Here at Planting the Gospel we are committed to discipling church planters! I often get the question, “How do you disciple church planters?” In other words, what’s the difference between the training and discipling of church planters? It’s really very basic. Most training models are strictly about the acquisition of knowledge. We assume the more we know, the more success we will have. However, this is simply not true.
I planted my first church coming out of seminary in 1988. At that time, I was aware of one book on church planting, Planting New Churches by Jack Redford. For me, it was the Holy Grail of church planting simply because it was the only book on planting I was exposed to. In addition to this book, Peter Wagner did a set of audiotapes on How to Plant a Church and Bob Logan created a self-bound version of Church Planter’s Toolkit called Church Planter’s Checklist. That was it. Since then, there has been a proliferation of church planting resources with similar nominal results. Ed Stetzer and Warren Bird suggest in Viral Church, the average church plant after four years runs 87 people in weekend attendance.
I think it is fair to say that doing the same old thing, the same old way, produces the same old results. However, today things are changing. I recently did a study of the major church planting networks in the US. Most networks employ a relational approach to developing church planters. They often offer some kind of residency, apprenticeship, or internship. These networks have seen phenomenal results. The average network church plant after five years runs approximately 300 people in weekend attendance. This is nearly four times the result of the non-networked church mentioned earlier.
Why? I believe the key is relationships. In order for leadership transformation to take place, training has to run congruent with intentional relationships. That’s why we don’t talk about training church planters or simply running church planters through a curriculum. It is our core conviction that planters must be discipled in the context of a healthy church planting environment. Our formula is simple; relationship plus training in the context of an effective church or church plant equals the discipling of church planters.
This is why every church planter should speed up their effectiveness in planting by slowing down and spending a year in the right residency. That’s why we don’t train church planters, we disciple them.