Church Planting: The Mother Church

I started reading books on raising tweens and the challenges of that as they grow up into adolescence when my daughter turned 11. One comment in particular stuck out to me in a book aptly titled, How to Hug a Porcupine. The author was talking about the change my daughter is going through, the metamorphosis that’s happening in her as she’s learning how to be a big girl with big girl emotions and big girl independence, and it was talking about how my parenting of her when she was younger was sufficient for who she was then, but not for who she is becoming right now. The sentence I highlighted was this: 

“You too must go through a metamorphosis.”

This is true for the mother church in church planting too — you will have to change. I love the family metaphor of the sending church and the church plant — the mother/daughter relationship. We could definitely take the analogy too far into absurdity, but the analogy of family can help frame the relationship, especially in its infancy.

There’s no formula or template in parenting, and we don’t cookie-cutter, franchise church plants — every kid is different, you know? They have different needs, different personalities, different gift mixes, different challenges; adaptive leadership will be necessary. But you should already know how to do that. It’s what you do already with your staff and leaders and people in your church, and it’s what you’ll need to do as you send out a planter and a core team.


They say it takes someone seven times before they actually hear you, before it sticks…And the problem with that is time. 

Time is something  you probably don’t have much of. If you’re a growing, healthy church, with a big vision of planting churches, you have disciples being made, leaders being raised up and a staff and elders, and oh yeah, a church you’re sending out, there’s not much time. But fighting for clarity takes time.

There’s no formula for church planting, but clarity does have a formula. It’s Clarity = Trust + Over Communication. 

Over communicating takes time…it has to be formal, written communication, and organic, coffee table communication. I want to over communicate with the planter and encourage him to over communicate with his church planting team. As well, there has to be trust that’s built so we believe what’s being said. 

Think about how much time Paul spent with Timothy and then how much thought and prayer went into his communication to him. He was intentional, he wasn’t distant or general, but affectionate and specific with him…even telling him to drink some more wine for his health. Every sending church should tell the church planter to drink more wine — it’s biblical!

It takes time to over communicate, but you have to do it. So build trust and over communicate, and I think you have a good shot at clarity.

Our first church plant we sent out one of my closest friends, Ryan. He had come to the church and was a faithful member, then leader, then staff person, then our first elder. We had four years of friendship and history together, and still, we needed dozens of conversations around his calling, his giftings, and his desires to plant a church. Of course we hadn’t planted yet, so we were learning along the way, but it took google docs and whiteboards and conversations over lunch to get to a point of clarity around what this daughter church would look like.

Relationship is everything. Relationship will cover a multitude of church planting sins. It’s easy for any planter to feel like a trophy, a token…we do that sometimes with baptisms and stories of redemption…as if they’re for our glory or the glory of our church’s name and not the glory of Christ’s name alone. 

Relationship is the only way to battle against unspoken expectations, fear of man, fear of failure, fear of looking incompetent, trust issues, daddy issues — all of that seeps into our communication with one another, it’s like a dirty filter. 

Trust is built in very small moments. It takes a long time to build and it’s easily lost, so you have to fight for it.


If you have a scarcity mindset in the kingdom of God, you are not ready to plant churches. 

If you don’t think Jesus has a bunch of money and people and leaders in his back pocket, then I think you need to go back to your bible before you go back to your elders and tell them you want to plant a church or be a church planting church.

When you plant a church you’re gonna be sending out your best — your top givers, your best leaders. We told each of our planters that everyone in the church was fair game…no one was out of bounds. And here’s the thing, most of the people that will go be a part of a church plant are gonna be your most committed folks — they’ve caught the vision, they’re all in for the kingdom, they want to see the mission of God advance. 

We’ve sent out over 250 people and six elders. But every time our attendance was right back to where it was just a few months later, and giving just a few months after that, and the Spirit raised up more elders. Default to being extraordinarily generous, and trust Jesus to provide.

Now, we actually don’t give money to our church plants. I think that will change in the future a little bit, but our investment in them is in the residency and in sending them with people. For one thing, we don’t have a huge budget, and the residency takes most of our church planting dollars. 

But also it’s a huge part of the confidence and confirmation for the planter to go out and have to raise the $50,000 or so a year — or whatever your context stipulates. I want to send them out with the tools to provide for themselves. But anytime they need help financially — like any good parent would — we want to be there to help.

Be open handed with your money, your people, your equipment. I remember when we were planting, I met with a large church in the city to ask for support, and they took me on a tour of their facility, and there were literally 100 flat screens on the walls throughout their facility. They had a huge storage room with equipment, and they offered me nothing. Then one small church gave us a torn screen, another church gave us a wobbly stage, another church gave us an old projector, and it was such a blessing! 

Be generous with your staff too. Make sure your children’s minister gets time with the church planter. Get him time with your music guy…with our first church plant we sent out a whole music team…invite your whole church to be generous with their time and money too.

A Gospel Legacy

We all overestimate what we think we can accomplish in our own church…the people who will come, the influence we will have, the salvations we will see, we all want more and we get frustrated when it’s inevitably not enough. But I think we actually underestimate what the Spirit can do through us to multiply us. 

Think of the Gospel legacy we get to be a part of? 

Our churches probably won’t be around a hundred or so years from now, but the kingdom will still be advancing, the Spirit will be moving, Jesus will be flexing, and the glory of God will one day cover the earth like the waters cover the seas. That’s what we’re invited into.