-vocational. Let me say that I am a big proponent of bi-vocational ministry. But, that is generally not the goal of most church planters (though I think more should consider it, but that is not this project). Employment presents a unique set of challenges for planters and families. For many bi-vocational planters, fulfilling the work for their full-time position becomes the necessary priority-- you need to be a faithful employee. Outreach, ministry, and service, however, are also important and are limited as a result. A fully-funded lead planter is generally assumed to be the goal and most would say that it is best for the church and the planter when possible. I would say it this way: if the plan is to have a full-time pastor, it is best to start with a full-time pastor, if you have a plan and resources to get to full-time status before running out of full-timefunds. We have some good statistical evidence that there are some positive outcomes with full-time pastors starting churches using this approach.

2.     Tension Over Talking/Teaching About Giving - Tom Nebel and Gary Rohrmayer tagged this one as "Church Planting Landmine #7" in their helpful book, Church Planting Landmines. Often with good intentions, they overreact to the perceptions of lost people. No doubt, money issues need to be handled differently in church. So with those concerns they avoid talking about money at all (which robs people of the giving experience). Conventional wisdom is that people new to church do not give much during the early years. But you have to wonder if one reason they are so slow is because church planters overreact on this issue.

3.     Limited Budget Experience - Most planters lack training and experience in budgeting. While many have been involved in preparing a budget for an individual ministry in a previous job (e.g. student ministry, worship ministry, etc), few have been responsible for an entire church budget including the process of turning vision into a financial plan. Some planters become paralyzed and have trouble moving forward while others blindly move forward without a budget. For bi-vocational planters, the budgeting process is often simply allocating salary to their part-time planting work since there are little to no additional funds to be budgeted.

4.     Flow of Funds Trap - Related to consideration #3, the lack of experience causes another issue. Planters who raise considerable funds for a large launch face a common trap-- misunderstanding the difference between cash flow forecast (i.e., having the right funds at the right time) versus total cash commitments, which are not limited to a specific schedule. The result is that some planters over commit funds at specific times even though they've raised enough total funds.

5.     Personal Financial Impact - Like many who start new initiatives, planters often drain their savings and retirement accounts to pursue their dreams. Putting start-up costs on personal credit cards is also more common than you might believe (and a really bad idea). Not only does this cause incredible stress for the planter and family, but good strategy can be sabotaged. Planters know that the ultimate answer to the financial need is in the harvest. So, launch day is often hurried with an eye toward generating offering to offset personal investments and ministry needs.

Do these concerns resonate with you and how you have handled them?

7 Issues that Church Planters Face: Leadership Development and Reproducing Culture

Report Prepared by Exponential and Ed Stetzer

This report is adapted from a series of blog posts from edstetzer.com, based on a research report from the Exponential. Introduction

I have partnered with my friend Todd Wilson, Director of Exponential, to do quantitative research alongside a group of well-known church planting leaders/experts who share their insights.

We listened to more than thirty national leaders with over 500 years of cumulative experience planting and working with hundreds of planters. Individual planter interviews, online surveys, and volumes of real world experience were also included in the discovery process.

Almost all of those who responded were connected to Exponential, which in many ways describes the sample: most (though not all) were planting contemporary churches in the way that is often described at the Exponential Conference. That means the report is influenced and shaped by its sample. So, this report won’t be applicable to everyone in every context, but it will be helpful to many.

Although it is not a scientific study, it is a helpful one—filled with advice that every church planter should consider. This information will help you plant, or help you help others plant for the glory of God and the advancement of His Kingdom. As you see the names quoted in the report, you will see hundreds of years of church planting experience represented. Such wisdom is worth considering.

I planted my first church in Buffalo, New York in 1988. Ready for a blazing flash of the obvious? The world has changed since then and so has church planting. Michael Rowe would likely classify church planting as a "dirty job".

I did not have much support back then. I was young and confident at a delusional level. I had little to read and no significant experiences or research from which to draw. I was left alone to try desperately to figure it out. God was there and blessed beyond what I knew or deserved. Yet I can't help to wonder how things could have been different... better for the Kingdom's sake... for the men, women, and children in inner city Buffalo where I planted.

