Church planting is hard work—there’s so much to do, so many decisions to make, and so many people vying for your attention. Amid the chaos, it’s easy to neglect tools that may prove vital to your long-term effectiveness as a church plant simply because these tools do not seem necessary at the time. Church planting networks are one such tool.
There are many reasons you might consider joining a church planting network—some good reasons and some, well, not so good ones.
- “The network will give me money.”
- “The network is led by a prominent leader who I admire.”
- “The network will cause our church plant to survive.”
- “The network can make up for a lack of qualified leaders in our local church.”
- “The network has a style that fits my preferences.”
Through the years of church planting and work with various networks, I’ve heard my fair share of these statements and seen many guys join church planting networks for all the wrong reasons. Yet, I still believe in the value of church planting networks.
Don’t hear me wrong. I’m not arguing that ALL church planters should join EVERY church planting network. What I am arguing is that SOME church planters, perhaps most, should consider investing in a church planting network for the sake of God’s mission around the world. Here’s at least right reasons why:
A Church Planting Network Provides Brotherhood
I’ve yet to meet a church planter who believes that he knows everything there is to know about church planting or that he is sufficiently mature to handle the onslaught of challenges that are sure to come his way. We know that forces—some visible and some not—wage war against the establishment of a new church. Community is one of the most effective ways of facing these challenges. Yet, many planters are isolated and alone—moving to a new city with only a handful of core group members. Church planting networks provide a community of like-minded brothers who have voluntarily united for the sake of bearing burdens, praying for one another, and supporting the needs of the other planters within the network.
"Church planting networks provide a community of like-minded brothers who have voluntarily united for the sake of bearing burdens, praying for one another, and supporting the needs of the other planters within the network."
A Church Planting Network Expedites Reproduction
Few churches have the bandwidth to reproduce quickly and effectively if they seek to do so alone. There is much that a young, small church can do for the sake of planting—they can give, raise leaders, pray, and send short-term teams. Yet, it’s unlikely that they will be able to do everything necessary to plant another church, especially if they are seeking to move a church planter to an urban context in North America. Rather than waiting until a singular church can do this work alone, church planting networks allow like-minded churches to share resources so that a new church may be established. Within a network, one church may provide a lead church planter, another might provide a core team member, another a majority of the finances, and still another a community of prayer support. This cooperation expedites the reproduction process.
A Church Planting Network Provides Wise Counsel
Every church planter will attest to lonely, difficult days, filled with doubt, discouragement, and often, despair. Planters need older pastors to come alongside of them, pray diligently on their behalf, and remind them of the beautiful truths of the gospel. Often, those who have walked with Jesus and pastored a church for some time are best positioned to extend this type of burden-bearing love. Not only that, but fellow brothers who are waking the same path can offer counsel on challenging issues that are often faced in church plants. We all encounter a host of issues that we’ve never faced before, and networks provide a built-in context for support in these complicated decisions.
A Church Planting Network Supplements Local Leadership
A related point is that church planting networks aid pastors in the early days of planting when they may lack of a plurality of qualified leaders. Some planters are fortunate to establish the church with multiple pastors, but many have to train men for years before they are ready to appoint pastors. Until this time, established pastors in the network can support individual pastors so that they make wise decisions and have accountability as they walk through the critical, first years of the plant. These outside leaders do not have authority over the church plant, nor are they appointed as pastors in the plant, but they can fill a vital role in making sure that no one pastors alone.
A Church Planting Network Fosters a Known Reputation
Healthy church planting networks communicate certain defining features to those looking to support a church plant or even join the new church. The reputation of the network means that those who move from one city to another are often looking for a church akin to the one they once attended or one defined by known theological or philosophical tenants. Partnership in healthy networks allow mature believers to relocate to similar churches and continue their disciple-making work in these new churches.
A Church Planting Network Fits within a Denominational Structure
This is not true with all networks. But certain networks, like Pillar, fill a unique place within a broader denomination. The Southern Baptist Convention, for example, has local associations or pastors in a defined geography. These associations are helpful in establishing relationships, yet often these pastors are very different in terms of theology and philosophy—making true partnership more challenging. Then, on a national level there are structures such as the Cooperative Program, International Mission Board, or North American Mission Board that align Southern Baptists around broader objectives. Yet, it’s practically impossible to partner with thousands of churches at the same time. Networks fill the gap between the local and national, allowing for national partnership with like-minded churches that actually know one another and partner together for effective work.
A Church Planting Network Allows for Shared Structures
Within a church planting network, there are churches who have created certain ministries that have proven to be effective. For example, certain churches may have developed quality international mission partnerships, while others may have robust training methodology for appointing deacons. For example, within the Pillar Network, Crosspoint Church in Clemson, South Carolina developed a unique summer mission program known as Summer LINK. Via partnership with Pillar Network, others churches can benefit from this program without having to do the hard work Crosspoint has done of developing the program from scratch.
A Church Planting Network Allows You to Give
Finally, the beauty of church planting networks is primarily seen in what pastors can give, not simply in what they receive.
"The beauty of church planting networks is primarily seen in what pastors can give, not simply in what they receive."As with any aspect of ministry, if we operate we approach networks by asking, “What’s in it for me?” we are sure to be disappointed or worse, enter the network as a taker rather than a giver. Healthy networks ask church planters to give—assuming that everyone has gifts they bring to the network that can aid others in pastoring and planting well. These networks force pastors to look beyond their immediate church context and discern meaningful ways to love and serve others.
Church planting networks are not for everyone, but they are for some. Perhaps God is calling you to invest in a church planting network. If so, we’d love to connect with you.
Interested in joining the Pillar Network? Please contact Matt Rogers at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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- Preferences and the Problem of Unity in the Church - December 12, 2016
- Complaining Isn’t Authentic, It’s a Waste of Time - December 5, 2016
- Generosity Means Thinking of Others - December 1, 2016
- Spiritual Sickness - September 19, 2016
- Top 10 Books You Should Read this Summer - July 11, 2016
- The One Often Overlooked Mark of a Successful Church Planter - June 6, 2016