Category Archives: Church-Planting

Eleven Reasons CP Movements Plateau & Decline

I’m pleased to be able to share part of my sabbatical research with all of you.  I have spent many hours in the last month reading and thinking about WHY once-thriving church-planting movements plateau and decline.  I have put my thoughts done in a fifteen page paper called Why Movements Die.  I hope and pray that this challenges you as much as it has challenged me.

Until All Treasure Him-
Keith

Why Movements Die v1 by KPF (Aug2013)

Sending Your Best Friend to Plant a Church

Nick Shock and I met in 1999 between our sophomore and junior years in college.  We were both selected to serve in a summer revival ministry with the baptist convention in Texas; he would be doing the preaching and I would be working with youth.  We traveled for 9 weeks to nine different churches and did ministry from morning to night. For most of the summer, we lived together because the host churches would put us in the same host home.

We were an interesting pair.  He grew up in the ministry – watching his dad serve first as a youth pastor and then as a senior pastor.  I had grown up in the Methodist church and only become a Christian at 16.  He was confident.  I was insecure.  He could lead music and knew the language and culture of small-town Baptist churches.  I had no idea what I was doing or what I was saying.  Nick helped me learn the ropes of ministry and the local church.  He was a great team-leader and was so encouraging to me as a ministry newbie.  A friendship was born.

After college, we both followed the Lord on our respective ministry paths.  We served as student pastors in different churches, finished our degrees, and started our families.  Over the years, we stayed very close.  We played the role for each other of that friend that we could seek advice from that was outside our ministry-context.  We leaned on each other and learned from each other.  When God called Barie and me to plant a church in the Austin area, one of the first calls I made was to Nick.  I knew that I wanted he and Jada on the team.  They prayed, they talked, and surprisingly, they came.

I wasn’t sure what it would look like to lead the guy who had first trained me in pastoral ministry.  But Nick is a team player, and he has been an amazing ally and confidant even through the awkward moments where I had to put my “boss-hat” on and talk business.  So much of Hill Country Bible Church Round Rock reflects his passion and influence.  He has helped us understand our stewardship of the next generation, built amazing lay leadership teams across our family ministries, and been a voice for excellence and relevance in everything we’ve done.  I know that we would not be the church we are today if Nick had not been a part of the original team.

Of course, we have made so many mistakes along the way.  And God has almost totally rebuilt our philosophy of ministry along the way.  We have grown in the depth of our love for Jesus and the depth of our appreciation for the power of the gospel.  By God’s grace, we have led a young church through becoming a mature, reproducing church.  We have learned to love our neighbors, serve our communities, and disciple our families.  What a journey God has taken us through over the last 13 years.  I can joyfully say that we are no longer the men we once were.  Thankful, I am also humbled by how much further we have to go.

But now the day comes that I have always known would come.  Our elders announced tonight that we are sending Nick and Jada (and a core-team) to plant a new church in our city.  We have planted two churches already as a congregation, and this will be number three.  But this one feels different.  Very different.  I am sending away not just a ministry partner, but my best friend.  The one in this world who knows me best (after my wife), the one who has influenced me and shaped me and made me a better husband, a better father, and a better man.

Tonight I have been tested to live out what I say I believe.  That the mission of Jesus Christ is more important than staying close to those we love.  Sending out Nick and Jada over the next year feels bittersweet – sad in the sense of losing a staff member and close friend from the everyday routine of life.  But sweet in the sense of sending a trusted leader and pastor to start a new church in a part of the city that desperately needs strong churches.  Jesus has called.  We must obey.

Jesus didn’t say that following Him would be easy.  In fact, he told us that we should count the cost.  The lordship of Christ demands our all because Jesus is God.  Even more, the gospel of Christ demands our missionary labor because Jesus is the only hope of the world.  I have loved every minute of every day that I have been blessed to work on staff with my best friend.  But now he must go.  First, because Jesus has called.  Second, because Jesus’ call is urgent.  The days are evil and the time is short.

We must get to work.  His return is near.

Church-Planting Essentials Training

If you are a church-planter in the Greater Austin area, I want to make sure you know about the Church-Planting Essentials Training that our association of churches offers starting in September.  Our church-plant training center offers 8 weeks of high-quality equipping.  Here are the details.  Let me know if you have any questions-

Invitation to Church Planters:

Join the conversation about the Art and Science of Planting a Missional, Gospel Centered Church hosted by SATURATE AUSTIN, the Church Plant Training Center at Hill Country Bible Church.  An information meeting will be held on Thursday, September 15, 2011 at 2:00.

