I consider it a blessing that I get to work with church planters everyday. Many have done exhaustive research and months of preparation in the area of planning. But some, unfortunately, place little or no emphasis on planning.
The fact is, you will greatly increase the probability of success by creating a well thought-out church planting plan, proposal, or master plan. Just as you would think through every detail and create a business plan before starting your own business, you want to think through every aspect of your church plant via what we call a Master Plan. The Master Plan is a well-written, eye-appealing document that helps:
You may have a great idea in your head, but people don’t readily give their time or treasure to great ideas. They want to see a plan. Whether someone is partnering with you as part of your launch team or agreeing to support you financially, they want to see your strategy, your budget and your timeline. Every time you cast vision to a potential partner, you’ll hand them a copy of your master plan.
In addition, your time will be in short supply once the plan is set in motion, and the master plan will help you stay on track. Without a plan, it won’t take long before you’ll be juggling too many plates.
Great clarity comes when you write out your master plan. If you can’t write a plan that is both concise and inspiring, then you haven’t adequately thought it through. Spend the extra hours drafting your plans on paper or on your computer and it will provide a solid foundation upon which to present God’s vision for this new church.
A captivating master plan will include basic elements like church name, your family picture and bio, information about your city, state and location, and a launch date. Don’t underestimate the value of photos and other images that help tell your story throughout your master plan as well. In addition, your master plan will:
Demonstrate a clear calling. A church master plan is largely based on God’s individual calling on you and the area you are called to. Potential partners want to know:
Your calling should answer all of these. The calling is foundational to the church planter. Clearly state, “The Lord has called me to plant a church in …” or, “I sense that God has called me to … .”
Communicate a compelling vision. When God wants to impact a city through a new church plant, He taps someone on the shoulder and places a vision in their heart. You will know when you’ve been called. Bruce Wilkinson once said, “When you find the vision for your life, you won’t take hold of it; it will take hold of you.” A vision is something that begins as a thought and eventually captures your heart and life. Hopefully, God has placed in you a vision to start a new church, and it has captured your heart. You cannot ignore it because it is taking hold of you like “fire shut up in your bones.”
When communicating vision, it is critical to state the need. With need, there must also be a clearly defined strategy along with a projected result: “Ninety-five percent of our city is lost and unchurched. We want to plant a church that loves God and makes a difference in this community sharing the hope found in Christ, ultimately resulting in a church planting movement that will impact the city.” In other words, the master plan must clearly communicate the passion, vision and strategy that will move the potential partner to action.
Express core values. We only do what we truly believe, and core values help you determine as a church planter what your church should be doing as a result of your beliefs. You can’t fake core values because they are what you truly value deep down. Resist the urge to have a long list of core values too early. Compile a short list and focus on those that resonate with your heart and vision. Core values help guide who you are and what you do, always pointing you in the direction you believe God is leading. These values will stop you from getting lost or detoured on the journey. Teach them, quote them, and speak of them often. They are the non-negotiables for your church. Translate them into easily quotable phrases and then live them!
Explain your purpose. A purpose statement rises out of your vision and core values, and the development process itself will help clarify your purpose, understanding and vision for the church. Don’t get bogged down in the difference between a mission statement and a purpose statement. Crafting the purpose statement is just as much for you as for your people. It gives focused clarity to the church’s mission/vision/purpose. State your purpose briefly and simply, and it becomes more powerful. Sample purpose statements include:
Define your community. Research the demographics of the community God has called you to reach. Make it your goal to learn everything you can about the people in your community and include it in the master plan. Learn what the people are like, their needs, their likes and dislikes, their cultural, political and social makeup, their values, etc. In addition to helping you develop your launch strategy, you’ll use what you learn in the years to come as you plan your teaching, promotion and overall ministry strategy. Make good use of the survey and professional census information available online.
Provide a timeline. How and when will this church be planted? Include a detailed timeline for the first 18 months. This is a milestone action plan to get you from where you are to where you want to be at launch and beyond. The best starting point for creating a timeline is to envision your launch day. What do you see? What should launch day look like? Work backward and forward from the launch date, detailing the actions that will result in what you envision. Then simply put dates to each action, developing a schedule or timeline that supports your launch date. Certainly you will have to make some adjustments along the way, but a timeline will help you stay on track with the vision.
Incorporate your budget. As you develop a launch plan and timeline, you’ll be better able to accurately determine the funds needed to support the plan. Four specific areas to focus on are operating, staffing, equipment and marketing. Remember, your prelaunch budget won’t necessarily mirror your operating budget, and you’ll want to consider all startup costs. This exercise will also help determine the actions that could be cut if it became necessary to reduce spending. Once your budget becomes clear, your master plan will be your vision tool for raising the funds needed.
When all the pieces are completed and written, organize them into a master plan that is visually appealing.
A strong master plan will draw potential partners and will help you remain focused on God’s unique purpose for your new church as it introduces itself to the community. You only get one chance to make a first impression.
Want more tools for planting? Join us in Boston October 13-14 for two days of church planter training.