As the new year opens, we’re starting to notice an uptick in the number of questions we’ve been getting about starting a new church. People ask questions because they’ve started thinking deeply about a topic. We can’t tell you how happy this makes us!
Most recently, some great questions were collected from folks who replied to an email blast (seriously, thank you!). If you’re not getting our monthly emails, be sure to subscribe! So without further adieu, here are some awesome questions with our attempted answers:
How and why was this particular area of Grand Parkway selected and chosen?
The short answer? Because some very faithful servant-leaders were faithfully listening when God said, “Go!” Interestingly, when these leaders called Pastor Seth Kunze (of The Dwelling) a few years ago, they thought he would plant in this area. But Seth was also listening when God told him to go to New Caney. So now here we are! And God doesn’t seem to be done planting churches in this area yet!
The longer answer is that, due to the new growth following the completion of the tollway, this area is rapidly growing. It’s close to the ExxonMobil campus and HP is adding a campus nearby as well. Population in this area is projected to grow by 18% in the next 5 years. Over 60% of the population is made up of young families, many of whom report that they are disconnected from the church. There are a lot of rooftops but not a lot of steeples. If every church in the mission focus area was filled to capacity at every worship service, approximately 9,600 people would have a seat. In 2017, the population of the area was 66,887. This means that over 57,000 people are not being reached.
I know it’s bound to change as you never know what opportunities and challenges you’ll come across, but I’d love to get a view of the planting timeline. What are the stages or key milestones? When might we hit those milestones?
The short answer is, these will change as God directs (they’ve changed already). But here’s what we’re thinking:
September 2018 - December 2018 | Church planters begin getting to know people in supporting churches as well as the needs of the community & those who work/live there
January 2019 - February 2019 | Vision casting to potential launch team members, financial supporters, and ambassadors
March 2019 - May 2019 | Select and train launch team members; launch team members begin intentionally building relationships with their disconnected friends & neighbors; participate in prayer walks & service projects to begin building momentum towards launch; everyone will be encouraged to seek God’s direction (Are you ready to make this church plant your church? Do you feel prepared to be a missionary where you live, work, worship, and play?)
June 2019 - August 2019 | Launch team members host “parties with a purpose” (mid-sized community gatherings); role-specific training begins
August 2019 - December 2019 | Launch community groups led by launch team members, hold preview services (one per month)
January 2020 | Launch public worship, build momentum in community groups
Models & timelines are on God’s schedule. This is our draft; God gets the final edit. We went over this timeline in more detail at a recent Vision Gathering--if you weren’t able to be at that gathering, please shoot us an email. We’d love the opportunity to talk through it with you in person or over the phone!
When being involved in church planting, do we still remain active members of the mother church?
As your time resources allow, absolutely!!! If you are led to be a part of the Launch Team, there will be seasons of training in March through May that will be a larger time commitment and we’d ask that you’d prioritize these. After that, you will be encouraged to gradually phase out commitments at the mother church (and train your replacement if you are in a specific role) to make room in your schedule for your new role in the church plant.
For worship, we’d strongly encourage you to stay connected to your current congregation until we launch public worship. But even after we launch community groups and public worship, you are always welcome (and encouraged) to stay connected to the mother church, especially for special events (we’ll probably be there too)!
What will the Launch Team be doing?
That’s a great question. We’ve read a lot of books about starting a church and we’ve gleaned a lot of wisdom from other planters who have started churches using a launch team. But having never done it ourselves, we’re kinda figuring it out as we go… it’s a lot like parenthood in that way! Here’s what we imagine the Launch Team will be doing (sort of in order):
Getting to know us & becoming very familiar with the vision God has placed on our hearts.
Spending a LOT of time in prayer. Planting a church (being on a Launch Team) is going to be a ton of physical and spiritual work.
Deciding how God is calling you to sacrifice of your time, talent, and treasure. Is He asking you to clear out your schedule to make more time for your neighbors? Is He encouraging you to use a spiritual or secular giftedness for the benefit of the new church? Is He asking you to go above and beyond in your financial giving? Is He urging you to sell your house and move into the mission focus area? Only through prayer will you know what God is asking of you.
Leading something. As church planters, our goal is to “equip the saints [that’s you!] for the work of ministry.” You may be hosting a community group in your home, or facilitating group discussions; you may be reaching out to nearby schools and serving their needs; you may be helping us balance the budget (ewwww numbers!) or coordinating nursery care for the little ones. Depending on your giftedness, we will be asking every Launch Team member to lead something.
Discipling someone. Jesus told us to go and make disciples, baptizing and teaching. Don’t worry, we’ll equip you with simple tools for discipling others… but then we’ll expect you to use those tools in your spheres of influence.
Inviting everyone you build relationships with to become a part of this church family. (Did you know that over 80% percent of people who start attending church do so because they were simply invited by a friend?)
Setting up chairs. Yep. That’ll probably be on every Launch Team member’s to-do list for a while.
