How to Pace a Church Plant (with Mark Mumford)

Mark Mumford, along with his wife Nesta, leads Community Church in Derby, as well as working regionally with the East Midlands Christian Fellowship, and heading up the UK Apostolic team for Salt and Light Churches. In this hangout, Mark talks about his church planting experiences, and particularly focusses on the practicalities of how to pace a church plant.


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There Are Different Types of Church Plants

  • We plant and water, but it is God who gives the growth.
  • God doesn't need to be capped by our expectations of what can happen.
  • Church planting is not an exact science. There is no exact formula, although there are some guiding principles.
  • There are different ways to plant different types of churches, so the pace will vary from one type of church to another.

3 Things That Affect the Pace of a Church Plant

  • Location - what is the place that you are planting into and what is the catchment area of that plant?
  • Proximity - how far away is the plant from the sending church?
  • People - what kind of people/leader are we planting? What is the experience of the leader? What is the chemistry of the team?

3 Stages of Planting a Church

  • Preparation - getting a clarity of where you are going, and the preparation of the planters.
  • The plant - when people start to arrive in the area and the community starts to get established. This is prior to the actual launch.
  • The launch - when you start your regular Sunday meetings.

Planting a Local Church

  • One type of church plant is a local plant where a church is planted close enough to the original church to remain connected and feel like part of something bigger.
  • This kind of plant can happen relatively quickly - especially if there are already people on the ground.
  • You can carry leadership into this type of plant for a season from the original church.
  • If we're not doing it to reach the lost, we need to question our motives. We should be doing evangelism even before we launch the church.
  • True measures of success aren't just numbers of people but salvations.
  • This type of plant is relatively low-risk and has high support. Just have a go.
  • It could take roughly 6 months, or maybe even less.

Planting an Indigenous Church

  • This kind of church is often further away and has a greater need to stand alone. 
  • It will need a more self-sufficient leader.
  • This kind of plant is higher risk and needs more consideration - especially as the movement of people is involved.
  • The preparation phase of this type of plant needs to be extended - there needs to be lots of prayer and responding to prophetic words from God. 
  • There will need to be a very careful selection of the team and leader.
  • The moving in phase will take longer.
  • A right time will come for the launch. This should be a definite event and the sending church will be highly supportive of it.
  • This kind of church will take a minimum of a year - possibly longer.

Planting an Apostolic Base

  • This is planting with the intention from the beginning that it will be a significant base for a planting church and apostolic centre.
  • You need to look for apostolic leadership.
  • This doesn't just come out of a prayer meeting, but as a key part of an apostolic strategy - so it is about getting the right people for that situation.
  • These churches will mainly be in cities or towns that have a significant influence in an area.
  • There needs to be a lot of vision casting about it and a clear sense that God has spoken.
  • The preparation will be longer and more drawn out - but it is worth waiting for.

Final Thoughts

  • It is worth taking the time to get it right.
  • It is worth waiting for the right people.
  • If you can get some momentum, this will make things much easier.

Q&A

1. How can you help church planting leaders pace themselves so they don't burn out?
  • There is a responsibility on those who have apostolic oversight to help people set a sustainable pace.
  • If there is an issue, it is often the children that feel it most acutely.
  • There is also a responsibility on the planters not to bite off more than they can chew.
2. How many people would you want to have before you launch?
  • For a local plant, 20-25 is enough - you just need to create a worshipping community.
  • For an indigenous plant, it should be more like 40.
  • For an apostolic base, shoot for 50.
3. What does the launch involve? 
  • It can sometimes be lower key, but it should be a defined moment for the church itself.
  • It will also be something that other churches will be aware of.
  • You can do evangelism around a launch.
  • It can put you on the map a bit.
  • In part, it is a question of your own style.
4. What differences have you noticed in how older/younger leaders approach pace and what advice do you have for them?
  • There is a group of people who are early retirers who have capacity and mobility and can play a big role.
  • It's often harder for younger people to be mobile.
  • Advice for younger people is to be patient - it is worth taking the time to get it right.
  • It will be a step of faith whatever you do.
  • You need to be in it together as a couple/family.
5. When a church plant is going really slowly, what advice do you have on whether to pull the plug or dig in for the long haul?
  • When you go to plant a church, nobody wants to give up.
  • Pulling the plug is a last resort.
  • You need to pull the plug if you are worried about the health of the lead couple and there are no other leaders around.
  • These are very sad moments.
  • The impact of this lasts for a long time.
  • If something is struggling, bring apostolic leadership in to look at how to breathe life back into it.
  • It is worth fighting to keep it alive - even if you need to scale it down a bit and make it more manageable.
6. What advice would you give to a church plant leader who is holding down a hard job in terms of pace?
  • Leading a church is a consuming role.
  • Look to find a way to release some time for the leader.
  • If a leader is in full-time occupation and leading a church, the key is not to do too many things or launch too many projects.
  • We often start too many things - we can't sustain them but we don't know how to stop them.
  • You need to lead through your team even more so than usual.
  • Burnout happens when you act as though you are carrying it all yourself.
7. How do you keep up enthusiasm and momentum for planting an apostolic base when the preparation season is so long.
  • If we're called to be an apostolic people, as we are planting one, we are already looking to the next horizon.
  • Enthusiasm actually builds over time, and as soon as the trigger is pulled, there is enthusiasm for the next thing.
  • You can't afford to let it come off the boil.
8. How do you make sure you don't appoint leaders too early?
  • You want to dream that your future leaders are in the harvest.
  • The lead person needs to know broadly who they are working with - but being too quick to appoint a leadership team isn't wise.
  • Some people might end up not making it, and God may add in some other people instead. 
9. Do you have any final words for church planters?

Recommended Resources

To go further with some of the ideas from this hangout, we recommend the following book:

Note - If you buy a book using the affiliate link above, Broadcast will receive a commission from Amazon to help more churches get planted, at no additional cost to you.