Church planters and/or those involved in revitalisation must know who it is they are trying to reach with the gospel of Jesus Christ. We need to consider our target community before we can proceed to establish/revitalise a church at any level. Here are some questions we ask our church planters to research in the initial months.
- What is your vision for a church in this community?
- Who are the key people you need to involve in the work? What are their gifts?
- Who do you want to reach?
- How will you reach them effectively?
- What other groups are at work in this community, secular or otherwise? How (in)effective are they?
- Who can help you learn more about your community?
- Is there somebody in this community who will offer you a way in?
- What kind of people do you naturally attract? Are these people in your community? (The more you have in common with people, the quicker they are able to share your vision and mission as you develop a launch team).
- Who do I need to recruit in order to attract people I cannot naturally reach?
- How will you build intentional relationships within your community? On your own? As a couple? As a launch group?
- What might an indigenous church look like in this community?
- What is your plan for evangelism and discipleship?
- How will you build a launch team? What will you teach them? How will you train them?
A church plant that proposes to reach everybody in the area straight away is probably not realistic. No one person can effectively reach every group or sub-group, culture or sub-culture in a community. You will need help both within and without the community to really function effectively. In the schemes, you are going to be among unbelievers close to 100% of the time. Therefore, make sure it is strategic in order to be effective. Of course, believers will come along and people will be saved. When that happens, disciple people from the off, but make sure your contact with unbelievers never drops below 75% of your time. As more Christians are added to your number, train them to have the same mindset within their own particular sphere of influence. It is easy to get distracted by the needs of new (and mature) Christians. Of course, we want to pastor them, but we also don’t want to lose momentum or sight of our long-term vision and objectives.
These are the basic elements of the strategic plan for any new church. It is merely a starting point. Write things down. Have aims and objectives. Communicate them. If you aim at nothing, you will get precisely that. Hold everything loosely. Be flexible and adaptable at a moment’s notice. The best church planters are able to make quick, intuitive decisions based on new information about their community as they discover it.