Why is it that in a denomination with the slogan “A thousand church plants, a thousand different models” that when it comes to Anglo church planting there seems to be only one model that gets any serious conversation: The Pastor Developer Model.

Talk about so yesterday. And so expensive. .And so very, very ineffective for most church starts. It’s not that the model doesn’t work … it has good potential, it’s simply that very few mainline denominations have the funding to do it right, and so the church plant falters and seldom succeeds in becoming a vital church that is self-supporting, let alone a church that plants other churches. In today’s world the pastor developer model must fund not only a senior pastor, but in general a professional church planting team with a worship pastor and a discipleship/lay mobilizing pastor. Successful PD models often fund as many as five team members to ensure effectiveness. Each of these team members are fully assessed (beyond the pulse and breathing test) and they are fully trained and coach-supported (trained coaches, not just encouragers). When this team hits the ground, they hit it running and when the denomination pushes for an early public launch (and the denomination ALWAYS pushes for a premature public launch), the team is ready for it, ether to dig their collective heels in, or to collectively agree and push forward. And I don’t suppose I mentioned that the funding includes at least five-figures for grand opening marketing.

But here’s what the mainliners typically do (with the PD model). They fund a salary and ministry fully for the first year and then cut the funding over the next two or three years … as if the pastor needs extra funding the first year when s/he has NO worship, no church members, etc. and will need less in the second or third year when it’s most likely the church will actually be ready for a launch.
Something seems backwards to me.

The fact is, there really are a lot of different models for church planting – even in the mainline. But I keep hearing misguided and misinformed denominational leaders say, “We can’t afford to try an experimental model – we MUST have a success” as if their under-funded PD model without effective assessment and coaching somehow guarantees a success.

So … what other models are there? The denominational slogan has it right: there are literally thousands. But let me offer a couple quickies. First, there’s the meta-model – a church of small groups (not a church with small groups). This model begins much more slowly than the PD model, but costs less in the long run. The assessed and coached planter begins by building a small group of genuine seekers that they’ve raised up in the field (not a collection of disgruntled formerly churched retreads recruited by the denomination). BTW, if a planter can’t raise up a group of seekers in month or two, what are they doing planting a church? They’re obviously not suited for it. These seekers are discipled from the beginning and within a couple of months have multiplied their small group at least once … oh, and the planter should have been able to launch at least one new group of seekers during that time. And so it goes until there are at least ten small groups with at least ten in each group … with each group having at least a couple of identified future leaders. Only then is the church ready to begin the public worship process.

The second model, and in some ways the most effective and price conscious model, is for a healthy local church to enter into the multi-site process. In this case, a healthy church simply starts an off-site service that is indigenous to a particular target in the community. The new service launches with a worship sevice designed specifically for that target audience, complete with music, technology, and hospitality in the style and of the calibre expected of the target. The multi-site doesn’t need a preacher, but it does need a host pastor who will be the face of the off-site church and who will do follow-up and be in charge of ensuring effective pastoral care. The founding church generally provides the “sermon” via a feed or a DVD (or USB Flash Drive). There are lots of reasons why this kind of start works, but not the least of which is that the two sites share the resources of the founding church. The key to success here, however, is that the founding church MUST BE HEALTHY, and there are so very few healthy mainline churches that there are many cities, let alone towns, that could not pull this off even if they wanted to. And for those who are thinking it takes a large church to do multi-site, consider that it is reported that churches with less than 200 in worship are successfully launching multi-site churches.

There are many, many more models out there. House church networks are finally seeing some success.
Marketplace driven churches are being launched here and there. And “factory” churches (churches based within an industry, including the hospitality industry) are starting to pop up here and there. The sky’s the limit … but we have to get the lid off of the Pastor Developer Jar first.