Today, I am amazed at what solid help (coaching, websites, books, networks, training, etc.) a motivated church planter can find. Conferences like Exponential continue to provide environments for God to shape a new breed of planter-- equipped and prepared to make a difference for His Kingdom without losing family and sanity in the process.

Don't get me wrong, the job is still dirty-- very dirty. Leadership, finances, volunteers, systems, vision, evangelism, discipleship, and health of the planter and his family are jugular issues. The church planter graveyard remains ominously over crowed. Yet things are changing for the better.

Over the next two weeks you will see some priceless information. No matter your role in the world of church planting you will want to grab hold of this research. I have partnered with my friend Todd Wilson, Director of Exponential, to do quantitative research alongside some of the better-known church planting practitioners in America.

With input from BattersonBloyeLovejoyManciniPatrick, Nebel, Rohrmayer,SurrattSylvia and others.

You get the picture, I hope. We listened to over 500 years of cumulative experience planting and working with 100's of planters with the over 30 national leaders involved in this project. Individual planter interviews, online surveys, and volumes of real world experience were also included in the discovery process. This information will help you plant or help you help others plant for the glory of God and the advancement of His Kingdom.

There are limitations to a study like this-- more on that later-- but there is also much to learn.

God has the world on His heart-- we will post information and insights from the 7 Top Issues church planters face based on the research. I will unpack the following "top" issues as a result of our research over the days to come:

1.     Leadership Development and Reproducing Culture

2.     Financial Self-Sufficiency and Viability

3.     Launch Team Development and Mobilizing Volunteers

4.     Systems, Processes and Cultures

5.     Casting Vision and Avoiding Mission Drift

6.     Evangelism and Discipleship

7.     Spiritual, Physical and Mental Health of the Planter and Family

Leadership Development and Reproducing Culture

I have partnered with my friend Todd Wilson, Director of Exponential, to do quantitative research alongside a group of well-known church planting leaders/experts who share their insights.

Planters face incredible pressure to find quality leaders quickly. Yet the limitations of money, critical mass, and spiritual maturity in new churches create an under-stocked leadership fishing pond. Planters can make critical mistakes as a result.

Think about the person who shows up on launch Sunday due to a postcard they just received in the mail. Your hope is that your first attendees will be seekers and people open to the first-time consideration of the gospel. And, that means people who are asking questions and starting their spiritual journey-- they are often not ready to be spiritual leaders since they are just considering things of faith.

This Sunday we had our first preview service at Grace Church, where I am serving as lead pastor. (I am not leaving my LifeWay Research job, this is a volunteer role working alongside a full-time team.) We saw a couple hundred people come Sunday. Many of them are new, seeking, and sometimes hurting on that first Sunday.

Simply put, many church planters find many open people but often have few prepared leaders.

Leadership development is the most frequently cited challenge of planters according to our research in this survey of church planting leaders and thinkers. Leadership issues included recruiting and developing leaders; implementing teams; creating a reproducible leadership development approach; developing a leader/oversight/elder board; hiring and leading staff; discerning changes required to facilitate growth; healthy decision making; and delegating and empowering volunteers.

So, based on our conversations and observations from those who responded to our qualitative survey of experts and planters, here are six key considerations church planters should consider and/or make in the process of developing new leaders:

1.     Lack of Experience -- Many planters come from previous roles where a more established leadership development and volunteer mobilization processes are in place. As planters, they are now responsible for implementing a new process from scratch, often with little help. They are responsible for creating momentum where none exists versus maintaining existing momentum. They need to be aware of their own lack of experience and the lack of experience on the typical team. Our church planting leaders were concerned that they often lacked that awareness.

