A chat with the bloggers of “A Day in the Life of a Church Planter”

Have questions for the bloggers as you read? Connect with them by sending us a message!

How do you respond when people ask, “What is church planting?” 

Izah: I respond that church planting is a group of faith-believing Christians who have the intention of growing the Kingdom.

Anthony: I haven’t been asked that question, but I would probably say that it’s the church that begins as a small, core group of believers having a Bible study that will grow in number as they become stronger in Christ.

Andrew: Church planting is the continuing model of missions found in the book of Acts, where healthy existing churches train, equip and send-out healthy leaders to declare and demonstrate the Gospel. Too often church planting is seen as a divisive event in the life of a church that results in splits and fractions among its people. However, when churches plant churches, they participate in the Great Commission by reaching unchurched people who would never enter into their own churches because of location, demographics, or contextualization.

izah

Izah Broadus, New Faith Baptist Church West Helena 

 

What is the people group or culture you are reaching? 

Izah: We would love to reach all people, but most importantly “the lost” (those who don’t know Christ).

Anthony: It is an African American group; many are unemployed or on fixed income. In our community there is a lack of resources, no local schools, and many are deprived of an education.

Andrew: The Hill Church is located in Fayetteville, Ark., which means we have an eclectic mission field in whom we are called to serve. The majority of our members are college students and young professionals who are joining a church for the first time. In fact, only 5 percent of our congregation was a member of a church before joining The Hill.  However, the people we serve and build relationships with around our physical church location are in poverty and are primarily single parent homes.

Anthony

Anthony Banks, Second Baptist Church Turrell

 

What is the biggest obstacle you/your church face in reaching people? 

Izah: Our biggest obstacle is lacking the funds to do a lot of things that we would love to do.

Anthony: The biggest I would say is encountering people with depression and low self-esteem.

Andrew: Our church is intentionally located in a lower-income area so that we can build relationships and love them as people made in the image of God, but—to put it bluntly—we are white and the majority of them are black.  People in lower income areas have been burned by what they call “white saviors,” people who come in, give them some food or resources, and then leave.

I’m not saying these outreaches were bad, but what that has developed in these people of poverty is they think we see them as a project and not a person. It was difficult for us to break that wall of suspension which could only be brought down by a consistent proximity.

Andrew

Andrew Munneke, The Hill Church Fayetteville

 

When in your ministry have you seen the direct impact of prayer? 

Izah: In the ministry, the direct impact I have seen was when the young men in the church came to the alter crying out to God in prayer.

Anthony: There was a family whose lights were turned off, and they were about to be evicted from their home.  We prayed and God answered prayers. To God be the glory!

Andrew: Finances are difficult in any church plant, but what we faced as our church grew was that we couldn’t grow as an organization [with the financial challenge]. So last year we said, “How much internal giving can we receive, realistically, if we pushed really hard and effectively communicated our need?”

So we wrote down that number and said, “Ok, let’s double that and start getting on our knees and asking God to provide that amount.” We knew the budget that we prayed for couldn’t come based on our own sales pitch or charts, but only by the Lord providing. By His grace, we received even more than we prayed for!

How can people pray for you? Your church? Your community? 

Izah: Pray that God provide for us so we are be able to do the things we need in order to reach more lost people. Pray that we can give our church a makeover and bring it up-to-date. Pray that the community will join together to seek more of God and truly know who God is.

AnthonyI would say pray for my strength and a steadfast, unmovable love for God and for God’s people. For my church, pray God’s grace and mercy over them. For my community, pray God will send help in the schooling and employment area, and that the leaders in the community would come together.

Andrew: Some specific prayers for us and our community are:
1.    Only 18 percent of Fayetteville is churched. Please continue to pray for the Spirit of God to penetrate hard hearts and dark places.
2.    We are sending our first short-term missions team to South Asia during spring break. Pray for their protection and Gospel ministry over there.
3.    For clarity and wisdom on some important big decisions our elders are making in the next few weeks.

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3 questions to ask when measuring the success of your ministry

By Lee Kemp 

As a pastor, you wouldn’t tell members of your church to compare themselves to someone else in the church, right? You would tell them to compare themselves with Christ. We need to validate that concept at a corporate level.

When we are examining our churches’ visions and goals, how are we tracking success? I think a lot of times we are comparing ourselves with other churches. For example, it’s probably not fair to compare a First Baptist Church downtown to a cowboy church. We’ve got to look at what we’re measuring, and with metrics that fit those churches. 

I also think that God doesn’t even care about some of the things we measure. There’s a big conversation among guys right now about this question, “Is what we thought was success really success?” Don’t take my word for it. Google “changing the scorecard of ministry” and see what’s out there. Or checkout how authors like Reggie McNeil are contributing to the conversation with his book “Missional Renaissance: Changing the Scorecard for the Church.” 

