By Tim Lubinus
I would like to use the parachute church planting strategy sparingly. This is a strategy that drops a church planter into a community where he doesn’t really know anyone and no one really knows him. The planter is funded for a few years with denominational money. He is expected to start from nothing and to develop a healthy functioning church before his funding runs out in about three years. This method occasionally works, but we have enough data in Iowa to show it is too often unfruitful and expensive.
Now consider another approach. Someone from within (or even from outside) the state senses God’s leadership to plant a new church in Iowa. Instead of being parachuted into a new community on his own, he prepares by developing relationships with existing churches that have a vision to start a new church in a new community. He serves among them for a time and is then sent and supported by these same churches. Using the partnership principles that I mentioned in Unequally Yoked?, BCI/NAMB funding and other support would only be part of the funding package for the new church.
The selection process with partners is more trustworthy than with the parachute strategy. The planter will only be fully funded if the people who know him best will partner with him in the new start and are willing to put in some of their own funds. If a planter can’t win the support of people who know him well, that is a caution for receiving additional BCI financial support.
This church starting process is more cooperative than the parachute method because nearby churches would be actively involved in the plant. An invitation will be made for existing church members to attend or even join the new church for a time. Others may even be commissioned by the church to relocate to the new community and plant their lives to help the new church get started. Having a solid core of believers committed to the new church start from the beginning is often a key factor in whether the new church gets off the ground or not.
A church sponsorship can also help with the identity of a new church in a community better than the parachute method. Too often there is an awkward moment when a new church planter has to introduce himself in his new community as a pastor without a church building or a congregation. Many Iowans think this is a little strange. With a clear and close partnership with an existing church, he can say that he is leading a group from “Community Baptist Church” up the road to start a similar church in this area.
At the beginning when volunteer resources may be needed for the new church, sponsoring churches will more actively jump in to help than they would in a parachute plant that starts independently and without relationship. A group of willing volunteers, temporary leadership, or even use of office equipment and accounting help from existing church partners can take a load of responsibility off of a new church planter.
The overall support system is better than a parachute plant because the new start is connected to an existing church or churches rather than independent of them. Too often the lonely process of church planting is exacerbated when a church planter is away from family and friends and has no close partners. Active partnership meets these relational and support needs much better than the isolation of the parachute method.
We will likely make some exceptions to this strategy, but I would like our limited NAMB/BCI church-planting funds to be directed more toward church plants with solid church partnerships in the future. I believe that these partnerships will provide a stronger foundation for church plants to move forward in stability and growth.
Have a comment or opinion on this? Write me at TLubinus@bciowa.org.