2.     Feeling the Need for Speed (Volunteers) -- My friend, Stephen Gray said, "Every plant is a new adventure full of excitement and potential doom... they need to have nerves of steel and thick skin" [Stephen Gray with Trent Short,Planting Fast Growing Churches, St. Charles, IL: ChurchSmart Resources, 2007 p. 23]. Planting can be lonely and messy. Amid the long hours and hard work, it is easy for planters to conclude that any "warm body" interested in helping is an answer to prayer. Planters tend to put leaders in place prematurely based on availability. More established churches are slower, vetting potential leaders before delegating responsibility.

3.     No Core Leaders -- Many planters lack a strong leadership team, leader/staff/elder team, or other structure early in the church's life. Thus, they can lack an accountability team for the first few years. This can result in an increased burden of responsibility, a lack of ongoing encouragement, no one to "watch their back," a lack of advice on key decisions, and a lack of peer fellowship.

4.     Feeling the Need for Speed (Paid Staff) -- In the absence of experience and a proven staff selection process, planters tend to hire too quickly (similar to consideration #2). Planters also lack the experience to fully understand the pitfalls of hiring family members and friends. Dealing with bad hires adds further strain and discouragement, creating setbacks in momentum. (Keep in mind that we recognize that we are talking about a specific kind of church plant there and this will not apply in all cases.)

5.     Need for Resources -- Volunteers and financial resources are critical resources in the early days. The senior pastor of the average U.S. church (about 85 people) is at staff capacity. If a church waits until they can afford a second staff person they face the prospect of losing momentum due to a senior pastor working beyond capacity. Then leadership barriers prevent them from growing and hiring more staff. Studies show the average new church has about 40 people at the first year, placing a huge financial strain on the planter and delaying additional staff hires. When planting the type of church plant we are discussing here, this is a major challenge. (Note: other models, like a house church, would not have the same issues here, but that is for another study.)

6.     Realities of Reproduction -- Planters have probably heard that if a church does not plant another church in their first three years the likely never will. Many have a vision for being a reproducing church and developing a reproducing culture. But the realities of implementation are discouraging. The same barriers (experience, budget, leadership shortage, spiritual maturity, and momentum, etc.) can cause the reproduction vision to move from vision to pipe dream.

Why We Should be Thankful for the Gift of Gratitude

Why We Should be Thankful for the Gift of Gratitude

Originally Posted by Joe Carter / November 19, 2016

Of all the heavenly gifts we have to be thankful for, the most frequently overlooked is the gift of gratitude. From the ants to the elephants, God has poured out his blessings on all his creatures. But to man alone is reserved the ability to combine reason and imagination to express his thankfulness. G. K. Chesterton even claimed that thanks are the highest form of thought, and that gratitude is happiness doubled by wonder.

There are dozens of virtues that a Christian should acquire, many of which are extremely important to our spiritual growth. What then, is so special about gratitude? Why should it be considered a discipline worthy of particular attention, and why is it necessary for communion with God?

Because the regular practice of gratitude is a means by which we become rightly oriented toward God. Only when we become truly grateful for what God has done—when thankfulness has seeped into the marrow of our soul—can we fully appreciate who God is and understand who we are as his children.

Why Gratitude is an Essential Virtue

Here are three reasons gratitude is an essential virtue for spiritual formation:

1. God requires our thanksgiving

The most important reason we express gratitude is because God requires we offer him our thanks. In Psalm 50:22, God says, “Consider this, you who forget God, or I will tear you to pieces, with no one to rescue you: Those who sacrifice thank offerings honor me.” God takes our gratitude—or lack thereof—extremely seriously. We are always required to give God what he is due—including our thankfulness.

2. Gratitude keeps our focus on God (and off ourselves)

When we develop a habit of gratitude we are constantly asking two questions: “For what should I be grateful?” and “To whom do I owe thanks?” The more we express our gratitude the more our eyes are opened to the magnanimity of God and his generosity in bestowing us with goodness and blessings. When we see how much we owe to God it helps to reduce our own self-centeredness. 