Engage a host of subject matter experts, including  many thriving current planters  for an eight-session training course  — THURSDAYS from 1:00-5:00 — designed to help you plant a gospel centered, context sensitive, missional church. Wives are welcome to participate.

Hill Country’s association has planted 22 churches (currently three planters in Residency training) in greater Austin and has partnered with many others who are part of a like-minded, gospel-centered movement that has a sense of owning responsibility for the redemption and restoration of the whole city.

Our goal is to see one hundred churches planted in greater Austin by 2014, and we know they cannot do it alone.  Recently, eighteen different planters from twelve denominations attended this instructive nuts and bolts learning opportunity.

Whether you are just getting started, or just want a refresher, Church Planting Essentials training will help you and your team …

*   Think through the larger questions before you start
*   Develop a network of fellow church planters in the city
*   Exegete your community
*   Learn how to enlist a team
*    Think through your vision
*   Develop greater self-awareness
*   Refine your strategy
*   Contextualize your evangelism
*    Learn how to put together a tactical ministry plan
*   Craft a realistic budget
*   Develop an effective communication plan

RSVP via email to lcarlson@hcbc.com.
Or for more information, call John Herrington at 512-331-5050.

10 Lessons Learned as a Church-Planting Church

I’ve enjoyed writing this series over the last month – reflecting on all that God has taught us as a young church as we have worked toward becoming a church-planting church.  We are still very early in this process – just now sending out our second church and in the early planning stages on our third plant.  We are still learning so much – about different planting models, various funding strategies, effective coaching, and most importantly how to follow the leadership of Almighty God.  Here’s a summary of the ten-lessons we’ve learned in the last three years as a church-planting church:

1- Plant Early.
2- Trust God to Provide.
3- Take Risks.
4- Measure the Right Results.
5- Assess Carefully.
6- Coach Well.
7- Adapt Your Model.
8- Celebrate Small Wins.
9- Reproduce Leaders.
10- Kingdom First.

I’ve compiled all ten of my posts in one document that you can download by clicking here or by looking under the Church-Planting tab at the top of the website.  I hope and pray this helps and encourages you to follow God more faithfully.

Lessons of a Church-Planting Church: Lesson #10

Lesson #10: Kingdom First.  Sending out families and leaders from your church to start other churches constantly calls your primary commitments into question.  What is most important to the elders of your church, the local congregation you lead or the bigger Kingdom of God?  Most of the time these two commitments are not in conflict because building your local church is building the Kingdom of God.  But because the Kingdom is bigger than your local congregation, there are times where your support of broader “big-C” church will divert resources away from your “little-c” church.  This is not unique to church-planting: the same principles are true when it comes to global missions – a dollar spent supporting missionaries and church-planting movements around the world is a dollar not spent inside your local congregation.

But for some reason we get nervous when it comes to sending people (and ministry resources) to the local mission field.  We start thinking that we can’t send those leaders or those resources to another church in our city and our region because it will negatively impact our own congregation.  And in some sense that is true.  But it is also right.  Church-planting churches must have a theological understanding of the kingdom of God as bigger than any one local congregation.  The work of Jesus in the world is bigger than any denomination, movement, personality, and church.  Jesus came proclaiming the Kingdom of God – the reign of God over all people and all of creation.  And Jesus inaugurated that Kingdom in His birth, life, death, and resurrection.  Today, His church continues the work of proclaiming the gospel toward the purpose of expanding and building His Kingdom on the earth.

Churches will never start planting other churches until they see the Kingdom of God as their priority.  We are not called to build our little kingdoms, but to give our lives for His Kingdom.  No one will remember me in 100 years and no one will remember the church I started in 200 years.  But the Kingdom will continue because Jesus is the King and He is alive.  May we then like Paul, “welcome all who visit us, proclaiming the kingdom of God and teaching the things concerning the Lord Jesus Christ with full boldnessand without hindrance. (Acts 28:30-31)”

Lessons of a Church-Planting Church: Lesson 9

Lesson #9: Reproduce Leaders.  One hurdle to planting churches is the need for qualified leaders.  But this challenge also provides an opportunity.  While the sending-church can feel threatened when sending out some of its strongest leaders, it can also be strengthened when new leaders are given a chance to step up and lead.  Even as we have sent out core-teams that included current and future elders, small-group shepherds, and ministry-leaders, God has been faithful to provide the right people at the right time to pick up the slack.  Many times I have been surprised by how God works in this way – doing things that I didn’t anticipate – raising up leaders that weren’t even on my radar.  At the same time, we have been intentional in creating a culture that reproduces leaders at a rapid pace.  While this is sometimes scary, it is absolutely necessary.

