One of our #PlantBC aims is to support and encourage pioneer church plants. A pioneer church plant happens when just one or two people start to reach a community with the Gospel. Over time as people respond to the good news they start to gather together for prayer, Bible teaching and praise. This is different to a mother-daughter church plant where you send maybe 30-40 people from an existing congregation to start a church.
This type of work is obviously costly, challenging and long term but what greater encouragement can there be than to see a church start completely from scratch and know that all its members will be new converts not recycled church attendees?
It is likely that if we are to reach many of our estates and communities in urban Britain, and especially here in Sandwell and the Black Country that church plants will primarily happen in this way as we will need to start in areas where there are no Christians already living.
So, if you were considering a pioneer church plant in the Black Country or West Birmingham, how might you go about it with us?
- Discernment and Planning
The first stage will be taking time to discern whether this is the right step forward. This would begin with a conversation with your home church elders. Are you the right person for the work? Is this the right time in life? They may advice you that this would not fit with your gifts and character or they may encourage you to wait until you have got through some particular challenges, fulfilled a responsibility, or gained more experience.
If your home church believes this is something worth exploring then the next step would be to contact us. We would take time to talk and pray with you as well as introducing you to experienced church planters who would help you gain more insight into what is involved. Part of the conversation would be to see if we are on the same page in terms of theology and approach. We want to make sure that a partnership will be a good fit.
The next stage would be to help you identify a suitable area to plant. We have lots of local knowledge between you and will be able to talk through different locations, what the situation is and what is already happening Gospel wise.
Then you will need to consider practicalities. Will you need to work in the area where you move to? Are you able to raise financial support from church and friends? We are not able to pay salaries but we may be able to help you seek out supporters.
We will also talk with you about your training needs. You may already have completed some theological training, if not, you have the option of training locally through either the Midlands Training Course or our Union Learning Community. There is also additional training and support available specifically related to church planting.
You would then be able to look into options for either buying or renting a property in that area. This discernment and planning process might take anything between 1 and 3 years. It is not to be rushed.
We believe that our pioneer church planters should be thoroughly trained for what is a demanding, life-long commitment. So, during your first two years, we would encourage you to study for the Union GDip in Theology at our Learning Community. You would complete about 1.5 days of study each week via personal reading and access to online lectures and material plus 1 day joining with other students in our Learning Community for tutorials and seminars.
This is just one part of the training. The other part is practical. Ideally for those two years we would encourage you to be available full time although we appreciate that some pioneers will need to work to raise income. The practical side of training will include opportunities to preach, lead Bible studies, gain experience of a variety of outreach activities etc. We will also be working alongside you as you start to reach out to your own local community.
Practical training works best when you get the opportunity to observe others at work, try for yourself and receive feedback from a mentor.
Once a month, there will be opportunity to meet together with other church planters for prayer, encouragement and discussion. We will also link you in with 2020 Birmingham who offer a programme called “Incubator” for new church planters.
3, Starting a missional community
During the two years training we would also expect you to be getting to know your neighbours, building up contacts, having one to one conversations about Jesus. In fact, this is an ongoing part of the discernment process. If a church plant is likely to be viable we would be hoping to see some signs of response over those two years. This does not mean that we would expect the plant to be established but by the end of the training period we would be seeking to see examples of people wanting to know more, some 1-1 Bible studies happening, maybe a small group of people taking things further.
So, this part starts in parallel with training and is on-going. We will work with you to help you identify the opportunities for Gospel witness. This will start with making friends, being a good neighbour, having natural conversations. It will probably include some door to door work and if there is a public area where people congregate such as a shopping precinct, some form of open air evangelism.
It will include using hospitality, talking with people over meals etc. It may also include identifying opportunities to do things together as a community -maybe a fun day or sports event, maybe organising a parents and toddlers group etc. Again, where you need help to organise something we would work with you.
The aim is to move to opening God’s Word with individuals and in small groups. We have resources to help with this including our First Look Rooted courses.
Our prayer is that people will respond to the Gospel, profess faith and be baptised.
- Establishing a church
Our aim is to see healthy churches established. A healthy church will:
– Be centred on God’s Word. There will be consistent Bible teaching
– Have plural elders
– Be responsible for baptising new believers and also for exercising church discipline
– Regularly share the Lord’s Supper
– Be working together to share the Gospel with others.
A church may still need support including resources, financial help etc from other churches. We want to encourage interdependence.
So, over time, we would help you to establish a church membership and to identify suitable leaders. Our desire would be to see the majority of leaders emerge from within the congregation but we may also help by loaning one or two people for a time to help with leadership.
We would also help you link into an appropriate national church network such as Partnership or the FIEC.
Your next steps
If you have read this article all the way to the end it is because you are seriously considering getting involved in church planting yourself or know someone who is. If that is so, please take time to find out more about the ActBC initiative and then to talk with your home church leaders. If they think this is worth pursuing, please get in touch via our contact page.