This is a workshop given by Duke Vipperman at the Vital Church Planting Conference 2012.
Pastor Duke Vipperman is Rector of the Church of the Resurrection in Toronto. His Doctor of Ministry thesis was based on a study of church plants in Toronto.
This introduction to a new monastic, missional community in Toronto’s west end was posted at the Anglican Church of Canada’s Ministry Matters web site.
Jeremiah Community members, in order of appearance:
The Rev. Lance Dixon, team leader
Meagan Crosby-Shearer, pilgrim/spiritual care
Rob Crosby-Shearer, director of community formation
Sam Harding, community networker
Below are thirteen traits often present in successful church planters.
These are taken from a widely used assessment tool, “The Church Planter Assessment Guide”, http://www.churchsmart.com/store/viewItem.asp?idProduct=5 prepared by North American church planting “guru” Bob Logan and Dr. Charles Ridley, Psychology Professor and organizations consultant at Indiana University, Bloomington. The Assessment Guide is the result of a reliable qualitative research process.
The following summary of each trait is taken from “Church Planter Profile Assessment System Training Manual”, Outreach Canada. There are other assessment tools being used in the church planting field but this one is very thorough.
1. Visioning Capacity — Visualising something significant, projecting it into the future and building it from the ground floor up.
• Being a person who projects into the future beyond the present
• Developing a theme which highlights the vision and philosophy of ministry
• Persuasively selling the vision to the people
• Approaching challenges as opportunities rather than obstacles
• Coping effectively with non-visioning elements
• Not erecting artificial walls or limits either overtly or subconsciously
• Establishing a clear church identity related to the theme and vision
• Believing in God’s capacity to do great things
2. Intrinsic Personal Motivation – Operating from the inside out to perform substantially and with excellence.
• Having a desire to do well and a commitment to excellence
• Stick-to-itiveness and persistence
• Having initiative and aggressiveness without the negative connotations
• Having a willingness to work long and hard
• Being a self-starter with a willingness to build from nothing
• Having a high energy and vitality level; physical stamina
3. Creating Ownership of Ministry – Passing on the baton so others continue the race.
• Helping people to “buy in” and feel responsible for growth and success of church
• Gaining commitment of the people to the vision
• Establishing a congregational identity
• Avoiding stereotyping of congregation by imposing unrealistic goals for which it cannot claim ownership
4. Reaching the Unchurched — How consistently, intentionally and effectively they influence unchurched and marginally churched individuals to deepen faith commitment.
• Communicating in a style that is understood by the unchurched
• Understanding the “psychology” or mentality of the unchurched
• Moving and functioning in the “personal space” of the unchurched without fear
• Quickly getting to know the unchurched on a personal level
• Breaking through the barriers erected by the unchurched
• Handling crises faced by the unchurched
5. Spousal Cooperation – The extent to which each supports the other & how they will collaborate as a team in their ministry and common life. This section does not apply to single planters. These questions seek to discern the strength of the relationship between planter and spouse, if the planter’s spouse is fully supportive of both the planting vision and his/her spouse, and also the planter of his/her spouse. The questions do not presume the gender of the spouse or concern where he / she may be employed.
• Having an explicit agreement regarding each partner’s respective role and involvement in ministry
• Having explicit rules regarding the use of home as an office
• Evaluating the consequences of ministry demands upon the children
• Functioning as a team through individual and collective action
• Having a strategy for dealing with strangers
• Modelling wholesome family life before church and community
• Agreeing upon and sharing the ministry vision
• Deliberately planning and protecting private family life
6. Relationship Building – The extent to which one initiates and engages others and achieves an understanding that moves beyond the superficial.
• Responding with urgency to expressed needs and concerns of people
• Displaying Godly love and compassion to people
• Getting to know people on a personal basis
• Making others feel secure and comfortable in one’s presence
• Not responding judgmentally or prejudicially to new people
• Appreciating and accepting a variety of persons
• Spending time with parishioners without overstepping them for new people
7. Commitment to Church Development – The extent to which one embraces as a
Biblical mandate, spiritual and qualitative growth within the context of Quantitative growth and employs well considered practical means to achieve this end.
• Believing in church growth as a theological principle
• Appreciating steady, consistent growth without preoccupation with quick success
• Committing to numerical growth within the context of spiritual and relational growth (more and better disciples)
• Recognising that non-growth is threatening and self-defeating
• Establishing the goal of becoming a financially self-supporting church within a specific period of time
• Not prematurely falling into a ministry of maintenance
• Seeing the church project within the larger context of God’s kingdom
8. Responsiveness to the Community — The ability to assess, understand and target select ministries in the local community as a tool for building the Church.