At Forefront, we have sat in meetings and felt unsuccessful. But then we would stop and think about people we are ministering to and things we are doing in the community. That would incite us again to keep doing what we needed to do.

When we first started talking to the Boys and Girls Club, they said “We don’t work with churches at all.” We kept talking with them, sought out every way we could serve them, and then later were able to use their space—but they still wanted it off the record. Now we are able to gather there for worship on the record. That’s a success!

When we don’t have good metrics, it makes us question our faithfulness, or worse, God’s faithfulness. And a lot of times, it comes down to asking the right questions…

1. What is a church?

Alan Hirsch, a big author in the missional community, says that because God is advancing His kingdom in different times with all kinds of different people, then there are going to be all kinds of expressions of ekklesia.

This is happening in Arkansas. There are all kinds of churches being planted that are different expressions of ekklesia. One thing we will have to do to continue to have that kind of expression is to change our scorecard.

The metric could be the church’s vision.  Forefront’s vision is to reach the lost, equip the saved, and serve God by using our gifts to show Jesus to the River Valley community and beyond. My point is that nowhere in that vision does this mean Sunday morning attendance, a measurement of our building square footage, or our budget.

2. Can you name the people you’ve impacted?

This may be a better question than some of the usual questions we ask. Maybe you reached five new people this month, but do you know their names? It could be as simple as listing their names when you talk about the impact of your ministry. 

When your staff says, “This was a hard summer—with people traveling and all—but here are five people who got connected with our church while y’all were gone. They’re excited…” you are staying faithful to the course without questioning “Where’s God?”

3. Who is being discipled outside of Sunday mornings?

We might be tempted to think that if we are reaching the lost we will have more people in our church, or that equipping the saved will bring more unbelievers to our church on Sunday morning. That’s not necessarily true. We need to develop a moving, mobile metric to track disciples who make disciples. 

Churches will list budget numbers and things, but very rarely do they sit down and list people who have been paired up for discipleship. Maybe that’s a good new metric because the rubber meets the road when we say, “Here’s Johnny, who’s going to disciple him? Here’s Suzie, who’s going to disciple her?” Your hand is being forced to the paper, and this makes ministry real.

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The traditional metrics don’t always fit the vision, so we should instead ask the right questions for our churches. If we have decided to reference standard “scorecards,” then we might miss what God is wanting to do right now.

lift-to-install-industrial-fan
Members of Forefront installing an industrial fan at the Boys & Girls Club

Fighting the urge to reinvent the wheel in ministry

By Lee Kemp 

Sometimes churches start a ministry that already exists in the community. Other times, a ministry stops working but continues to be the focus of many churches. Why? 

Are we competing with other churches? Are we just doing for the sake of doing?

People have asked me about Forefront’s ministry, like when our church will start a choir ministry or community groups. Sometimes I tell them, “We’re probably never going to have that…” or “We’re a church plant; we’re not there yet.”

For example, Forefront tried launching community groups early on because we wanted to be like other churches. We tried community groups without the right training, and then found ourselves having to step back and re-evaluate what we were doing.

We had a lot of new believers at the time, so instead of community groups we switched to discipleship groups. Eventually I think that it will grow into community groups, but we needed to develop leaders first. 

{ In church planting it is important to take time to honestly evaluate what needs to be changed or cancelled.}  

Forefront also does not plan to have a traditional student ministry. When I was involved in student ministry prior to Forefront, I found there are churches who have made that ministry an island unto itself. It’s not that Forefront doesn’t minister to youth, but we think they should be involved in our church alongside adults. Our worship should be relevant enough to pique their interest, and if I can’t bring that next generation into our church service there’s a big problem.

So people might ask, “What is there on Wednesday night for my student?” I’m ok with our students going to other Baptist churches instead of reinventing the wheel. I don’t need to have a better youth group than them. My job is to plug my students into ministry, disciple them and lead them to be on mission with Jesus. There should be ways for them to serve that they want to be involved in.

So questions Forefront asks are:

  • What is it that God has called us to focus on?
  • Why is there a need for our church to be planted?
  • How will we stay true and authentic in vision instead of duplicating other local churches?

We need to be secure in our missional commitment to Christ and not focused on operating and programming around just maintaining a stagnant core group of Christians.   

Sometimes I feel that we as pastors need to be reminded that our goal is to be a group of cooperating churches—not competing churches. 

What would happen if we desired the churches in our community to succeed even if it meant before our own church success? What would it look like if we just simply acknowledged each other’s strengths and united to support each other in those strengths? 

I don’t know if Arkansas is ready for the impact that would be unleashed if we began to foster a cooperative spirit instead of a competitive spirit! 

I will now step off of my soap box. 🙂