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Best Practices in Church Planting Systems

Are we seeing the shift from addition to multiplication reflected in church planting systems and structures?

When Ed Stetzer wrote what was the first edition of Planting Missional Churches, he originally named it Planting New Churches in a Postmodern Age. But postmodern terminology only lasted a few years before quickly disappearing. Instead, the publishers renamed the book Planting Missional Churches and focused on the mission, not just a passing trend. The book was originally named after Jack Redford’s earlier resource, Planting New Churches, which was published in 1978, with the word “postmodern” added to catch the mood of the moment.

Redford’s book was one of the earliest mainstream church planting books. In it, Redford outlines “The Nine Steps in Planting New Churches.” We won’t go through the entire process here, but to simplify the idea, let’s say we are part of a church called Northside Community and we want to plant another church. According to Redford’s plan, the first thing we do is put a missions committee together and find an area where we want to start the new church. Then, we send some mission groups out to knock on doors, pass out fliers, and engage in service projects.

According to Redford’s process, Northside Community eventually forms a fellowship or a home group and becomes a mission chapel that meets on Sunday mornings. Shortly after, the church starts having someone plan its finances, manage the facilities, and focus on the administrative work of legally constituting a new church.

Even though Redford’s process was created 40 years ago, it doesn’t seem as dated as one might think. And that’s because it’s probably not. In fact, we notice something quite significant: churches are planting churches without having to explicitly rely on what we refer to today as “the church planter.” As a matter of fact, it was often after the church was legally constituted that a pastor would be called to shepherd and lead the congregation.

Before the mid-1990s, nearly everything written on church planting was on how churches could start new churches, and not necessarily how church planters could start new churches.

There was a time when church planting wasn’t predominantly focused on the church planter. It was predominantly focused on the church planting church.

The purpose of the research project Best Practices in Church Planting Systems with Particular Attention to Church Planting Churches isn’t to downplay the need for entrepreneurial church planters. We need more of them. But this research follows an emerging trend in church planting that is rightly reemphasizing how churches plant churches and the need to reorient some of our systems and processes around this fundamental idea.

Here is the research question that led our investigation:

Are we seeing the shift from addition to multiplication reflected in church planting systems and structures?

What’s presented in this report is both qualitative and quantitative data of what denominations and church planting networks are doing in their church planting systems to promote and equip churches that plant other churches.

Our hope is that through the findings of this report, you are both encouraged and challenged as a church planting leader to design your organizational processes to not only focus on recruiting and training church planters, but also to scale your systems and adjust your scorecards around the idea of church planting churches, which we believe is an accurate indicator of multiplication within your network.

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