3. Gratitude develops endurance and trust in God

As we grow in gratitude, we learn to be thankful not only for the good gifts God gives us but for everything in our life, including trials and sufferings. We learn that even in grief and pain we can be grateful since we still have the greatest gift we could ever want: God himself. This type of gratitude helps us to deepen our trust in the goodness of God and helps us to be humble in whatever circumstance we may be called upon to endure.

How to Grow in Gratitude

How then do we grow in gratitude? Here are three practices to help develop this God-given ability to “give thanks in all circumstances” (1 Thess. 5:18):

1. Count your blessings

Honing our skill of thanksgiving requires that we expand our capacity to pay attention. As pastor M. Craig Barnes writes in The Pastor as Minor Poet,

I doubt that there is such a thing as a measure of spirituality, but if there is, gratitude would be it. Only the grateful are paying attention. They are grateful because they pay attention, and they pay attention because they are so grateful.

Make a list every week of five to ten blessings you’ve noticed in your life, numbering each item and only listing them only once. Review your list and say a prayer of thanksgiving for each item.

2. Say grace

Throughout history, Christians have made a habit of “saying grace,” a short prayer recited before a meal to give thanks for our food. While we should continue that discipline (or take it up anew) we should expand the range of when we “say grace.” To quote Chesterton again,

You say grace before meals. All right. But I say grace before the concert and the opera, and grace before the play and pantomime, and grace before I open a book, and grace before sketching, painting, swimming, fencing, boxing, walking, playing, dancing, and grace before I dip the pen in the ink.

Develop a habit of stopping and saying grace before your daily activities.

3. Say thanks for your neighbor

Make a habit of contacting someone each week—in person, by phone, or through email or social media—and let them know that you are grateful they are in your life.

Gratitude is fuel for the soul. Without a regular infusion of gratitude we become self-involved, believing that we are the ones responsible for all that we have in our lives. Only by developing the discipline of gratitude can we ensure that we are cognizant of God’s goodness and reliant on him for our daily existence.

10 Principles of Church Planting and Expanding

10 Principles of Church Planting and Expanding

by: Brian Houston

It was in 1999 when Bobbie and I were given the opportunity to do something – which for us at that time was a bold and innovative step. We were asked to take on the leadership of my parents’ inner-city church in ADDITION to the church we were already pastoring in the Northwest of Sydney –Hillsong Church.

Bold and innovative because although today in 2013 there are countless models of incredible multi-site churches, back in 1999 it was totally new territory in which we knew of few, if any, role models to look to for guidance.

Fourteen years on, our City Campus is a thriving and integral part of Hillsong Church and along the way we have learned a great deal about multi-site expansion and global church planting; as Hillsong has spread to some of the worlds most influential cities. I am not called to plant churches everywhere, but where we do, my hope and prayer is that we can build significant churches whose impact for the Cause of Christ spreads far beyond their own walls. When we started Hillsong London many years ago, impact and influence seemed like a far away fantasy –and yet that is exactly what has and is unfolding through a healthy local church congregation in that city.

I’m no expert, but I have been asked many times what are some of the keys to successful expansion, and so here are ten principles for church planting that I have learned on our own journey:


Church planting is a GRACE and if you stay “within the sphere of the grace God has given you,” His favor and blessing will be on your endeavors. Not every opportunity is a GOD opportunity and I find that people struggle when they don’t recognize this. It is important to stay in your lane and run your own race.


Church planting is PIONEERING and that means you have to recognize the old adage that “you can’t run be before you can walk”. The first time I was at one of our ‘Heart and Soul’ nights at Hillsong New York City, the worship team had a mid-song train crash. Perhaps I made them nervous, as apparently it had never happened before, but we had to start the song all over again. That is just one of the examples from some of the great memories that just two years on, we can all look back on and laugh about. Since then, the worship team in New York City has taken giant strides forward and even in those early days the services were electric. But just like when your baby starts to walk, those ‘crashes’ are the precious memories in pioneering that we should always cherish, learn from and laugh about.

Even when Hillsong churches have started with great crowds (such as in Cape Town and New York City), it has taken time for leadership to emerge – to find out who really is ‘in it for the long haul’ and for the crowd to become a family who carry the heart and vision of our church.


