By David Dummitt
Church planting has been a dynamic practice for 20 centuries, with methods and strategies morphing in response to context and culture. Modern church planting is seeing tremendous success as it shifts from “traditional” to a network church-planting model.
The classic “parachute-drop” model is one of the most common methods we have seen in the last century. In this model, a church planter sets out like a pioneer to launch a church where there is no church. Typically, in this traditional, high-risk model, the church planter sets out with limited resources and few (if any) connections.
In the “mother-daughter” church-planting model that has been popular in recent centuries, an existing church provides the initial leadership and resources (financial and/or people) for a new church. It’s common for the mother church to select as church planter a person who has already bought into the DNA of the mother church.
A third way churches have been engaged in church planting is by supporting regional church-planting organizations. In this model, churches give financially to the regional group, and then the regional group plants new churches. Supporting churches may or may not be personally involved in the plant beyond their regular support to the organization.
As it has throughout history, church-planting methodology is shifting. At present, church planters are stepping away from some of these models and are instead practicing collaborative network church planting. We are seeing tremendous levels of success around the globe as churches work together as teams, rather than planting solo. Network organizations like ARC (The Association of Related Churches), Stadia, NewThing, and others serve as relational frameworks for churches to come to the table and strategically plant more churches together.
Here are four key reasons why the network model is gaining traction:
1. New church plants are influenced by multiple sending churches
The mother church model highly influences the DNA of a new church plant. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but it is important to remember that a church reproduces what it is, not what a team wants it to be. The mother-church model gives the new church plant both its good and bad DNA.
Network church planting allows multiple churches to influence the DNA of a new church plant. A church planter can take on the thriving healthy parts of church partners and leave behind less desirable attributes. Additionally, because church leaders are in relationship with one another, they share best practices, thereby getting better themselves. Teamwork sharpens every player at the table!
2. Network church planting allows churches of all sizes and budgets to get involved
Some of the more traditional church-planting models are possible only for larger churches with big budgets. Network church planting allows all players to join the team, regardless of congregation size or budget. All church leaders have a place at the table to contribute what they can offer. Just as every individual person in a local congregation plays an important role in the local church, every local church has a role to play in church planting!
3. A larger percentage of money goes directly to a church plant
In my experience, network churches that are relationally involved in a church plant tend to give more money to a new church-planting project than to a more centralized church-planting organization, which requires more overhead to run. Network church planting minimizes overhead as each church shoulders some of the load, allowing for a significantly larger percentage of money to go directly to the plant.
4. Network church planting accelerates reproduction
Planting a new church takes time; sometimes a long time. But church-planting networks allow churches to partner with other churches to shoulder the work of church planting as a team. Shared resources and leadership significantly reduce the burden church planting would have on an individual church and increase the likelihood that the same group of sending churches will plant more churches together. This team mentality accelerates the reproducing process.
Church planting is a critical part of Jesus’ mission. As church leaders, it’s our responsibility to get in the game. Network church planting is a highly relational, sustainable method of planting churches that plant more churches. It also allows each one of us to have a place at the church-planting table, no matter the size or budget of the church we lead. Our engagement means furthering the mission of Jesus, while simultaneously being sharpened, strengthened, and encouraged by other church leaders.
David Dummitt is the lead pastor and planter of 2|42 Community Church, Brighton, Michigan, one of the largest and fastest-growing churches in the country. He is also on the lead team of NewThing Network, a catalyst for reproducing churches worldwide.