It has been 10 years since the formulation of the Texas Baptists Church Starting Process. The process was planned with 15-20 subject matter experts gathered from around the state that included DOMs, church planters, educators, consultants and Texas Baptists staff in a room at the Convention. Each person was asked the strategic question, “What are the necessary components in a new church start process that will set churches up for projected success and will instill long term loyalty & CP commitment?”
Over a summer, the strategy team treated that question and flushed out the 11 Components that undergird the present Texas Baptists Church Starting process. These components have been tweaked over the years but here they are in original form:
The 11 Components of the Texas Baptists Church Starting Experience.
Church Planter Enlistment - Discover and involve Pastors and Church Planters.
Assessment Process - Identify and evaluate the success potential of the new church planter and vision.
Prayer and Spiritual Vitality - Identify demonstrable maturity, growth and strong spiritual life in church leaders.
Mentoring/Coaching - Create intentional relationships to befriend, teach and advise principal leaders.
Core Group Development - Establish/maintain an essential group of people committed to the Church Start.
Vision Development - Turn the God-given dream of a new church into a continuing resource of inspiration.
Church Type - Create a unique identity for this new body of baptized believers via ministry and worship.
Covenant Expectations and Doctrinal Integrity - Establish mutual understandings to clearly guide relationships, teachings and behaviors aligned to the Bible.
Lay Leaders - Find key personnel, other than staff, to provide services or expertise necessary to New Church Start success.
Training and Development - Equip all involved people to assume roles in the Church Start.
Funding - Determine financial resources necessary for the Church Start.
The strategy team divided these areas up and each team surveyed best practices from across the country and world to see what others were doing. What was produced was a clear intention in each component and how to get that component done. The present system, with its many modifications, is what is in place now.
There are three major components that operate in conjunction with the process that had to be designed, developed and instituted over a period of time. They were the Assessment Process, the Leader Professional Coaching phase and the Leader Training and Development aspects.
In the New Church Start Assessment there are three necessary evaluations.
Assessment of the personality of the planter (PLACE/Birkman/MBTI/DISC)
Assessment of the marital relationship and its healthiness (Prepare Enrich)
Assessment of the entrepreneurial ability of the planter/spouse (Ridley)
These assessments can be done in a number of ways but the expectation is that all three areas will in some way be evaluated. Many Associations/National Conventions (SBC) have assessments that contain these evaluations so they can be accepted per the approval of the Director of Church Starting. What is neat is the integration with local Associations, in that Texas Baptists works alongside Association processes and supplement where necessary. In some cases, Texas Baptists ends up training teams to conduct assessments and the convention’s Church Starters attend were possible to monitor the process and results.
By covenant each of our church planters (pastors) are required to be coached for the first year in our process. This coaching is not to be confused with mentoring in that the coach is not a disseminator of information but rather a facilitator of forward movement. What is meant here is that the coach’s responsibility is to help keep the vision of the church in progress by walking alongside the planter asking provoking/powerful questions that cause organic movement. The planter is mentored with church planting content in the review meetings each quarter by the Regional Starter, Sponsor Church/es, Association Staff/Consultant and Affinity Group Consultants. The coaches are trained by our vendor (ED Hale, long-time Texas Baptists staff and past DOM) who was in the room when this process was conceived, wrote much of it, created some of the forms used and trained many of the present coaches. The present strength of the coaching process is its strong degree of accountability and high caliber of trained Texas Baptists professional coaches.
The Leader Training and Development in our process is not a cookie cutter - one size fits all process. The process seeks to treat each work as a unique entity and designs training opportunities in light of church type, passions, affinity group and model. Texas Baptists, as a whole, are on call for training/support and funding is set aside for each church used by recommendation of the strategic review team. Encouraged also are the churches involvement in Affinity Group trainings and Local Association offering. We support these churches over a five year cycle with Leadership Retreats, Team Building sessions, Strategy Planning, and Educational/Facilitation Trainings to maximize growth and health. Our training offerings are state of the art and include the latest technological integrations.
Without an official count over 800 churches have been started in the new process with a conservative 90 percent success rate. Actually the success rate is higher, 94 percent, in the later years as the process matured and the support elements developed. The three building blocks (Assessment – Coaching – Leader Training) have served well to produce Entry Competent Planters who continue to grow and lead growing churches. What was/is challenging is the fact that over 85 percent of these planters were trained or prepared in our local Baptist churches without extensive formal Bible education. The future challenge is the support that is necessary to equip and train these Organic Called Gifts of God. An answer to this dilemma is what is under development in our new Church Planter Centers (CPC).
Our first center was conducted this past year at Tallowood Baptist Church in Houston, Texas where all six (100 percent) of the residents are starting/started a new churches. Our plan is to spread six of these centers (CPC’s) around the state in 2017-18 with the hope of equipping 60-80 new church planters in addition to our normal planter flow (average of 85 a year).
An additional approach in this process is to extend the centers to our Baptist educational institutions as well as partner with our Baptist associations to reach future planters and integrate preparation training with educational credit and associational strategies. The Mission Funding Committee (MFC) of the Convention has set the guidelines for funding and coordination/planning is underway to conduct the new CPCs. This new approach necessitates a fresh mindset as well as a new distribution of resources and strategy. The result can be more new church starts in this rapidly growing State and a better prepared planter to lead healthy churches into the future.
Gary Patterson serves as Region 2 Church Starter and Leadership/Coach Trainer.