Replanting a Church: Introduction

I have what they call a brown thumb. Some people have green thumbs. Mine is brown. It’s brown because every houseplant I touch winds up dead. You see, I figure plants need water and sunlight, which is true. But houseplants are different. Houseplants grow in pots, and pots change everything.

A plant in a pot can only grow as large as the pot permits — and plants were designed to grow. When they get choked by a too-small pot, sometimes they die. And for an outdoor plant, well, it’s hard to overwater them. The water just flows to other places. But pots hold the water, and too much water will kill a plant.

The way we do church in this country is more like a houseplant than a garden plant. We put them in pots. Sometimes they build their own pots. But they all have pots. And sometimes the pot kills them. Other times, the pot just limits how big the church can get. A church in too small a pot will be unhealthy, rootbound, and wilted.

Plants were meant to grow, which means they need to be replanted into new pots on a regular basis — or else they stay small or even get sick and die. Growing plants need ever-bigger pots.I mean — think about it! If a church plant of 12 can grow to 1,000 in a few years (it happens regularly), why can’t an established church of 75 or 200? The established church has more resources and members with years of Bible training. It should be better equipped than the newly planted church!

So I was delighted when I stumbled across a link to this article by Scott Thomas on how to replant a church. You see, sometimes the best place to plant a new church is right there in your old congregation.

Here’s Scott’s outline for replanters. We’ll consider these thoughts in future posts, Lord willing.