Therefore, as you consider becoming a church-planting church, you will need to turn up the heat when it comes to reproducing leaders in your church.  You can’t become comfortable with who you have in key positions because God might call them to leave with a church-plant core team!  We have two focused semesters of leadership-development in our church.  In the fall, we have a structured leadership development program that we offer to current leaders in an attempt to help them take a significant next step in their maturity.  In the spring, our current leaders invite new people in our church into a study to help them take a step into our congregation and to figure who they are and where they are spiritually.  So far, this routine has served us well.  But we already feel the need to improve on it as we continue to plant churches.

The key principle here is that sending-churches must develop new Christians and new leaders quickly so that they grow deep in their faith and intentional in their missional impact.  While you may fear that someone is not “ready” for leadership, remember that in a reproducing environment you can’t wait until everyone is as mature as you are before you give them responsibility for others.  We don’t wait until someone has completed all of our discipleship courses and processes before we ask them to lead.  We disciple leaders as they lead others.  So, to lead a church-planting church, you must be open-handed with all of your leaders (they belong to God, not your church) and you must reproduce new leaders quickly and help them grow as they lead.

God’s Work in Round Rock

The city of Round Rock has been a great place to live and work for the last five years.  The elders of our church have always had a passion that goes beyond the health and strength of our church to the renewal of our whole city.  According to the latest census, Round Rock now has almost exactly 100,000 residents inside the city limits and 140,000 if you include everyone who lives inside Round Rock’s ETJ (extra-territorial jurisdiction).  As much as we have prayed and worked with the desire to see our church grow and expand, we have also prayed and worked with the desire that the big-c church in Round Rock grow and expand.  We are not foolish enough to believe that our one style of local church will reach every person who lives in our community.

With that in mind, the elders of our church set before me three city-wide goals during our ten-year strategic planning meetings last fall.  One, they asked me to pray and work toward the adoption of every elementary school in Round Rock by a church in our community (modeled on awesome benefits we’ve enjoyed at Berkman Elementary this year).  Two, they asked me to pray and work toward the continued unity of the churches in Round Rock for the purpose of gospel-saturation.  And three, they asked me to pray and work toward making sure that every church-plant that came to our area felt supported and connected (with the goal that they would succeed and make it long term).  As we have set our hands toward these goals and prayed for God’s Spirit to move, I have been amazed to see what He is doing.  Here’s a quick update.

1- God is mobilizing His people to serve the schools in our community.  First, God has sent a missionary to our community (recently returning from Europe) who has been hired by ABBA specifically for the purpose of partnering churches with schools.  David Lloyd works across the region but lives with his family in Round Rock and has taken a special interest in our community.  He has been a champion for these efforts.  Second, God has sent Gary Foran, a planting pastor with Gateway Community Church, to also spur on this effort.  Gary is mobilizing Gateway members who live in our community to work with CD Fulkes Middle School (next door to Berkman).  Gary has gladly taken up the charge to encourage other pastors and churches to work with our school district.  I am thankful for these men and the work that God is doing in moving His people to work with RRISD.  Pray for our continued efforts to serve the faculties and families in our school system.

2- God’s Spirit is bringing a new unity to His church in Round Rock.  Mark Westerfield, the pastor of Central Baptist Church, and I have been working together over the last two years to unite the pastors of Round Rock in prayer and mission.  We have hosted two large-group lunches at the Dell Diamond (spring of 2010 and spring of 2011) where 30+ pastors have joined to talk about our work in the city.  Beyond that, once a month, Mark hosts pastors at his church offices for early-morning prayer.  This prayer time consists of pastors sharing life together and praying for one another.  I am so excited to report that we had 20 pastors this last Thursday joining together to pray for our city!  I am so encouraged to see how these pastors encourage one another and pray for one another.  Just now, after praying with one another for over a year and building a high level of trust with one another, are we seeing the fruit of collaboration – guys sharing resources, challenging one another, and lifting up each others’ congregations.  Pray for unity, spiritual health among our spiritual leaders, and strategic collaboration in the city.

3- God is bringing new church-planters to our community.  With a churched population only around 12% and a growing city, we need every church to be strong, healthy, and growing, AND we need new churches started in our community.  The pastors in our city have grown to see that these two goals are complementary and not in competition.  And for that, I am exceedingly grateful to the Spirit of God.  This last week, I hosted the second lunch that we have had here in Round Rock for church-planters.  Though we had a number of guys out on vacation, we had a new group of pastors join us for lunch so that we still had a great turn-out.  After seeing one new church start this spring, God has sent us a team that will start a new church in January and another team that will start their meetings in 2012.  Pray for these planters, their families, and their core-groups.  Pray with me that God will sustain these planters and send more to our area!

