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FIRST-PERSON: Nurturing new churches

HARTFORD, Conn. (BP) — As a church planting missionary, I encourage existing churches to sponsor new churches in nearby communities. The goal is to produce healthy communities of faith in areas underserved by vibrant churches.

For this to work out well, there must be a meaningful relationship between the sponsoring church and the daughter church.

A great way to view this relationship is to use the analogy of parents raising children. Parents provide for and protect their young while teaching them to make good choices and develop into responsible adults. There are always some disagreements along the way, perhaps even strong ones, but when done correctly, it is a beautiful experience for all involved. The same is true in regard to relationships between existing churches and daughter churches.

Pastor-to-pastor communication

One of the most essential keys to healthy relationships between sponsor churches and their missions is good communication. The pastors of the two groups should meet often for prayer, encouragement and planning. In many cases this will be weekly or every other week, especially at first. As time passes, it might shift to monthly, but rarely will a great relationship be maintained with less than that.

Though it is possible to do this via phone or Skype when schedules get busy, face-to-face meetings are always preferred.

Congregational buy-in

In addition to good communication between the leaders, the rest of the congregation must understand the vision and purpose of the new congregation.

This can be done in a variety of ways but often includes the pastor of the new church making presentations to the existing church about the plans, timetables and focus of the new work. It also may include the mission pastor preaching several times in the mother church before starting services in the new church. The goal is for the existing church to be fully committed to the new work.

Logistical collaboration

There are times when the new church will share a facility with an existing church. This is likely when there is a language or cultural group in the same town as the sponsoring church, but which the sponsoring church is not equipped to reach. For example, if the existing church is Spanish-speaking but is concerned about the lack of churches that offer services in Creole, they may start a Haitian congregation and allow it to use their building so that two completely different congregations are utilizing the same facility.

When a building is shared, good communication is needed between the two congregations in the scheduling of rooms, sharing the cost of utilities, providing volunteers for cleaning the building, or having workdays to maintain the building. Each group will have to accept some level of inconvenience in order for the other group to be effective, but good communication will allow both bodies to accomplish their mission.

Financial trust

Even when a building is not shared, there likely will be some sharing of finances. Often the sponsoring church provides a significant portion of the new church’s income, especially in the first few months. They may even handle the money, keep the books and sign the checks, all depending on the situation and what kind of leaders God brings to the new church.

To work out the logistics of this, good communication again is needed, but it can be an amazing picture of the body of Christ when diverse people pool their resources for Kingdom expansion.

Friendships that last

Many church planters say that the most important part of their relationship with their sponsoring church is the friendships forged between the leaders and the members of each congregation. Those friendships often endure long after the new church has become self-sustaining and the formal sponsorship has ended.

Sponsoring a new church is a lot of work, but many pastors can attest that it is also a faith-growing and vision-stretching time in the life of the sponsoring church. If you are interested in sponsoring a church, contact your state convention office or go to www.namb.net.

Even if your church is not able to sponsor a new church on your own, you can still be involved in church planting by becoming a partner church with someone else’s church plant. Many sponsoring churches are not able to handle everything for their daughter church, which creates room for other churches to help in smaller but significant ways.

As churches work together, new communities of faith are planted and lost people come to faith in Christ. It sounds very much like the New Testament!

    About the Author

  • Terry Dorsett