Church planting must be INTEGROUS and though we might all have varying ethics and values, it is important to be true to God, true to ourselves and considerate of others in our approach to church planting. It really is a case of “do unto others as you would have them do unto you”.

For example, when expanding Hillsong Church Australia into Brisbane and Melbourne, we have been very deliberate in our early communications and gatherings, to encourage those from other congregations to stay in their own local church. We gave people opportunity to register their interest in being part of our church online and we have limited our communications to that group of people. The foundations on which we start our churches are critical if we intend to establish healthy and life-giving campuses long-term.


Church planting is CHALLENGING, in fact sometimes starting something new is the easy part. Building and progress depends on momentum. Planting or expanding is an exciting idea, but don’t underestimate the challenge of planting well AND keeping home strong. The extra pressure on your greatest resource can be underestimated and your greatest resource is not facilities or finances – it’s PEOPLE.

Starting another service, opening another campus, or planting another church will test the quantity and quality of your leadership in most areas of church life. Don’t weaken your home base by expanding too quickly. Because weakening your base is not a momentum builder – it’s a momentum stopper. Lost momentum is very difficult to regain and wise church planting is not done prematurely.


Church planting is COSTLY and can be very difficult if you are unable to invest sacrificially into the work you are starting. Faith is essential in any new venture and there is no doubt that dependence on God and His miraculous supply is part of the adventure. However, many years of pain and heartache can be avoided if you have counted the cost and sacrificially invested into the new ground you are claiming.


Church planting involves LEADERSHIP and it will be more successful when you sow some of your best people. If you are solving a problem by repositioning someone who is causing frustration, you are only transferring the problem. It is when you give your best that you can expect the best outcome – which is again why planting or expanding should be done from a position of strength and not vulnerability.


Church planting is STRATEGIC and for Hillsong that has rarely meant going to the ‘easy’ places. We have prospered by planting in Europe – a continent steeped in church history yet in many respects, so Godless.

When I first spoke at Hillsong Paris, I remembered numbers of conversations where people simply couldn’t get their heads around us preaching about Jesus as someone other than just a historical figure. Today, I love seeing so many young churches beginning to flourish in various European cities. Its easy to think that perhaps ‘Bible belt cities’ would be easier than the heart of Manhattan; but with the right people, in the right place, at the right time, it’s amazing what God can do!

Likewise, when my parents started their ministry in the city of Sydney, it was regarded by some people as a ‘preachers graveyard.’ But that ‘preachers graveyard’ has become home to Hillsong Church – Hillsong College -Conferences and Music; influencing more people than we could have ever have imagined over the last three decades. God is faithful and I believe that the best is still yet to come!


Church planting is TEAMWORK, which means building a leadership team who are there for the long haul. My experience is that often the people who promise the most, don’t always come through with the most. Great churches are built with people who are faithful in the little things. I’d take a group of ordinary people devoted to an extraordinary God, over a charismatic someone that talks a big game, but hasn’t proven faithful in the ‘day of small beginnings’.

We have had some amazing miracles with land and buildings in our history, but we have also said no to numbers of opportunities and partnerships because there were ‘strings attached’. If it looks too good to be true, it probably…………………..!”


Church planting is LONELY, and many a church planter has perished through isolation.

Proverbs 18:1 says, “The man who isolates himself is not wise” and if you disregard your friendships and relationships when planting churches, your world can get small very quickly. Perhaps you can start churches anywhere, but wisdom is sensitive to relationships – while still refusing to be ruled by the insecurities of others.

Our mandate is “to champion the cause of local churches everywhere”, and the greatest way we can do that is exemplifying what God can do, by partnering and being in good relationship with other churches in our city, and without building on other people’s foundations.


Church planting is TRENDY and in the twenty first century, technology and opportunity enable us to expand in ways that were unthinkable to generations past. Does the world need more churches? The short answer is yes, but the world doesn’t need more mediocre churches. The world needs healthy and vibrant churches that are genuinely fulfilling the Great Commission in their cities, towns, villages and nations. Churches that are filled with life, worship, biblical teaching and healthy, accepting community – churches that point people to JESUS.

