Church planting is a specific focus within the larger work of missions. Church planters are missionaries who concentrate their efforts on preaching and teaching the Word of God in a community that needs a faithful gospel witness. A church planter seeks to understand the community they are called to, evangelize, make disciples and gather the disciples for worship and mission.
Church planters should seek to understand the communities they are called to start a new church in. They begin by researching the demographics, survey the demographic barriers, understand the community history, and more. They must search and read and listen. As they do so, God works into their hearts a deep love for the people and the place they are being sent to plant. Church planters must rely on the Holy Spirit as they lead out in engaging people in their community with the gospel, lead them to follow Jesus, gather them into a new faith community and disciple them to become disciple-makers. Church planters are responsible for ordering the new church biblically in its structure and practice.
Churches plant churches and every church can discover, develop and deploy church planters and teams from within their congregation. Potential church planters can be discovered, developed and deployed through church planting and missional leadership residencies in their local churches. The North American Mission Board has two key trainings that can be used by churches to develop future planters, the Multiplication Pipeline and Send Network Training. The Multiplication Pipeline has three levels that help believers grow in missional leadership and church planting competencies. Level 3 of the Training is very focused on preparing future church planters and guides participants through modules on key areas of healthy emotions, church planting calling, family dynamics, church planting models and strategies, crafting and casting vision, support development, disciple-making, preaching and restoration.
The Send Network desires to see a healthy multiplying church in every community in North America. There is still great need for healthy churches in many communities across the country. The North American Mission Board has identified 32 urban cities that have dense populations with an overwhelming percentage of lostness to focus church planting efforts. There are also three other strategic areas NAMB focuses on for church planting including collegiate communities, military communities and Puerto Rico. The Send cities and strategic areas all have many opportunities and needs for new churches to be planted.
The North American Mission Board has a thorough assessment process for potential planters that assesses their calling and readiness to plant a church. Candidates submit an application and then complete a pre-assessment which includes three questionnaires to help the candidate, sending church and NAMB gauge their readiness to become a church planter. This initial assessment covers the three areas of church planting capacity, personal character and marriage health (if married).
When a church planting candidate is approved to move forward, they are invited to an Assessment Retreat where they learn about their strengths and growth opportunities. In an environment of encouragement and support, experienced leaders from the context where the candidate desires to plant, measure their church planting readiness in nine essential areas including calling, emotional and spiritual health, family dynamics, vision, leadership, communication, missional engagement, disciple-making and social skills. Candidates will receive one of the three possible recommendations: ready, development needed or redirect. Potential Planters who receive a development needed recommendation, will be given a detailed plan for growth and timeline for when they will be eligible for a reassessment. They should consider a church planting internship during this time. In some cases, the greatest gift that can be given to a candidate is the honest appraisal that church planting is not the right path in ministry for them. The redirect recommendation is meant to save candidates from some painful and discouraging days and point them to another potential path of ministry that may fit them better. Ready candidates will then enter the Send Network Orientation and Training in preparation of starting a new church in the community that they are called to plant one in.