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November 20, 2018

Nine Systems Within a Church Planting System

By Ed Stetzer

Looking across the spectrum of church planting networks and denominations, there are nine basic systems that make up a typical Church Planting System in a North American church planting network.

  1. Prayer

A prayer strategy is the lifeline of any church planting network. One example of this is a regular prayer time, such as the way that the C2C Network staff and planters pray every day at 10:02 according to Luke 10:2, asking the Lord of the harvest to send out workers into His field. Other networks mobilize their existing churches through the web, social media, or postcards to pray for new or potential church plants and planters.

  1. Recruiting/Discovery

The best recruitment and discovery strategies don’t just focus on attracting potential church planters from outside the movement—they also focus on making disciples from within the movement who will one day plant churches. A recruitment strategy often provides a clear pathway for someone who feels called to church planting but needs help discerning how to respond to that call.

  1. Assessment

The assessment process is often kicked off with a pre-assessment process, which allows the network to get to know the potential planter. There are various ways assessments can happen today, from online applications to video interviews to the more common approach of utilizing a multi-day assessment center. Assessment philosophies can range from helping candidates discern their church planting calls to assessing the levels of financial partnerships with the candidates.

  1. Funding

Today, fewer networks are using a one-size-fits-all approach to funding. Some networks have even opted out of formally funding new church starts. But, the majority are helping their church planters think through the financial needs of their church plants. A funding strategy should be strongly linked to the vision and overall strategy of the organization. It must include plans to increase or decrease the overall funding base and resources given to church plants.

  1. Training/Prospectus

Funding and training are typically offered to planters who have passed assessment and are ready to move on to developing a church planting strategy and prospectus. Different networks have various methods of training—from a standardized approach to an á la carte technique. The end goal is always to help planters develop a strategy that accounts for their strengths and limitations, as well as their need for a team and a strategic approach to evangelism, discipleship, and multiplication. In fact, according to research found in Multiplication Today, Movements Tomorrow by Ed Stetzer and Daniel Im, the more prepared planters were, the more likely they were to multiply themselves and start a daughter church in their first five years of existence.

  1. Coaching

In addition to training, most networks have identified quality coaching as one of the major factors for the success of a church planter. While many networks function without a fully developed coaching strategy, most networks find a way to provide mentoring and accountability for their planters. This coaching is sometimes done through direct relationships with the network leaders; other times, it is accomplished through paid professional coaches. Many networks are building coaching systems among experienced planters within their own networks.

  1. Events/Ongoing Training

In addition to training and coaching, events like boot camps, orientation, and regular training provide planters within a network a sense of community and ongoing learning. Larger networks often hold regular regional gatherings to tackle issues specific to their surrounding area. Event planning becomes a system in and of itself because of its tremendous value and the energy required to implement events well.

  1. Planter and Spousal Care

Networks are becoming more aware of the needs of the church planting family and how its health impacts the longevity of the church planter’s ministry. Some networks have created church planter spousal groups as a support system for the church planting family, since church planting can often come with its own effects on a family. A planter care system often includes regular prayer, care packages, and retreats for the planting couple and family.

  1. Church Multiplication

It used to be that multiplication was reserved for the ‘best’ church plants. Now, networks want to see all churches multiply. A systematic approach to helping churches value multiplication principles such as internships, residencies, leadership pipelines, releasing, and sending are becoming a necessary part of a CPS. The most serious networks structure some, if not most, of their resources around building these systems.

There is much more that goes into a CPS, but these nine basic systems are common or are becoming common among most church planting networks in North America. Oftentimes, the systems feed into one another and are much more integrated than described above. Other times, a church plant will receive different aspects of a CPS from different networks. It is important to realize that the rise of church planting systems over the last few decades has been in response to the focus on identifying and assessing qualified church planters.

*This article is an excerpt from Best Practices in Church Planting Systems that I wrote with Jeff Christofferson, Daniel Yang, and Daniel Im. Download the e-book for free.



Ed Stetzer

Ed Stetzer (@edstetzer), is a professor and dean at Wheaton College who also serves as Executive Director of the Wheaton College Billy Graham Center. Stetzer has planted, revitalized, and pastored churches, trained pastors and church planters on six continents, has earned two master’s degrees and two doctorates, and has written hundreds of articles and a dozen books. He is regional director for Lausanne North America and publishes research through Mission Group. Stetzer is a contributing editor for Christianity Today, a columnist for Outreach Magazine, and is frequently cited in, interviewed by, and writes for news outlets such as USAToday and CNN. He is the founding editor of The Gospel Project, a curriculum used by more than 1.7 million individuals each week for bible study. His national radio show, Ed Stetzer Live, airs Saturdays across the country. He serves as teaching pastor at Highpoint Church in Chicago and has been the interim teaching pastor at Moody Church in downtown Chicago.


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