I pray that together, we can ‘champion the cause of local churches everywhere,’ and stay committed to the building of what Jesus Christ said He would build – His Church!


Why Churches Should Plant Churches

By Daniel Im

Originally Posted on October 1st, 2016 (https://newchurches.com/blogs/why-churches-should-plant-churches/) 

After the disciples received the Great Commission before Jesus’ ascension, they began to preach the gospel, first in Jerusalem and eventually expanding into other cultures. The book of Acts details early efforts to obey Jesus’ command. The letters of the New Testament give us an inside view of the establishment of Christianity in new territory. It may seem obvious to us now, but we should continue to contemplate the fact that everywhere Christians have gone to share the gospel churches were formed.

Church planting should not end with the establishment of one church. The process can repeat itself when a new church matures to the point of becoming a sponsoring church. The kingdom is best advanced through multiplication and not just addition. Reproduction is in the biblical DNA of churches.

Percentage of Churches that Multiply

In Viral ChurchesEd Stetzer and Warren Bird shared research from an interview of senior pastors in various denominations in the United States. In that research project, they discovered that 28% of those they surveyed indicated that they had directly participated in helping a new church. While that number may sound good, upon further investigation, they discovered that only 12% of that 28% were actually churches that acted as a mother church or accepted direct financial responsibility for a new church as a primary sponsor.

Compare that to the most recent research report on church planting that we at NewChurches.com and LifeWay Research conducted on 17 different denominational and church planting network organizations.[1]In this State of Church Planting in the U.S. report, we discovered that 22% of churches—that started in 2012 or earlier—started at least one daughter church within their first five years of existence. Although we wish that number were higher, amongst those we surveyed, we are in fact seeing a higher percentage of new churches multiply today, than they did during the Viral Churches study close to 10 years ago. You can read the results of this research and download a specific book on our multiplication research for free at newchurches.com/register.

Many readers of this article will become church planters who will work hard at planting and growing their first church from inception to maturity. Then God will nudge them to plant another, and they may think: It’s taking everything in me to make this church plant work. I don’t see how we can help start another church. But a daughter church is the best way to expand your zeal for church planting and to put into practice what you’ve learned from planting the mother church. Churches of all sizes and ages can take part in church planting.

Church of the Highlands and Pillar Church

Church planters who lead their churches to plant new works usually sense a call to reach their city and beyond, not just plant a church. For example, Chris Hodges, pastor of Church of the Highlands, Birmingham, Alabama, believed he was called to a city. Chris’ family moved from Baton Rouge to Birmingham with the goal of planting a church focused on “the simplicity of the gospel and the power of an intimate relationship with a loving God.” The church’s first gathering was held in 2001 and has since grown to one of the largest churches in the country. But Chris and his team didn’t kick back and consider their work done. They almost immediately started planning to plant more churches, and they’ve started many more.

Pillar Church has the same vision, but their focus is not just to reach their city; it’s to reach and plant a church in every US Marine Corps (USMC) base in the world. When Clint Clifton planted Pillar in 2005, he planted in Quantico, Virginia, which is the crossroads and hub of the USMC. As a result this church has always had a burden to minister to both active and retired marines and their families. This love for the marines, coupled with a passion for church planting, is what led to their current vision to train marines to plant churches when they get reassigned to another USMC base. They are calling this the Praetorian Project. They’ve planted six churches so far with future plans to focus first on four of the major USMC base regions and then eventually on every USMC location across the world.


Church planters need to be the best advocates and sponsors of next-generation churches. If you don’t have in your mind and heart the plan and desire to start another church early on, by the fifth year of your church plant’s existence, then you have already forgotten how important church planting is to the kingdom of God.

* Learn more about multiplication and church planting in Planting Missional Churches: Your Guide to Starting Churches that Multiply. This is a modified excerpt from the book. Learn more about this book and start reading the first three chapters, as well as download 30+ exclusive resources here, NewChurches.com/PMC.

