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Why/How COVID-19 Has Impacted Church Planting

Church planters are my heroes. These are men (and families) who have stepped out in faith to take the name of Jesus to a city that predominately does not profess his name—truly inspirational. They have heeded the call that God has placed on their lives and said, “Yes,” I’ll go.  

But almost overnight, everything a church planter knows and has been taught changed. How do you do evangelistic outreach events when there is a shelter-in-place order? How do you begin the “regathering the church” conversation when the place you have been meeting will not let you back in, and it might be another few months before they even entertain that conversation? Are my partner churches that are giving us monthly support going to stop giving because their finances are tight? These are the types of questions church planters are asking. There is a faithfulness in knowing God has called them to plant this church. But there is also a fearfulness not knowing exactly how COVID-19 is going to place itself out.

Picture this. At the start of 2020 you are excited. You’re excited because you are finally at the place for which you have been preparing for the last 6-9 months. You have started meeting with your core team and you have a game place for what these first few months of a church are going to look like. Then COVID-19 hit. What do you do?

The exciting thing for our SBTC church planting team is that we have seen planters in this exact scenario who have not given up hope, but instead have adapted to what is going on around them. They have modified their plans but not their message. Their message of a lost world needing the hope of Jesus has not changed. It has driven them to be all the more resilient. Are there questions that still need to be answered? Absolutely. Are the answers to some of those questions coming slower than they might like? Yes. But this is the very reason God has called them. At a time such as this, these heroes and faithful families are standing in the gap and calling those who are far from God to repentance. The methods may be changing, but the message stays the same.

Practical Guidance

Relationships are key

Sometimes we unintentionally take people for granted. Maybe we think we will see them again soon. Maybe it’s because we have so much other stuff going on. But we take people for granted. In the midst of COVID-19 we need to go above and beyond to cultivate relationships. Phone calls, text messages, and socially-distanced home visits are all key to healthy relationships. Could it be that one of the blessings of COVID-19 is that it freed us up from all the busyness to focus on what really matters? For a church planter relationships matter. What could be better than having time in your schedule to focus on people?

Consistency in communication 

The gathering of the local assembly is important. We worship together, pray together, and hear a message from God’s Word. We also partake in the Lord’s Supper and witness baptism. All of these aspects of the gathered congregation are needed. But what can happen if we are not careful is that this is the only time the church hears from their pastors. It is often when all the communication happens. However, in light of the changing world we live in constant communication throughout the week is needed.

What is the “win?”

Just six months ago, if you asked most pastors what they considered a “win” for the church, they would probably say things like discipleship taking place, baptisms, people coming to know Jesus, and people in the pews on Sunday mornings. It is not that these things are not still important. We still want to see peoples lives changed by Jesus, and we still want to make disciples. How we accomplish this might be changing. What are our evangelist outreach events going to look like? How will you do follow-up? These are questions that we have assumed over the years. The definition for many of “success” is going to change. So what is the “win?”

Creating Movement

Multiplication is no longer just a word we use, but a motto we live by.

For the last 10 years or so there have become some hot button words pastors like to say. Phrases like, “We want to be a multicultural church” have become common to hear. Another phase that is popular to say but more difficult to live out is being a church who multiplies. J. D. Greear is famous for saying, “It is not about a seating capacity but a sending capacity.” That sounds great to say, but very few actually live it out. What if a byproduct of COVID-19 is that churches begin to see the need to multiply? The early church sent. What if the 21st century church stopped saying neat little phrases and got back to the heart of who we are? What if the “Great Commission” drove our ecclesiology? That’s a movement I want to be apart of.

Small groups are the future.

One of the unintended consequences of a large group church gathering is that church goers can become spectators. The people sit and watch others worship. We fight against this, but it is undeniable. If a ramification of COVID-19 is that only smaller groups of people can meet together, then the ability to walk in and walk out of a church building without being seen becomes much more difficult. In fact, small groups have now become the lifeblood of the church. 

Six months ago the through process for most who were trying a church for the very first time was to sneak in on a Sunday morning to hear the music and hear the teaching. If you liked it maybe you would come back the next week. Now, because of COVID-19, many might be more likely to check out a smaller group of people first.  This places small groups of the church as the catalyst for the future. So small group leader training becomes essential. It is almost like small groups are a built in discipleship mechanism to radically transform lives, and the church.

Personalize Church Planting

  • Have I lost connection with someone during COVID-19, and do I need to begin reinvesting in them?
  • Have I clarified what is the new win at a time when meeting space is in question?
  • When will I take significant time to improve my small group structure to continue developing leaders and keep the church plant glued together?
  • Are we doing everything we can to publicize the message of Jesus despite changing Sunday morning circumstances? Have we used digital platforms to their fullest capacity?
  • Am I seeing potential opportunities to multiply the church?

Connect With Us

The church planting ministry of the SBTC exists to help the local churches send and plant well. We believe that churches plant churches and we are a resource to help churches do just that. Please check out our Church Planting website to find out more and to contact Doug Hixson and anyone else on the SBTC Church Planting team.

other covid-19 resources

COVID-19

regathering

regathering part II:

Leadership Toolkit

video conferences