How to grow Church Planter Volunteers

Tim O’Neill, Exec. Chair
Exponential Australia

8 Reasons Why We Don’t Have Enough Church Planters

Church and ministry leaders across our nation are struggling with finding an answer to the question “how can we plant more new churches?”.

They know the statistics that show that the number of churches in Australia is decreasing and they know that this trend must be turned around for the sake of our nation.

They also know that God’s desire is that none of us will be separated from Him for an eternity.
So how can we plant more churches?

Australia is fortunate in that many of the ingredients required to stimulate church planting and multiplication are already present. Church planting ministries that can assist churches and denominations are present. Funding is available to assist in planting. Australia has some international leaders in disciple making and movements residing here and access to other expertise and resources is readily available. Many of the ingredients are already there.
But there’s a problem. There’s one major ingredient that we need more of; we need more church planters. The simple fact is that churches are planted by church planters and if we want more churches planted, we need more men and women who will plant churches.

I think Jesus warned us of a similar, or perhaps even the same problem when in Luke 10:2 Jesus clearly identified that the problem isn’t in the harvest. It’s in finding and sending workers who will be sent as workers into the harvest field. Workers like church planters and their teams. Kingdom entrepreneurs who are intent on being used by God to see His earthly kingdom expanded by the making of disciples and the planting of new churches.

So what’s stopping more prospective church planters being “found”?

Eight key reasons why there aren’t more men and women being found, raised and deployed as church planters are:
1. Vision
2. Leadership Pipelines
3. Systematic Approaches
4. Growth Focus
5. Multiplication Practices
6. Covid Deferral
7. New Models
8. Focused Prayer

Let me explain what I mean by these eight reasons.

1. Vision. The vision for church planting combined with the need for more new churches is not strong enough. Young and emerging leaders rarely hear about church planting as an option let alone as a calling for them. They need to hear stories of people like them stepping out in faith and with appropriate training and support to see people reached and discipled as new churches are planted. We need to champion church planters and the work they do to encourage more men and women to become workers for the harvest.

2. Leadership Pipelines. The leadership pipelines, education and training aimed at raising planters are few and far between. As I’ve spoken to denominational leaders in recent times, I’ve often asked them “what leadership pipelines do you have in place for raising church planters?” Generally the answer begins with silence. Occasionally I have been thrilled to hear of future pipeline plans being put in place. If we want to see prospective church planters raised up, we need to put in place the pipelines that will help evaluate and develop them.

3. Systematic Approaches. Many denominations and networks hope to see church planters arise but there is often an absence of systematic approaches by denominations to raising planters and planting. I recently spoke with one denominational leader who mentioned that his movement frequently has an alter call for church planters. Many usually respond, but few end up planting. Why? Perhaps one reason is that when someone expresses an interest in church planting, there needs to be a system (or process) in place to take them on the journey. Without such a system in place, a desire to raise and release planters is a wish rather than a goal.

4. Growth Focus. It’s normal for churches to be focused on growth rather than multiplication but the problem then becomes that both people and financial resources are primarily allocated to maintaining and growing the church. Existing ministries are upgraded, new ministries started and the growth machine gets fed with people and finances. And the result too often is that there are often no or little resources; people and finances left over for planting new churches. Then when it’s realised that planting will involve giving people away, it’s no wonder it’s not prioritised. I recall some years ago hearing a denominational leader talk about the goal his denomination had set for the growth of the size of their congregations. Then he expressed dismay that they hadn’t been successful in planting new churches. When growth is the over riding goal, new churches will rarely be planted.

5. Multiplication Practices. An absence of multiplication practices will harm the identifying of new and emerging leaders. Multiplication practices will see disciples making disciples, leaders raising leaders and churches planting new churches. The absence of multiplication practices and intent will see the bar lowered on what it is to be a disciple. In some cases attendance at church events will become a measure of what it is to follow Jesus. Few of these believers will become church planters. As an alternative, where a church has a culture of multiplication in place and processes in line with this, the resultant momentum can be explosive!

6. Covid Deferral. Plans for planting by some churches in our nation has been deferred until those churches regain attendance and finances after Covid. But what if this never happens? Will planting be put on the shelf forever? Perhaps the answer is to continue to seek men and women who may be called to planting and to prepare them for this ministry irrespective of the state of the sending church. This takes a huge amount of trust that God is in the sending and that He can replace what has been sent; if that’s His will. And perhaps different models of church planting that require different financial and people models need to be looked at that are different from those utilised in the past?

7. New Models. The typical models of church in our nation were perhaps more effective at an earlier time than the present. models of church and church planting that are designed for today and tomorrow need to be developed. Many would be church planters need to be presented with new and different models. Without significant support, traditional models are frequently high risk and often not appealing to young leaders. Models that incorporate multiplication principles, that make space for bi-vocational ministry, and that incorporate team leadership need to be considered in our increasingly diverse world.

8. Focused Prayer – Jesus made it clear in Luke 10:2 that the problem wasn’t in the harvest. The big issue was in not enough workers for the harvest. He told us to ask God to solve the problem and to send out workers into the harvest. Our nation needs prayer from across it’s breadth asking the Lord of the Harvest to raise up workers for the Harvest; men and women who will plant new churches in the harvest.

Australia needs more new churches planted. And to see that happen, we need more church planters who will be cheered on and supported to plant new and innovative churches. Let’s pray to the Lord of the harvest to send men and women into the harvest field and do all that we can to identify prospective planters, raise them up, support them, send them and cheer them on!

Tim O’Neill
16 August 2023