2 March 2024

Thinking about planting a church? Don’t underestimate the recruitment phase

Much prayer is required for church planting, writes Peter Carolane. Picture: iStock

Peter Carolane

24 May 2023

There are many different methods of church planting, but they all have three things in common. First, nothing happens without the Holy Spirit empowering and enabling the process. Second, there needs to be a church planter with a vision, skills and energy. Third, there needs to be a team who are willing to join the planter. Plants also usually need a fourth thing: seed funding.  

I have most experience with the approach where a church of 200 or more sends a planter and a team of members to establish a new church. This is what we did in 2013 when St Hilary’s Kew-North Balwyn sent me to plant Merri Creek Anglican in Clifton Hill. 

Read more: So … what is a ‘resourcing church’? And could your church be one?

Then vicar of St Hilary’s Stephen Hale, gave me freedom to approach anybody from its congregation to ask if they would consider leaving to be part of the plant. About 40 people (including children) came, and about 15 joined from outside St Hilary’s. 

People will join a church planting team if they trust the leader and the vision excites them. Therefore, a church planter must be able to win confidence and convey a compelling vision. They have to confidently look someone in the eye and make the entrepreneur’s pitch: 

“Would you join my new church plant? I can only tell you roughly where the Sunday services will be located, I don’t know exactly how we’ll fund the plant. We haven’t yet decided the name. And I don’t yet know what time the Sunday services will be.” 

Read more: Micro churches can bring the gospel to many in post-Christendom Australia

“However, I can tell you what my hopes and dreams are. I can tell you the reasons why I want to plant a church. I can pinpoint the kind of people I’m hoping to reach. I can also tell you the ministry values I want us to embody. But you can also help influence the vision. What kind of church would you like to be part of? What are your priorities? Perhaps we could incorporate your dreams and ideas into the plans?” 

The first of the pitch paragraphs is what scares some people away. The second of the paragraphs is what gets a different kind of person very excited. But any potential recruit will be thinking: Does this vision excite me? Does the leader have what it takes to pull this off? Do I want them as my minister? Will I and or my children have friends in this new church? If the answer is yes to most of those questions, they may join. 

The challenge of this recruitment phase should not be underestimated. Much prayer is required. I find that if God wants this plant to happen, then the Holy Spirit will be ahead of the process, working in people’s hearts, and preparing them to join.

Read more: Communities on a mission to reach neighbours with the gospel

St Hilary’s provided significant seed funding and administrative support for the first few years of the life of Merri Creek. But we were responsible for our own process. If the seed funding ran out, it ran out. We were released into the world to fend for ourselves, but we had been given the necessary help to make sure we could survive.  

The Reverend Dr Peter Carolane is senior minister at Merri Creek Anglican. 

This is the final of a four-part series on different models of church planting.

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