How to Start a Church Plant Group Within a Congregation
When St. Paul’s Free Lutheran in Fargo was beginning to pursue the possibility of church planting in the Fargo/Moorhead area at the beginning of 2022, they were doing so in a given context of work that had come before. A committee had been formed in prior years to discern possible options for stewarding a large financial gift that had been given to the church. The research this committee engaged in concluded that one of the best ways of utilizing this resource would be to use it as seed money for a church plant. The motion was passed to pursue this option by forming a steering committee that would further explore the dynamics of doing church planting in our local context. It was into this context of faithful stewardship that our committee was formed and called.
Church planting is difficult work, and it calls for prayerful and thoughtful intentionality on the part of many people in the congregation if they are going to pursue this sacred and challenging task. Like a missionary that can’t make it to the overseas mission field without a robust system of support, a church plant calls for the sacrifice of many. Though we might imagine only certain ways to be involved in the mission of church planting, there are actually a wide variety of ways to sacrificially support this work. One can be involved through prayer, financial giving and actively participating in a plant, but what is perhaps overlooked is the opportunity for many to invest time to learn and grow in a knowledge and philosophy of church planting. This task of learning coupled with prayer was the first thing set before the St. Paul’s steering committee.
Throughout the year of 2022, our committee was focused on learning as much as we could about church planting. Regarding the formation of our committee, our five member committee was formed in two stages. The initial three were volunteers from the floor of the annual meeting that passed the motion to form our steering committee. The other two expressed their interest in the work of the committee in the weeks following the annual meeting, and by February, we were gathered in the task of reading books and articles and engaging in conversations with church planters. We quickly realized how much we had to learn and how important it was for us to identify and be united in the purpose of church .
As our committee’s research continued, we began to have healthy conversations around the idea of church planting. We were encouraged when we learned about how church plants have a unique impact among unchurched and dechurched people. It was fascinating to learn how church planting is often a rejuvenating experience for the mother congregation rather than a discouraging one. We were reminded that church planting is an essential duty of the world-wide church since we are called by God to make disciples of all nations. Our committee was encouraged by the many different things we were learning, and we wanted to impart this momentum to the rest of our congregation.
The first avenue we pursued to encourage and educate our congregation was by hosting a church planting training event in October of 2022. This was a AFLC live streamed event where Home Mission Director Andy Coyle and church planter Matt Ballmann visited St. Paul’s in Fargo to train those attending on what it can look like to plant Lutheran churches in our day and age. The second avenue we pursued for our congregation was simply continuous visibility into what our committee was up to. We provided Sunday morning updates, weekly bulletin inserts, and engaged in 1:1 conversations with others in the church. We did all of this with the aim of educating others and asking for feedback so we could gauge how church planting was being received by our entire congregation.
Being involved in church planting doesn’t mean you have to be the church planter or on a team of individuals who plant a church. As indicated previously, church planting is a team effort that includes people in a wide variety of roles. Reading books or making a small group in your church are ways to explore planting at a deeper level. Financial and prayer support are also crucial ways to support the mission of church planting. Having church planting be an intentional topic of conversation among your church will help bring clarity to how you can be used by God in this way. Our encouragement to you is that you prayerfully seek the Lord to see if He is calling you to get involved in His mission of church planting
– Hans Tanner and Aaron Arneson
The Lutheran Church PLanter
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