I could say much more, but I’ll stop here.  I wanted to give everyone an update on all that God is doing in our community.  I am so thankful to work in this city and to serve a God who answers so much prayer.  May we stay humble and dependent on Him so that He gets all the credit and the glory.  Thanks for your prayers for our city.  I am praying for your city as well.

Lessons of a Church-Planting Church: Lesson 8

Lesson #8: Celebrate Small Wins.  As you begin the process of sending out church-planters to start new churches, many people in your congregation will ask the question (which is justified), “is this a good use of our resources, people, and efforts?”  Becoming a church-planting church early (especially before you build your first building) will make people wonder if the pastors and elders are making a good kingdom investment for the future.  I’ve already written here and many other places about the benefits of becoming a church-planting church and of course you can always simply remind people of the abstract benefits of being a sending-church.  But I have found repeatedly in the last two years that more helpful than repeating theory is to celebrate the small-wins of planting churches.

This happens in two ways.  First, you need to celebrate the wins that the church-plant itself is experiencing.  By that I mean that you tell your congregation when the plant sees people come to faith, get baptized, and start down the path of discipleship.  When the plant hits first milestones, tell your church about it.  Don’t wait for the church-plant to reach 250 in average attendance, see 30 people come to faith, and become financially self-sufficient before you say anything to your church about their progress.  As you coach the church-planter, pass along the wins his congregation is experiencing to your congregation.  Second, you need to celebrate the wins that your church is experiencing by sending out church-plants.  When you see new ministry leaders step up and take on new roles, celebrate that!  When you see God replace the people and funding you just sent out the door, celebrate that!  When your church is healthier and stronger because your people are kingdom-minded and not just inward-focused, celebrate that!  Take time to testify to all that God has done and is doing so that everyone gets to see what you see as the leader.

Lessons of a Church-Planting Church: Lesson 7

Lesson #7: Adapt Your Model.  When you plant your first church, you will most likely adopt someone’s model to use for your own.  When we planted our first church, we simply copied the model of HCBC-NW, our grandmother church, and did everything they were doing.  As you get started, you will have to do the same.  But you need to know that you can’t stay with the model you adopt.  You must change it.  You need to learn from your mistakes and from other networks and other movements.  There are too many variables in church-planting to stay static in your model – church-planters vary, target demographics change, the number of families you can mobilize will fluctuate.  All of this requires you to be willing to make changes to your model year over year.

You should never plant two churches exactly the same way.  The key to adapting your model is asking good questions during each planting cycle and keeping good records of your lessons learned.  Ask questions of your church-planter, your church-plant team, other sending churches, and other networks.  Listen and learn.  Don’t assume because you’ve done it one way that you’ve got it figured out.  You will make mistakes along the way – just be wise enough to learn from those mistakes.  In addition, recruit someone on your team to keep good records of lessons learned.  If you don’t, you will make changes and then forget later why you made those changes.  As you adjust your model, record your rationale for future elders, pastors, and church-planters to see.

Lessons of a Church-Planting Church: Lesson 6

Lesson #6: Coach Well.  One of the most important and most challenging parts of leading a church-planting church is figuring out how to coach the church-planters you send out.  Research shows that good coaching is one of the most influential resources a sending church can provide – even more helpful than money and people.  Why?  Because a church-planter is destined to get discouraged, overwork, hit roadblocks, face challenges to being portable, question his calling, and be frustrated by being the only staff member serving his church.  During these moments (and many others), the church-planter needs someone who is in his corner providing some constructive feedback.  From my experience, coaching well means that you make sure and do the following.

First, you have to meet regularly.  In the first year, it is important to have at least two coaching meetings a month.  In the second year, you can move to monthly meetings.  Either way, consistency is key.  Second, you need to stay focused on the spiritual health of the church-planter.  As pressure increases, the spiritual disciplines, faith in God, and courage will be the first traits to go.  One of the coach’s key roles is to keep the importance of personal spiritual vitality in front of the planter.  Third, you need to ask for good measurements.  What do you want the church-planter to track?  Ask to see that every time you meet together.  The questions we ask shape the values of the church we send out.  Fourth, you need to hold the church-planter accountable to the plans he lays out.  Drawing up a strategic plan and executing that plan are not the same thing.  Everyone needs help making sure they follow through.  Fifth, keep the long-term wins in front of the church-planter.  One of the hardest parts of planting is not getting lost in the details.  One way a coach can help is to bring the planter back to their long-term goals.  Finally, encourage.  Church-planting is discouraging work.  While we all need a kick in the pants sometimes (myself included!), church-planters most need encouragement – to not dwell on the bad news, but to also celebrate the good news.  Even when we struggle with discouragement, God is good and faithful.