[1] Denominations and networks which participated in the survey include: Assemblies of God, Baptist Missionary Association of America, Christian and Missionary Alliance, Church of the Nazarene, Converge, Evangelical Free Church of America, Free Methodists, International Pentecostal Holiness Church, Lutheran Church Missouri Synod, Missionary Church, New Thing Network, Presbyterian Church of America, Project Jerusalem, Southern Baptists, United Methodist Church, Vineyard Church of America and The Wesleyan Church.

Why Plant Churches

by Dr. Timothy Killer

A vigorous and continuous approach to church planting is the only way to guarantee an increase in the number of believers, and is one of the best ways to renew the whole body of Christ. 

The vigorous, continual planting of new congregations is the single most crucial strategy for (1) the numerical growth of the body of Christ in a city and (2) the continual corporate renewal and revival of the existing churches in a city. Nothing else—not crusades, outreach programs, parachurch ministries, growing megachurches, congregational consulting, nor church renewal processes—will have the con- sistent impact of dynamic, extensive church planting. This is an eyebrow-raising statement, but to those who have done any study at all, it is not even controversial.

The normal response to discussions about church planting is something like this.
A. “We already have plenty of churches that have lots and lots of room for all the new people who have

come to the area. Let’s get them lled before we start building any new ones.”

B.“Every church in this community used to be more full than it is now. The churchgoing public is a shrinking pie. A new church here will just take people from churches that are already hurting and will weaken everyone.”

C.“Help the churches that are struggling rst. A new church doesn’t help the existing ones that are just keeping their noses above water. We need better churches, not more churches.”

These statements appear to be common sense to many people, but they rest on several wrong as- sumptions. The error of this thinking will become clear if we ask, “Why is church planting so crucially important?”

Read more here

Choose Your Hills

| Written by Dave Demchuk  |

Good Morning!

I am a dog-lover.  To paraphrase the American humorist Will Rogers, “I’ve never met a dog I didn’t like!”  Well, that isn’t exactly true.  There has been at least one dog that has driven me crazy over the years.  One that comes to mind was a German short-haired pointer owned by some neighbors of ours.  The dog was a beautiful specimen of the breed with attractive coloring.  He had one fatal flaw however—he hated cars.  When off the leash, he would chase every car that passed along our street.  On busy days, it was not unusual to see him madly chase one, then another, and yet another, until he collapsed on the boulevard in a panting, salivating heap.  Senseless dog.

I’ve also encountered leaders who remind me a bit of this dog.  They grab on to every conflict and crisis like it was a hated car, and pursue it with a vengeance.  Often, they are so idealistic in their outlook that they feel the need to correct every little flaw or mistake in their world.  They wear themselves out trying to fix things, and for all their admirable efforts are largely criticized or ostracized by others within the organization.  They need a dose of vitamin CYH to bring their idealism back into check.

CYH– Choose your Hill.  Not every battle is going to be equally worthy of your noble efforts.  You need to choose the hills you are going to die on very carefully – unless of course, you want to die early in your career.  That being said, there are certain hills that are absolutely worth dying on – here are some of mine:

·       Hills where justice is being sacrificed.  There are some things that are just plain wrong, and people are hurt by them.  Leaders must correct injustice – it’s a no-brainer.

·       Hills where the organization’s culture is being defined in a way not in keeping with the stated or desired values of that organization.  Your organization’s culture is like its DNA.  It informs every aspect of who you are.  Guard it.

·       Hills that compromise the ethical stance of the organization – in the case of many of our organization that would be an ethic informed by Biblical truth.

So to end off my earlier analogy—there are some cars that need chasing.  Go for it with a vengeance.  Leave the rest.

And while we’re on the subject of dogs, here’s one of my favorite proverbs from the mouth of Solomon: “Whoever meddles in a quarrel not his own is like one who takes a passing dog by the ears.” (26:17).

Good Advice.  Choose your Hills wisely.