Arriving early / staying late. Once public worship starts, Sundays will look very different than what you’re probably used to. Say goodbye to the days of just showing up before all the donuts are gone! But don’t worry, we’ll have a lot of fun together serving God’s people!
What are the best ways for us to support, both with our time and financially? What happens with those funds and does it have any impact on funding received from “mother” churches?
There are many benefits of being a part of a a traditional (established) congregation--designated buildings, men’s & women’s ministries, special events geared towards kids & youth, LWML, MOPS, the list could go on! These things are all wonderful AND they require a certain amount of time to support and maintain.
In contrast, a church plant lacks many of these things. A definite “pro” is that it takes relatively little time & money support the organization (can you say no meetings?!). An obvious “con” is that it does not have (and will not have, for quite some time) those definite benefits listed above.
What this all boils down to is that RIGHT NOW we want you to use your time 1) building relationships with people where you live, work, worship, & play and 2) spending time getting to know the vision for this church plant... attend a vision gathering or a prayer walk… and when we start Launch Team Training (in March), make time in your schedule for that! (Check out the answer the question above, too--especially the part about discipling someone and inviting everyone!)
As for funding, at some point down the timeline, we’ll ask our Launch Team members to begin tithing to the church plant. At this point (early 2019), we’d ask you to consider making regular offerings to the church plant. Offerings are above-and-beyond giving, not taking away from the tithe you give to your current congregation.
The pastor’s salary is provided for due to the generosity of the partnership / “mother” churches, but we ARE currently fundraising for ministry needs. Offerings received now will not have any impact on the support received from the mother churches.
Since our operating costs are super-minimal right now (a few stamps here, some printer paper there), we’re able to save up for very BIG expenses later this year (chairs, signage, sound equipment, etc.). Check out the “How You Can Help” page or click here to set up a one-time or recurring offering.
Planting a church is really hard and there will be many struggles to get it off the ground. What has been the most difficult challenge, so far? Are there specific things that we (either as people in the community or as people in the supporting congregations) can do to help?
You’re spot on. Planting a church will be really hard because when God is on the move, Satan starts working overtime.
“Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour” (1 Peter 5:8). But God is building this church; the gates of hell will not prevail against it (Matthew 16:8). Now did you catch that? The church is on offense; gates can only work defense! That is why, when difficulties come, we rejoice with Paul in that “the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us” (Romans 8:18).
Truth be told, right now we feel like we’re really in the “fun” part. The best thing you can do to support us is to pray fervently against the work Satan will be trying to do. We anticipate he’ll try his typical tactics--distraction, distension, depression, and the like. Pray against those things. Stay in the Word. Remember how the church is on offense? When we put on the full armor of God, note how the offensive weapon in our hands is the “sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God” (Ephesians 6:17).
How can we keep praying?
There’s an old adage that goes, “When a church is started, Satan sets up a chapel next door.” Whenever people hear the good news about Jesus and are brought into His kingdom, Satan isn’t happy about it and will do everything he can to hinder that process. So many people have been praying for our family, and for that we are extremely grateful! We would ask that those prayers be extended to include the launch team and the community members we are striving to reach.
One of our mentors has remarked that the “army of God advances on its knees.” The successful launch of a healthy, mission-focused, reproducing church will depend solely on God’s grace and faithfulness. Would you pray that God would use us together to become the church He wants to see and that His kingdom would advance through us!
Do we have any idea where we might be holding service until we have a building?
Wanna hear a secret? WARNING: It may sound crazy... and it's even a little terrifying for us… but we may or may not ever have a “church building” (at least like the ones we think of when we typically think “church building”).
If God wants us to investing time and resources into purchasing land and building a facility, we’re gonna do that.
If God wants us to team up with a missionally-minded entrepreneur and open a coffee shop-slash-church, we’re gonna do that.
If God wants us to stay agile and rent forever, we’re gonna do that.
If God wants us to meet in homes throughout the area, we’re gonna do that.
For the launch of public worship in early 2020, we’re probably looking at renting space in either a school or a business in the mission focus area, ideally near Rayford and the Grand Parkway.
With little time from a busy school schedule, kids’ practices, toddler running around, and a husband with an even busier schedule, how can I be helpful through this process of church planting?
Oh my goodness. I just love this question so much. The first thing is so crucial--pray for the people in mission focus area and for the folks who God is calling to be on the Launch Team. This is the very best thing any of us can do!
If you want to do more, I might suggest two options and only you can know to which God is calling you and your sweet family: #1) Simplify. Say “no” to some things. And I mean good things. Creating margin in our life is only done through the painful work of carving other things out to make room for better things… and oftentimes those “better things” are as simple as an evening a week to sit on the front porch and wave to your neighbors as your kids play in the yard.
If that’s not what God is calling you to in this season, here’s #2) Let us know how we can help you to be a missionary where you live, work, worship, and play. The best way for you to help us plant a church is to take the message of Jesus Christ into all of those places you will naturally be in any given week! I can’t take the Gospel there but you can.