  1. Envision what the church could be if no pre-existing traditions existed. Dream big. Now add God to the equation. Dream again. Then dream short-term to see the immediate needs of the body.
    1. Envision what the worship gathering could be (Acts 2:42-47).
      1. Attitude of Body during worship
      2. Music
      3. Prayer
      4. Teaching
      5. Communion
      6. Children
      7. Exaltation of God
      8. Incorporation of arts
    2. Envision what the evangelism could be (Matthew 28:18-20; Acts 1:8).
      1. Who can you reach immediately?
      2. What attitudes toward evangelism need to change?
      3. Where or how could you boldly make an impact with the gospel?
      4. What steps of faith need to be taken to reach the unchurched and the unsaved?
      5. How could your youth evangelize?
      6. How could households evangelize together?
      7. What worldwide impact could you make as a body (i.e. foreign missions)?
      8. How are you going to be an eternal value to your community?
    3. Envision how education and discipleship could be effective (Acts 2:42).
      1. How will it become a passionate pursuit of the body (“continue steadfastly in the Apostles’ doctrine”, Acts 2:42)?
      2. What resources (people, qualities, gifts) do you have in place to launch greater disciple-making?
      3. How will the fathers and heads of households (single moms, etc.) be trained to be the priest and spiritual head of their homes?
      4. How will the older men and women teach and interact with the younger men and women? (Titus 2)
      5. Will the age groups be segregated (children, youth, singles, college, married, etc.) or will they be integrated into the body?
      6. What role will small groups play?
      7. What training will be needed to help develop disciples who are passionately pursuing Christ?
    4. Envision an Acts 2 commitment to fellowship (Acts 2:44-45).
      1. In what ways will the body seek to meet the needs of one another (spiritual, social, financial, physical)?
      2. What attitudes need to change to be sacrificially generous of time, money and resources for the encouragement and edification of the body?
      3. How will the body serve one another actively and responsively in an unprompted way?
      4. What will the membership requirements be? How will it communicate a covenantal commitment?
    5. Envision an effective youth and children’s ministry
      1. Will they be integrated into the church ministry? If so, how?
      2. How will families be strengthened through the student ministry?
      3. How will the youth be encouraged and trained to evangelize their friends?
      4. What role will the heads of households play in the student ministry?
      5. Who (person or groups) will lead the youth and children’s ministry?
      6. What facility changes are needed to communicate the value of children and youth?
      7. What other positions of leadership need to be filled to be effective?
      8. What leadership development with the students will be put into place?
      9. What programs or customs need to be extracted from the youth and children’s ministry to avoid distractions from the ministry goals?
    6. Envision an equipping staff (Ephesians 4:11-13).
      1. What changes need to be made with the staff (paid or volunteer) to meet the church’s goals?
      2. Are the staff members doing the ministry or leading people to do the ministry? If they are doing the bulk of the ministering, how will they develop the body to do the work of the ministry?
      3. Are you over-staffed or under-staffed to meet both financial obligations and the development of lay people (taking responsibility for ministry)?
    7. Envision a body not reacting to finances to determine God’s call (Matthew 6:24).
      1. How will faith in God calling a body to reach out to the community and world be weighed against financial responsibility and stewardship?
      2. If mortgages or debts exist, how will they be paid off in a realistic way over a reasonable time period?
      3. What attitudes or practices about money and finances need to be changed?
      4. Is a budget in place? Is it a true reflection of the church’s giving and spending (balanced budget)?
      5. What expenses can be cut immediately to be redirected toward the church’s mission?
      6. Is the body (especially the leadership) making decisions based on finances or on God’s calling?
      7. What creative ways can you generate more income without sacrificing resources, biblical principles, or expending paid personnel?
  2. Church Leadership
    1. Identify the top three or four lay leaders of the church.
      1. What will each of their roles be in leading change?
      2. What resource or encouragement do they need to more effectively help guide the ship?
      3. Do they fully understand the vision for replanting a missional church?
      4. How could they lead organized groups of men as you work through this process of change? See the Disciples’ model below and try to identify at least the six key positions of leadership:
        Top Leader 1 Leader Leader Leader
        Top Leader 2 Sub-leader Sub-Leader Sub-Leader
        Top Leader 3 Sub-leader Sub-Leader Sub-Leader
    2. Staff Leadership
      1. Does the staff (if applicable) need to redefine their job descriptions to accommodate the changes desired?
      2. What role will they play in the leading of the body?
      3. What knowledge or encouragement do they need to be effective in their redefined roles?
    3. Board, Officers, Elders
      1. Identify the governing structure of the church. Is it congregational rule, elder rule, deacon/trustee rule, pastor directed?
      2. Determine if the structure is a biblical model and if it is functionally healthy.
      3. Examine the qualifications of the church officers according to 1 Timothy 3, Titus 1, 1 Peter 5. Work through the process for purging the existing appointed leadership if necessary.
      4. Who do you believe God has appointed as lay leaders in your church?
  3. Establish a Clear Mission (Proverbs 29:18).
    1. Write (and rewrite) a mission statement that is easily understood and easily repeated that reflects exactly what will guide the church when determining the value of ministries (establishment and continuance). An example of a mission statement is adapted from Willow Creek “Turning unchurched people into fully devoted followers of Christ.” Another example is “Making True Disciples” (our former statement) and “Penetrating the Darkness – Sharing the Light” (our current statement).
      1. What are the values of the church that could be incorporated into a mission statement (evangelism, discipleship, worship, etc.)?
