16 Building Blocks Necessary for Planting a Church, Part 3
Executive Director of Church Planting, Converge Great Lakes
Church planting & multiplication
This month, we continue our series looking at the 16 building blocks or characteristics needed to be an effective church planter. In this article, we will be addressing building blocks four and five: Marriage & Family Relationships and Personal Integrity.
Marriage & Family Relationships
When it comes to church planters, the need to have strong and healthy marriages is an absolutely essential characteristic for the success of the church plant. I have been married for 36 years and my wife has been the key partner in our two church plants. I have often stated that if she hadn’t been in full support, ministry would have never happened. Those in ministry know how important it is to create and maintain a thriving marriage with healthy family dynamics that are synergistic with starting and leading a new church.
As an assessment team, we want to see that the couple has a history of marital investment. Has the couple attended marriage counseling, have they attended marriage conferences and workshops? Are they proactive in creating a healthy, strong marriage? How have they developed a rhythm of spending quality time with their spouse? Do they share a hobby that they enjoy together? (My wife and I, for example, take walks and bike rides together on a regular basis.) Do they prioritize a regular date night?
During the church planting assessment center, we are observing how this couple interacts. Does the church planter communicate openly and warmly with spouse? Do we see a visible and intentional demonstrable priority toward the marriage and family? We assess if the family is excited about ministry and the potential to reach others with the gospel. Does the candidate have a growing relationship with his children? Is parental love and discipline balanced and appropriate?
A healthy church planter will prioritize the relational engagement with the spiritual direction of their children. What is the pattern of devotional time and disciple-making with the family? It is so important to develop a rhythm of discipling children that will include disciplines such as Bible study, instruction, prayer as well as shared ministry with your children.
When we first planted a church, our oldest was just entering her freshmen year in high school, our middle child was entering fifth grade and our youngest was going into second grade. Up to this point, our kids had only experienced private Christian education. When our son asked tearfully, “Are there going to be any Christians in my class?”, we knew we had to become more intentional about casting the church planting vision with our kids to help them see this was now their new mission field as little missionaries. I am proud to report that our kids weathered and thrived in their public-school experience, and they all look back with fond memories of their involvement with the church plant.
The fifth building block is Personal Integrity. This is the quality of being truthful and honest with yourself and others, of intentionally aligning personal behaviors and actions to be congruently aligned with your own personal values, biblical principles, and ethics. It generally requires personal choice and commitment to align ourselves to stay consistent with personal values and ethical standards, so that when we speak, we mean what we say.
Someone once said that, “Our reputation is what others think we are, and integrity is who God knows we are.” The dictionary defines integrity as an adherence to moral and ethical principles. What moral and ethical principles would be involved in church planting?
I believe there are several arenas involving integrity in the area of church planting. God uses the church planter to lead people to personal faith in Jesus Christ, a deeper knowledge of God and ultimately to become more and more like the Lord Jesus. The church planter cannot lead people to a place he has never been, spiritually-speaking. The life of the church planter must then be consistent spiritually. Andy Stanley says, “Becoming a person of character is about change. It is a lifelong process of taking raw materials and molding, shaping, and refining them into a finished product. Whether we like it or not, this process is already happening inside of us. It began the day we were born, and it will continue until the day we die. Our character is either developing or our character is deteriorating. It is not stagnant.”
Paul’s letter to Titus speaks of integrity this way, “For an overseer, as God's steward, must be above reproach. He must not be arrogant or quick-tempered or a drunkard or violent or greedy for gain, but hospitable, a lover of good, self-controlled, upright, holy, and disciplined. He must hold firm to the trustworthy word as taught, so that he may be able to give instruction in sound doctrine and also to rebuke those who contradict it.”
The church planter will also have to establish his ethics in the area of following up on those individuals who have visited the new church plant from like-minded churches in the vicinity. God does lead people to other churches and ministries at different times in their lives. What a blessing it is to inherit mature Christians in a church plant! At the same time, it is respectful and shows integrity to call the pastor where the people are currently attending as a courtesy, to make sure church discipline is not an issue, that the people are not running from problems, that the people are not a problem, to get background, and to not appear as stealing other’s sheep. I was very intentional about this issue and sent letters to every church in the community we planted. I told them I didn’t want their people and their problems. I jokingly said I wanted to create my own problems.
One of the things that will speak volumes to the new church plant, besides a walk with God, love for family and others, is the church planter’s work ethic. The church should not need to wonder if the church planter is lazy. Does the church planter do bi-vocational ministry? I was hired part-time at the local police department and taught in the schools during our first plant. I also did some coaching at the high school. People knew that they could count on me to be reliable and available if needed.
As always, keep an eye out for potential planters and ministry leaders within your church and look for these characteristics in the people you lead.
Glenn Herschberger, Executive Director of Church Planting, Converge Great Lakes
Glenn Herschberger planted his first church, Real Hope Community Church, in Lake Mills, Wisconsin, in 1999. He and his wife, Susan, then served as Converge missionaries in Panama City, Panama, where they planted LifeBridge International Church in 2012. Glenn was the director of Mobilization for Converge in Orlando before being asked to lead the church planting movement for Converge Great Lakes. He received his undergraduate degree from the University of Wisconsin. He is also a graduate of the Center for Excellence in Congregational Leadership and received his master’s degree in biblical counseling from Luther Rice Seminary.