Lengthening Your Runway
When it comes to planting a church, most planters want to start yesterday. The sense of urgency is always high! God has called them to this great work and they are eager to get started now. But there is a process that every planter should go through. They need to be assessed, trained, coached, and equipped to begin. The best analogy for this process is a runway. A plane that never takes off is not fulfilling the purpose for which it was created. But an airplane that tries to take off too fast is destined to crash and burn. Similarly, starting too quickly or never getting off the ground are two extremes every church planter must avoid. But how do you find the sweet spot for your plant?
In episode 53 of the Grind podcast, Andrew Munneke shares about his experience of planting The Hill Church in Fayetteville. He was very intentional in the beginning with getting the length of the runway correct. Here’s how he did it and you can too.
1. Start with Groups
The Hill began, not with a Sunday morning worship service, but with a small group meeting in Andrew’s home. His family moved from Dallas to Fayetteville and like many planters, his family was his launch team. By beginning with Gospel Communities (what they call their groups) it gave their church a chance to start without launching a worship service. When churches start with a worship service, planters and their team tend to give all of their time to it. Worship music, kid’s ministry, sermon prep, etc., can consume the majority of the bandwidth of a team. But starting with groups, allows the planting team to focus its energy on evangelism and disciple-making, the building blocks of a new church.
2. Multiply Groups
Not only should a planter start with groups, but getting the runway length right also means multiplying groups. Don’t start Sunday morning services until you multiply. This will ensure that the DNA of the church is infused from the start. This will also keep the focus on multiplying disciples. If a church plant can’t reach new people and multiply disciples, it will reveal problems that need to be corrected before a plant should move forward. And until the groups multiply, there really isn’t a need for a larger gathering. With one group, everyone can still meet together. With two or more groups, a larger gathering is needed to keep everyone on the same page and connected to the larger mission.
3. Funnel Groups into the Church
Lastly, Munneke says that the best way to start is to funnel groups into the church. Many planters begin with a worship service and then try to plug attenders into groups. But, people are easier to engage with the gospel away from the building than in it. In the past, most people came to Christ in a church building, a Sunday School room, at a VBS, or church camp. But today, most people are going to come to Christ in a workplace cubicle, ball field, or in the home of a believer. Engaging people away from the building, getting them connected to a group, then funneling them into the church produces the right kind of growth.
How long is your runway? Don’t set a timetable. Don’t plan it around a date. Start a group, multiply that group, and launch a service once the DNA of multiplying disciples is firmly established. This could take 3 months, 6 months, or even a year. Don’t rush. Don’t let Easter be your launch day, let multiplication be your launch criteria. If you do, you will avoid the crash and burn as well as the plane that never leaves the tarmac extremes. Now, sit back and enjoy the flight!