Thoughts from the Church Planting Assessment Last week in Tacoma, WA, I had the...
One goal of our 2030 vision is to have 1000 flourishing churches and micro-expressions of churches within ECO. The intent of this goal is to indicate that we need to focus on both a greater quantity and quality of churches that will have the Kingdom impact we envision.
I want to share a little bit more about developing the quantity of churches within ECO and our continued push to create an environment that catalyzes church planting. Admittedly, church planting is one of the most challenging aspects of our vision. There are many factors that work against creating a robust church planting culture. Some of these factors have to do with the changing dynamics of church planting across the country regardless of denomination, and others are unique to who we are in ECO. This reality causes us to continually evaluate and consider how best to develop and support a church planting environment. I am thankful for Nate Stratman who is giving part-time work with us in this area and has gathered others around him to help with either the whole church planting environment or different facets of church planting.
Nate and I want to invite you to a denominational webinar on September 3rd at 10 AM (PDT) to share more about some of the aspects that have been and will be created in our church planting environment. This webinar will be useful not only for those currently involved in church planting, but for those who care about and want to support church planting locally and denominationally.
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I want to give you a taste of a few things about the creation of our church planting culture that we will flesh out more in the webinar. First we want to create an environment that supports a variety of models of church planting. A flexible environment has always been our intention and it is baked into our polity. At the 2020 National Gathering in February, we showed a video of Mark Renn and his Pioneer Mission Community. He opened a restaurant/bar and mercantile that is also a church and a vehicle for mission. You can watch the video here: https://vimeo.com/bandanamedia/review/387822274/3d3ed5269d
I know two individuals who are now in ECO who came from a denominational background with robust church planting and said, “This creativity is what I love about ECO! This would have never flown in our previous environment, and here you are celebrating it.” We love the flexibility we have and we want to keep that, and understand that a variety of church plants will have different needs and requirements.
Second, we want to create a frictionless system that moves church plants forward without undue haste and without undue delay. The challenge and goal of a frictionless system goes hand in hand with the first. If we only had one model of church planting it would be much easier to move plants forward because there would simply be one criteria and process. Our process of recruitment, assessment, development and deployment needs to be streamlined and easy to navigate, and yet still account for the nuances of plants and planters. We also need to ensure that with nuances of plants that the appropriate work and preparation has been done to maximize the chance of success for those plants. We will discuss more on the webinar for how we are doing that.
Third, we want to be attractive to those from outside of the denomination. ECO is in a unique position since we are evangelical, egalitarian, and entrepreneurial. As people from outside of our denomination inquire about planting, we need to be an attractive place for them to land. In order to be that place, we need to have the community, expertise, and financial support (or the ability to obtain financial support through the denomination) that planters are looking for. We will talk on the webinar more about how we are seeking to highlight those three elements to a greater extent.
Thinking about our 10 year vision can be daunting. The number of churches that need to be planted is certainly ambitious. We know that we will need to start with a smaller number in the first few years and increase the rate of planting in later years. Our goal is to start 40 new church plants in the next 3 years. This number represents 10% of our current churches. If we can increase the rate of planting we will achieve our vision! I hope you will join our webinar and more importantly that you and your church will prayerfully find ways that we can “prepare to launch” new churches in the coming years.