Part of what we’re about in the Excel Leadership Network is helping churches partner with and parent new churches. Some churches are excited about the possibilities and on board with reproducing. Others seem disinterested in church planting. Still others find themselves in the middle of those options.
In working with churches and pastors over the years, I've identified some consistent stages in the life cycles of churches:
STAGES OF REPRODUCTION:
Some churches are currently resisting reproduction. Like couples who have decided against having children, these churches do not want to reproduce. Church Planting expert Bob Logan uses the term “hostile” to describe how some pastors and churches respond to the idea of parenting a daughter church. One famous pastor of a mega-church in our country once remarked, “We came dangerously close to planting a daughter church.”
Other churches find themselves grappling with the clear Biblical command to “go forth and multiply.” They are starting to wonder why this hasn’t been part of the natural development in their church. They are asking questions, checking studies and beginning to realize that they do not want to be, as multiplication specialist Red Ensley put it, “a dead-end link on the chain of Christianity.”
Many, if not most churches find themselves in the “Not Now” stage. They realize that health leads to reproduction. They know that they need to parent someday. But they are caught up with other things right now. These folks typically say things like, “As soon as we get our facility built we’ll consider a plant.” Or, “We’re not large enough yet.” Or, “When we get our staffing, or program, or financial issues remedied, we’ll look into it.”
One Toe In
Many churches have moved to the stage where they are actually doing something. They might be financially supporting a church planter or two. They may open their facilities to a church plant in their area or perhaps they’ve given gently used equipment to a new church in the region. They have jumped into the game.
Aunt or Uncle
Other churches have moved to the point of being an Aunt or Uncle church. They might not feel ready to parent, but they are willing to generously support a planter. They’re having planters up front in their services and are growing in support of a church planting movement.
Some churches have moved a bit farther along the reproduction journey. They’ve become that special aunt or uncle - the godparent. They are praying and giving and are available for special appeals by church plants for one-time gifts over and above previous commitments; to send people to help out with a preview service; or to have a baby shower to buy items for a church plants nursery. Our church in Elk Grove, Journey Church, has this special relationship with a plant back east. We’ve told them to consider us to be a rich uncle who lives in California.
Some churches have actually moved to the point of daughter-ing a church. Like having kids biologically, this might be a deliberate, planned, thought-out strategy. A parent church might have the clear approach that they will give $50, 000 to $100,000 and 50-100 people to get a church launched. Or it might be more of “an accident.” They might only be able to give a few bucks and a few people, but they are responding to God’s personal call to them to be parents. They may or may not be joined by another parent church, but they’ve taken responsibility to help a church get going.
Some churches have had such a good experience in parenting, that they are having plenty of kids. My four sisters have had seven kids, seven kids, six kids and four kids respectively. And I’ve joked that they are baby-machines, constantly pregnant. Some churches are like that - they’ve become multiplication centers.
And some have multiplied so much that they’ve approached becoming a denomination unto themselves. Their kids are having kids. Some are reproducing like wildfire, leaving a lasting legacy.
Churches range throughout these stages, from resistant to rapid reproduction.
The application is clear: let’s identify where we, where our church currently finds itself along the reproductive journey. Is your church resistant? Questioning? Waiting? Involved? Moving toward parenting? Cranking them out?
After identifying where we are, there’s one last application I’d like to challenge you and your church to take: consider making some movement further along the reproductive line. If you’re thinking, “Not now,” I’d encourage you to rethink that and at least do something--support a church planter, give something. If you’re doing something, consider taking the challenge on of being a godparent. Or perhaps its time to daughter that first church - or that second one.
Let’s move along the reproductive journey.