How Do I Know if My Church Plant is Healthy?
Do you ever wonder if your church planting ministry is healthy? Sometimes that's the last thing on the mind of a planter when he just finished the Sunday morning worship service that was packed with unplanned events. I remember one Sunday we showed up to set up and the school cafetorium (cafeteria + auditorium) had no power. Of course this happened in the middle of August in Florida! Once we finally got the power turned on, it was too late to cool the space for worship. We worshipped in a 90 degree room. We found solace in the idea that people all over the world worshipped God in much worse circumstances. It was still hot but at least we convinced ourselves that we were "suffering for Jesus" or something like that...
As we engage in the journey of church planting, in between the catastrophes that seem to happen on a regular basis, sometimes we have a moment or two to ponder the health of our church plant. Do you ever find yourself asking if your plant is healthy?
In his book, Kingdom First, Jeff Christopherson discusses this question and provides four metrics for measuring the health (Kingdom effectiveness) of your church plant.
I think these four metrics are a great place for us to start as we evaluate our the health o our church plants.
#1 New Believers
Christopherson writes, "The first and primary phase of any new church plant must be a concentrated and intense focus on effective evangelism." How many of the people involved in your ministry are individuals who became believers as a result of your ministry? How many of the people involved in your ministry joined your ministry from another church or were believers before they joined your work? Don't get me wrong. Believers who know how to serve and desire to do so are like gold for us. It's hard to measure their value because they might bring encouragement, spiritual fruit, and financial support to the plant. If the majority of your folks were believers before they joined your plant, however, you might need to evaluate your evangelistic efforts.
#2 New Disciple Makers
Are the believers in your plant making disciples? Christopherson writes, "A church plant that will have substantial kingdom impact will regularly measure its effectiveness in engaging the breadth of its membership in the assignment of being fishers of men." Remember, however, that you must be the lead disciple maker. We can't expect our team to do something that we are unwilling to do ourselves. An effective church plant fulfills the Great Commission and makes disciples.
#3 New Communities of Faith
I realize that there is a tremendous amount of pressure at the onset of a church planting ministry. I have often felt like I had a huge clock above my head ticking down and once I ran out of time I would be at the end of my financial support and better have a self-sustaining church at that point. What I realized from this experience is that we need to create longer runways for our planting ministries and develop more realistic financial plans for our personal and ministry budgets. If we do this, perhaps we will have a greater likelihood of planting pregnant (engaged in the process of planting a second gen church from the beginning of our own plant). We must integrate rapid multiplication (planting churches that plant churches that plant churches) into the DNA of our plant from the beginning. It isn' something that happens by accident. Christopherson writes, "Developing metrics (or a road map) for a new church plant to sacrificially multiply (or partner with others in planting) new congregations as a normal part of its lifestyle is a vital sign of kingdom health." I realize some planters are just struggling to develop a critical mass and consistent ministry but every planter must be willing to develop a "Timothy" in order to expand the Kingdom.
#4 Transforming Communities
The phrase is quoted so often, it has become unclear with whom it originated, but it is still an effective question: "If your church ceased to exist, would anyone care?" Effective church plants transform the communities where they exist. Christopherson describes this as the membership transforming the community through good works. Christians should be the number one doers of good works all over the world all of the time. Our works are the consequence the the chief good work Jesus did for us on the cross.
I think these metrics, while difficult to practice, are four of the most important things our plants could do for Jesus. Aren't these the definition of a healthy Christian church? Are they a part of your church plant?