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Church Planting: Ministering to New Communities

May 19, 2017

Congregation of young men and women speaking amicably.

Christ loved the church and gave Himself for her (Ephesians 5:25 NKJV). Although the biblical church is not a building — it is the body of Christ (Ephesians 1:22-23) and it is made up of people who put their faith in Him — local churches are a part of the universal church.

Individual churches help lead people to Christ and grow spiritually.

“Let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching” (Hebrews 10:24-25).

Through church planting, leaders can bring the body of Christ together, expand the preaching and teaching of the Word of God and reach new communities.

Why Plant a Church?

Church planting is a biblical principle. “[Scripture] never comes out and says, ‘Plant churches,’ but it’s clearly assumed,” pastor, author and church planting expert Ed Stetzer writes in Christianity Today. “It’s the first thing the disciples did when they responded to the commissions of Jesus. They planted churches.”

Paul had a simple, two-fold strategy. He “went into the largest city of the region (cf. Acts 16:9, 12), and second, he planted churches in each city (cf. Titus 1:5),” according to pastor and theologian Tim Keller at Acts 29, a family of churches dedicated to planting more churches. The Great Commission in Matthew 28:18-20 is not simply a call to “make disciples” but to “baptize.” And in passages such as Acts 2:41-47, baptism includes incorporating Christians into a worshiping community with accountability and boundaries.


“The only way to be truly sure you are increasing the number of Christians in a town is to increase the number of churches,” Keller says. “Why? Much traditional evangelism aims to get a ‘decision’ for Christ. Experience, however, shows us that many of these ‘decisions’ disappear and never result in changed lives. Why? Many, many decisions are not really conversions, but often only the beginning of a journey of seeking God. … Only a person who is being ‘evangelized’ in the context of an ongoing worshipping and shepherding community can be sure of finally coming home into vital, saving faith.”

How to Plant a Church

Planting a church requires a solid foundation in God. Leaders should not start any ministry without making sure their relationship with God, as well as their spouse, is strong, according to Gary Linton at Ministrymaker Ministries. This endeavor also requires a great deal of prayer and faith.

The specifics of how to plant a church vary based on details such as location, denomination and whether the church is affiliated with a “parent” church. Linton offers advice on some of the most common steps associated with planting a church.

  • Naming the Church: Pay special attention to names of other churches in your area. Try to avoid using similar names.
  • Appointing a Board: Start by appointing people from outside the church to serve as board members, such as local pastors you know and trust. When the church has been in existence for six months, you can appoint people from the local church to serve in these roles.
  • Constitution and Bylaws: These governing documents form a starting point for your church, including information such as a statement of faith. Use samples from other churches to help create your own documents.
  • Incorporating and 501(c)(3) Status: There is considerable debate over whether churches should incorporate. Investigate whether you think the benefits outweigh the risks and proceed accordingly. Obtaining 501(c)(3) status can be difficult, but it exempts your church from federal income tax and allows your supporters to receive tax credit for their donations.
  • Finding a Place to Meet: If you don’t know where you want to start your church, seek God in prayer. You could consider temporarily meeting in a house as an inexpensive solution to a permanent location. Renting hotel rooms, banquet halls and other locations are other options.
  • Setting Up a Church Office: You could work from home until obtaining a permanent meeting place for the church. Once this happens, consider leasing office space with regular hours so that people can contact and meet with you. You can then create materials like stationary, business cards and fliers for services and marketing.
  • Ministry Support Letter: You may not have a group of people that is supporting the church financially. If not, you need to make a list of people you know and write a support letter. It should explain your church’s mission, ask for a one-time gift or monthly support and show appreciation for their potential support. Follow up to answer any questions they may have and to demonstrate your passion for the church.
  • Building a Core Group: Identify people who may be interested in being a part of your ministry. Share your vision for the church and ask them to get involved. When you have a few people who are interested, set up a meeting to make plans for the first service.
  • Advertising: Utilize any free publicity you can get, such as free church news or public service announcements. You can also set up your social media presence for free. If you have the funds, consider buying newspaper, radio or television ads. Sending out fliers and postcards is another good option for paid advertising.
  • Finding Volunteers: Try to have ushers, greeters and children’s workers for your first service. You also need to have some type of worship leader, although a full team isn’t always possible. You may need to advertise to fill roles, if you don’t have a core group of people to draw from.
  • Planning Special Events: Consider using guest speakers, musicians and people from other ministries to stir up interest in your church. This can help you reach different age groups and audiences by diversifying styles.
  • Contacting Visitors and Members: Follow up with everyone who visits your church. Consider sending them a personalized letter or email immediately. You can also meet with them to build relationships with guests and members in your church. This type of foundation will help you be there for them when someone is experiencing a difficulty in life.

The Call to Ministry

Grace College’s online Master of Arts in Ministry Studies is designed for individuals who are seeking advancement or a start in vocational ministry. The fully online program provides flexibility and the credentials needed for a wide variety of ministry areas. Three concentrations are available: Camp Administration, Women’s Leadership Studies and Counseling.