Church Planters Meet Before Annual Conference


By Fred Koenig

Some people started their conferencing a little early in Springfield this week. Missouri Conference Director of Congregational Excellence Bob Farr, along with consultant Cathy Townley, led a New Church Leadership Institute “boot camp” for church planters at Schweitzer UMC from Tuesday through Thursday. 
About 25 people participated in the event. It concluded on Thursday with Farr making a presentation on Ten Essentials for Transformational Leadership in New and Existing Churches (see sidebar). 
Farr advised those attending to look for ways people in their new churches can experience small, medium and large groups. For people who have never been involved in church, sharing with others around kitchen table in the first week during a Bible study may be too much. Conference events, like the WOW youth rally, give small congregations the opportunity to experience large events. 
Farr cautioned the planters that it is natural for a new church to grow to the size of 60 – 80 people and plateau, but that size isn’t enough giving units to support a pastor. Strategies must be employed to keep growth from slowing down before a church reaches self-sustainability. 
Farr said his approach may be considered old-school, but he believes that first time visitors should be contacted within 24 hours of visiting the church. 
“If you’re at a church of under 300 people, the person making that contact should be you,” he said. “After you make that initial connection, then you can work on getting that person connected to your caring system.” 
The planters were encouraged to have a clear discipleship plan, which spells out “What comes next” at every step in the process. It’s the pastor’s job to maintain focus on the vision, but the pastor must also be developing leaders, not just doers. 
“You can start with our Lay Leadership Development (LLD) course, but then you should build your own leadership development program, based on the culture in your church,” Farr said. 
In the area of generosity, Farr said offerings should be taken from the first small group gathering of the launch team, and leaders should be asked to fully tithe. If this doesn’t happen, a gap will develop which will make it difficult for the church to later achieve self-sustainability.