So the question we have for you is what do you need from us to feel equipped for that Kingdom work? What obstacles are you facing? How can we equip you with the tools you need for success? Our job is to equip the saints--that's you!--for the work of ministry.
Will you be planting a Lutheran Church--Missouri Synod (LCMS) congregation?
Yes! Mark is a called and ordained pastor in the LCMS and Laura is a called and commissioned Director of Christian Education (DCE) in the LCMS. This church plant was formed and continues to be supported by Resurrection, Christ the King, Joy, and The Dwelling (all of which are LCMS congregations).
Will you practice use the practice of liturgy at your public worship gatherings?
I love this question because it's one we've been personally wrestling with for several years now. The answer is "yes" but probably not exactly like you’re used to if you grew up in the Lutheran Church.
In the early church, call-and-response patterns (liturgy) were actually a means of helping new believers memorize and internalize God’s Word. We plan to use liturgy similarly. If you’re a nerd like me and are interested in more detailed insight into our understanding of liturgy, read an excerpt from my Master’s thesis below (otherwise, scroll down to the last question):
Luther’s perspective on worship was relatively uncomplicated. He suggested all that is required is that the church “come together to hear God’s Word and to respond to him by calling upon him together, praying for every kind of need, and thanking him for the benefits received.” (Luther, Luther's Works: Sermons I, 33.) These patterns of response are typically referred to as liturgy.
In biblical times, the word liturgy simply meant “public service.” (Brauer and Precht, Lutheran Worship: History and Practice, 59.) The Greek leitourgia literally means “a public act or duty performed by individual citizens for the benefit of the state.” (Reed, The Lutheran Liturgy, 19.)... In the New Testament, Paul uses this word to refer both to the rulers of the state and servants of Christ. This was a word the church adapted from culture—it was not solely a “church” word. In fact, a “Christian’s entire response to God, his ‘service’ or ministry,’ whether in [corporate worship] through rites or outside [of corporate worship] in what we might today call social work, was regarded as his ‘liturgy.’”(Brown, Living the Liturgy: A Guide to Lutheran Worship, 7.) Only after the turn of the fifth century did this word become used in the narrow sense we know today as a word for “the action of Christians as they assemble for worship in their churches.” (Ibid.) This is fascinating when we consider that before A.D. 500, the work of the people inside and outside the church was described using the very same word...
Knowledge of history can help churches avoid the heretical potholes of preceding eras, and knowledge of culture can help them communicate the pure Gospel in a meaningful way. A practical suggestion for leaders who are in the beginning stages of crafting out their congregation’s worship life is to utilize the resources offered by those who know the church’s history as well as those who understand the challenges of the present age. Just as a new church would not think twice about consulting an architect for advice on crafting a building, they should consider just as carefully the advice of a “worship curator” who could help them in crafting a service. Congregations should develop “their own liturgy within strict parameters by taking advantage of the expertise of liturgiologists who know the tradition and who are trying to be faithful to it” (Brauer and Precht, Lutheran Worship, 25) and balance this with the advice of those who are in touch with the cultural climate...
[And finally,] a key concept to keep in mind is that newest is not always best, nor is oldest always best—biblically-faithful is best. A leader's guide to corporate worship simply does not exist. If one was necessary, God would have given it to us. As it is, historical patterns and present-day culture must be thoughtfully balanced and “what is good for one congregation may be a disaster for another” (Ibid., 21). For example, “a ‘high church’ service in a small country church is not just bad liturgy, it is bad taste.” (Ibid., 37). This leaves room for flexibility. Congregations should give grace to one another as each one determines the practicalities in their own context.
As a church plant I would like to know how you will replicate [insert cool thing some other church is doing].
Not naming any names or anything, but some people [*cough* Ted Doering *cough*] are bound to ask why we’re not doing this-or-that.
“Will millenials come if we don’t offer avocado toast after the service?”
“When will we have a youth ministry, complete with laser light shows?”
“How will we reach the lost if our pastor doesn’t wear skinny jeans?”
“Can we even call ourselves a church without the Keurig Five-Million and coffee beans overnighted from Ethiopia?”
Here’s the thing. God is not calling any church to be a copycat of the church next door. If He had specific blueprints in mind, I have to believe He would have given us something more specific than, “Go and make disciples… baptizing & teaching them to obey…”
Each church’s vision is their unique expression of this Great Commission and the Great Commandment (to love God & love others). Our vision is to be resurrected disciples, inviting people to walk with us as we walk with Jesus. We won’t try to replicate the church next door. We will try to be faithful to the vision God has placed before us!
P.S. Yes, I can call out Ted Doering because he’s a fellow church planter and he’s doing awesome Kingdom work in Round Rock, TX! (And he’s being faithful to the vision that God has placed on his church--check out Narrative Church to see their unique expression of the Great Commandment & Great Commission!)
Thanks to everyone who submitted questions!