As written about in a previous post, theMOVEMENT has been blessed to receive over $1 million in partnership support over the last 5 years. What God has done in partnering theMOVEMENT Church with various churches across the country has been nothing short of a miracle. Having no previous relationships with or knowledge of any of these churches is proof that God deserves all the glory and praise for the supernatural connections He has made.
Through these various partnerships, we've been able to launch a healthy, growing, almost self-sustaining, preparing to reproduce itself church plant in the heart of one of the most expensive places to live in the entire world! The Bay Area of California, more specifically, the city of Oakland.
How did this happen? How were these partnerships started? How were these partnerships maintained? Many factors go into it, but after 5 years of cultivating partnerships to support the church of our church plant, here are the main lessons I've learned:
FOR THE PARTNERING CHURCH
- Be convinced that planting new churches is an effective strategy for evangelism. Tim Keller writes, "The single best way to reach non-Christians is to start new churches. The transitional new community creates space for outsiders to plug in." For the gospel to advance, new churches must be planted, sustained, and then re-produce. The degree to which you believe this will be the degree to which your church invests in partnering with church plants.
- Be interested in the success of churches other than your own. Though this may seem condescending to even ask, it is a question worth honestly answering, "Do we want to see other churches, especially new ones, succeed in reaching people with the gospel?"
- Be sacrificial in paying a price to see that success come to fruition. If the answer to previous question is "Yes," the answer to this one is equally important. Are you willing to pay the price of investing in a church other than your own? Are you ready to give financially? Are you ready to send your people out to support another church? Are you ready to invest time during your Sunday Services and small groups to pray for church plants? Are you ready to "lose" something for another church's gain?
- Be willing to serve the church plant on their terms. Can you give financially without directing the funds? Can you send missions teams when it's convenient for the church plant? Can you send missions teams to do work that the church plant needs done and not to do work you prefer doing?
- Be discerning of the Lead Church Planter. Do you sense an anointing on his life for planting and pastoring a church? Does he have a track record of starting and growing something from scratch? Does he have the spiritual gift of leadership and has he used that gift to win people to Jesus and make disciples? Is his marriage healthy? Pray about this. Get more than one set of eyes on the planter, his wife, and his team and discern accordingly.
- Be ready to start before you're ready. Especially to churches who have never partnered with a church plant before, you must be ready to start before you understand everything about partnering with a church plant. Much of what you will learn about how to partner with a church plant is learned after you partner with a church plant!
- Be OK with asking tough questions. Because you will be accountable with how you invested the resources of your church, you must be comfortable with checking in on your investment. Are Sunday Services growing in attendance? How are disciples being made? Is the leadership team healthy? Is the church increasing its internal revenue through tithes and offerings? Is there a plan for this church to become self-sustaining?
FOR THE CHURCH PLANTER
- Be convinced of your unique mission and vision. Do you have a burden? Do you have a burning passion to reach the lost? If you're not convinced of what you're setting out to do and why you're setting out to do it, you will have a very difficult time convincing anyone to support you.
- Be clear on what you need. How much money do you need, exactly? How many volunteers do you need, exactly? What kind of support do you need, exactly? How can the partner church help you to accomplish your mission, specifically? How can you be prayed for, specifically? The more clear you are on what you need, the easier you make it for a potential partner church to meet that need.
- Be ready to give an account. Keep accurate numbers. Keep accurate accounts. Keep track of stories. If you can't answer the question of how your church is doing with specific numbers and compelling testimonies of how God is moving within your new church community, the partner church may begin to feel as if their resources are being stewarded poorly.
- Be honest about your struggles and failures. Partnering with other churches to support your church plant is about so much more than the money. What has been more valuable to me than the money is the mentorship. Mentorship from more seasoned pastors and leaders is invaluable. But, the door for mentorship to take place is opened by you when you are honest about the difficulties you are having as a church planter.
- Be entitled to nothing. A partnership with a church is a gift and a grace from God. If a check doesn't come in, if a promise is not kept, if communication is not frequent, if a partnership ends prematurely - guard your heart. Be careful to never feel, think, or act in ways that communicates that your partner church owes you anything. They don't. God gives. God takes away. Bless God and bless the partner church, regardless.
- Be thankful for everything. Every check, every prayer, every volunteer, every phone call, every act of kindness, every correction or rebuke, every word of advice - be thankful for it all. Thank the church. Thank God. Be in awe and wonder that God would allow any help to come your way.
- Be prepared for the relationship to transition. Just as a relationship with a parent and a child evolves over time, so will a church partnership with your church plant. If the partnership is going well, over time, the church partner should be pouring less and less into your church and your church should be pouring more and more time into another church plant! This is how the cycle continues and the multiplication of healthy churches can become a reality!
In no way are these lists exhaustive, but I believe they do lay a good foundation for existing churches to partner with new church plants. Please feel free to comment below with other best practices you would recommend!
SPECIAL THANKS TO:
Crossroads Church, Johnson Ferry Baptist Church, Houston's First Baptist Church, Central Baptist Church, 1st Baptist Trussville, Shades Mountain Baptist Church, Epic Church, Echo Church, Southcliff Baptist Church, Stonegate Fellowship, Liberty Baptist Church, North American Mission Board, California State Baptist Convention, and the East Bay Baptist Association. You are the partners who have helped make our church plant a light in the city of Oakland!