      2. Write out a first draft:
      3. Can it be recited easily?
      4. Is it easily understood by non-theologians?
      5. Who could be given the responsibility of forming the mission statement?
    2. The mission statement acts as a filter for all ministries. Is this specific ministry contributing to or taking away from the God-given mission statement?
      1. How will ministries be dissolved without creating division among the body?
      2. How open are the leaders of ministries to exploring other ways of doing things to be more effective in your mission?
    3. Communicate your mission statement often in as many avenues as you can.
      1. Publish is on everything (bulletins, business cards, letterhead, websites, pens, etc.)
      2. Preach the mission statement in detail at least once a year. Exegete every word. Include it in preaching regularly.
  4. Determine your core values that will directly contribute to your mission statement.
    1. Mars Hill Church (Seattle) expresses their mission statement through four core values of meaning, beauty, truth, community.
    2. Other churches describe their values as membership, maturity, ministry, mission, magnification (Saddleback).
    3. Your core values are the foundations which allow you to build all other ministries. Core values are expressed by the term “We will” not “We might”. For instance, we will worship God passionately. We might have communion.
    4. Think of ways you could creatively and visually express those core values to the body.
    5. Our core values for The Encounter Church are Encountering God Intimately, Encountering His Word Obediently, Encountering One Another Devotedly, and Encountering the World Compassionately. It is visualized by the letter “e” with four arrows:
  5. Seriously explore a name change (Proverbs 22:1; Ecclesiastes 7:1).
    1. To communicate a change in focus; in approach; in product, a change in name can be effective if the product lives up to the change.
      1. If the only change taking place is the name, it will not produce the desired results.
      2. Changes need to be in place (or ready to launch) prior to a name change!
      3. What does your name communicate to the community in which it ministers?
    2. Do you believe your denominational label (or lack of one) is contributing to or detracting from your mission?
      1. Determine the cultural valuation of a denomination. Is it honored or dishonored in the community?
      2. This could be the greatest point of conflict in an existing body that has associated itself with a denomination both corporately and individually. Members of a church are prone to say, “I’ve been a Methodist (et al) all my life.”
      3. Likewise, a person may be adamant about not being a particular denomination. Neither position is healthy. With whom will your church be affiliated?
    3. Leading a church through a name change must be led by the mission statement. If your mission statement is “Retaining Our Members for Life,” you may not want to explore a name change. If it is “Penetrating the Darkness – Sharing the Light,”(tm) a name change is imperative.
  6. Determine if a relocation is profitable
    1. Is the church located in a growing area?
      1. Where is the fastest growing area in your community?
      2. What are the most densely populated areas in your community?
      3. What are the demographics of the ten mile radius around your meeting place?
      4. How equipped or called is your church to minister to the residents in your church location?
      5. What are the three most desirable locations for a meeting place for your church?
    2. What equity does your church building have?
    3. Would relocating create more opportunities for ministry and outreach?
    4. Would relocating free assets for ministry of place a greater financial strain on ministry?
  7. Fearlessly Lead the Replanting Process (1 John 4:18).
    1. Prayerfully determine if God has called your church to enter a replanting at this time. Do you feel God is calling you to replant your church?
    2. Once affirmed, lead fearlessly through the rough waters, people jumping overboard, sea sickness, and mutiny among the crew. Many people (including leaders and even spouses) will become disoriented, discouraged, and dissenting. Lead the body patiently, lovingly, but firmly – just as Jesus would. But don’t lead fearful of losing popularity, friendship, or a comfortable, secure job. A manager is a pleaser of people. A visionary leader is a pleaser of God.
    3. Do you have the visionary, God-called leader in place?
    4. If so, does he have the support of the leadership?
    5. If not, where will you begin to look for a shepherd leader with the skill set to replant your church?
  8. Center your faith in God (Matthew 17:20)
    1. Reject the temptation to have faith in your resources, your givers, your buildings, or even your idea. Have faith in God’s ability to honor His name by His body becoming more obedient to the principles of Scripture.
    2. Follow God’s calling even if it threatens being tossed into the lion’s den (Daniel 6). God will shut the mouths of the hungry lions (and disgruntled members) if He is calling you to replant a missional church for His glory. It is His church, Christ is the head.
Avatar of Jay Guin

About Jay Guin

I am an elder, a Sunday school teacher, a husband, a father, a grandfather, and a lawyer. I live in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, home of the Alabama Crimson Tide. I’m a member of the University Church of Christ. I grew up in Russellville, Alabama and graduated from David Lipscomb College (now Lipscomb University). I received my law degree from the University of Alabama. I met my wife Denise at Lipscomb, and we have four sons, two of whom are married, and I have a grandson and granddaughter.
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One Response to Replanting a Church: Introduction

  1. I know of many small, old congregations that could replant. In every one are people who will say, "Oh, that is just some new guy pushing some new stuff to fill-in-the-blank-with-something-negative (draw attention to himself, make money, stir up trouble, etc.)."

    These persons will stop all efforts of everyone else.

    Recruit them. Take the time to go to these persons one at a time and tell them how important they are to this church. Ask them to tell you about their grandparents or some ancestor who had a great part in planting or growing this church years ago. Tell them that they too have that same spirit working in them.

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