• Understanding the culture of the community
• Identifying and assessing community needs
• Responding to community needs such that resources are most efficiently used
• Determining successes and failures of other organised religious attempts to respond to community needs
• Not confusing what the community needs with what the church wants to offer
• Acquiring an understanding of the character and “pulse” of the community
• Adapting the philosophy of ministry to the character of the community
9. Utilises Giftedness of Others – The ability to evaluate, develop and deploy spiritual gifts and talents within the body.
• Releasing and equipping people to do the task of ministry
• Discerning of spiritual gifts in others
• Matching the gifts of people with ministry needs and opportunities
• Delegating effectively in areas of personal limitation
• Avoiding personal overload by delegating effectively
• Not prematurely assigning assignments before people are adequately equipped
• Not placing unwarranted restrictions on others’ spiritual giftedness
10. Flexibility and Adaptability — The ability to adjust to the many challenges and changes inherent in church planting and re-assigning priorities as necessary.
• Coping effectively with ambiguity
• Coping effectively with constant and abrupt change
• Adapting oneself and one’s methods to the uniqueness of a particular ministry
• Shifting priorities and emphases during various stages of church growth
• Doing whatever is necessary whenever necessary
11. Building Group Cohesiveness – The ability to orchestrate individuals with divergent personalities, backgrounds and expectations into working as a unified body.
• Developing a nucleus group or groups as a foundation
• Quickly incorporating newcomers into a network of relationships
• Engaging others in meaningful church activity
• Monitoring the morale of your people
• Utilising groups effectively
• Dealing with conflict assertively, constructively and tactfully
12. Resilience — The ability to stay the course in the face of major setbacks, disappointments and opposition.
• Experiencing setbacks without defeat
• Riding ups and downs (e.g., attendance)
• Expecting the unexpected
• Rebounding from loss, disappointments and failure
13. Exercising of Faith – Taking personal steps of faith and following hunches that reflect one’s belief in God’s capacity to do great and wondrous things.
• Possessing a conviction regarding one’s call to ministry
• Believing that God can and will do it
• Having expectation and hope
• Having a willingness to wait for answers to specific prayer requests
This article is taken with permission from the Diocese of Toronto’s Church Plant Start-Up Kit, available for free download from the website of the Church of the Resurrection in Toronto: http://therez.on.ca/docs/Documents/STARTERS%20KIT%20-%20BCPWG%20Mar%2027%2007.pdf
The same site also has an online questionnaire you can fill out to give a preliminary indication of whether you are a church planter. You can find the test at: http://therez.on.ca/SelfAssessment.shtml
Church planting does not always mean starting from nothing. The insights of church planters can also be applied to situations where an older congregation is in need of an infusion of new life. One church in Toronto has modeled how this kind of “re-boot” can work successfully.
In 1999, the Church of the Resurrection had dwindled to 57 people. The Rev. Chris King of the nearby parish of Little Trinity released 10% of that church to go with me to what became known as “the Rez” to do a “re-boot”.
God blended us together, the original congregation and the transplants, plus many new people who came, to be a more relevant mission-minded church. Though often more art than science, we applied the best in Church Planting thinking to shift our church culture to better reach our neighbours. Now 220 worship weekly, Sunday School is at capacity, and we are buzzing with activity.
We used a carefully planned and prayerfully executed process of transformation and re-shaping of our church culture. Many churches could use our model. A larger church (200 and above) could send people to help a smaller one turn around, if:
1) they share a theological outlook
2) there is a population near the receiving church that can be reached
3) they are determined to love each other over the long haul, and
4) they are willing to adjust how they sing, worship and “do church community” to converge with what their neighbours respond to.
Rapid growth presented challenges and blessings. Our church in 1999 was more pastoral and family oriented than were our urban neighbours. Growing meant losing some of that intimacy, as we learned new ways of forming community that had more evangelistic potential. It was hard but it was worth it.
One neighbour who visited us before we changed felt there was nothing here for him. Fortunately, he came for a second try as we were in the process of changing, and now he follows Christ, is growing spiritually, and is in leadership. That kind of blessing–and the smiling faces of children in our large Sunday School–we see daily.