Q2: How should planters be prepared? (Basic Training)
“Raising up, developing, and training church planters is the most fundamental building block of a church planting network.” Gene Wilson, Craig Ott
''The things which you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses, entrust these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.'' 2 Tim. 2:2
Three Types of Education
Formal: classroom type with grades and teachers or professors. Strength: depth of knowledge. Weakness: application of content, practical experience, contextualization of learning.
Informal: apprenticeship; learning attitudes, skills, and knowledge through guided application and practice. Strength: establishes proven abilities and habits. Weakness: hard to multiply, depends on mentor quality.
Non-Formal: conferences, workshops, and other structured activities that are not formal. Strength: adaptable, practical. Weakness: application, follow up, contextualization of learning.
Training for church planters must involve the practice and development of skills in real life ministry contexts. Reading books, attending conferences, or taking courses alone rarely produces good church planters. Developing character and skills are key. Assessments help pinpoint areas needing correction or further development. Formal education, while helpful in laying a foundation cannot alone develop these areas.
‘’I have concluded that formal education is ill suited and cannot effectively equip evangelists, church planters, and apostolic leaders for ministry…The skills and the work of the evangelist, church planter, and apostolic foundation-layer can be understood and mastered only through practice, through experiential learning.’’
Gupta and Lingenfelter, Breaking Tradition to Accomplish Vision, p.23.
What is needed to effectively train church planters?
Trainers experienced in church planting or specialists for specific skills (evangelism, etc.).
Materials covering the learning that needs to take place.
A system for training that helps learners grow in HEAD (knowledge), HEART (character), and HANDS (skills). Formal education focuses primarily on knowledge (HEAD). Effective church planter training must bring together all three: HEAD, HEART, AND HANDS.
A training venue: One location? A mobile training program? Online training? Rotating locations? How will the choice of venue impact who can be trained?
Effective follow up of trainees, focusing on application and practice.
Coaching and mentoring: training alone has led to a 20% success rate in starting new churches; while training followed by coaching has typically led to an 80% success rate in new church plants.
Three Training Examples
DCPI has committed to offering free basic church planter training in countries all over the world in many languages. DCPI does not provide any follow up other than further specialized training. They do measure results, counting how many people are trained and how many churches are planted. DCPI provides broad, basic, biblical principle focused church planter training with the goal of seeing 5 million new churches planted. Such training is best combined with other developmental activities and coaching for best results. Catalysts must provide their own follow up.
2) M4 Europe
M4 Europe created a two year, non-formal church planter training program focused on training core groups to plant the church together. Trainees might include the church planter, several leaders from the new church, and a church planting coach. A number of groups would come together for six two-day retreats held over two years. The retreats would include training, planning, and accountability to church planting leaders. The groups would also pray for each other and hold each other accountable to plan their work and work their plans. This approach focuses on training a group (not just the church planter) and using the presence of a number of groups from the same region or country to encourage each other. Having the church planter coach attend training with the planter helps insure coaching support and follow up after training.
3) Hindustan Bible Institute (HBI)
HBI created a two year, non-formal Missionary Training Institute to train church planters. Many were young converts at the beginning of their training. Over the course of 18 years of non-formal training combined with guided contextualized learning at the village level, HBI created a multiplication movement of workers (from 2 workers to 502), churches planted (from 12 to 2346), and church members (over 100,000). A focus on formal education strategies to multiply church planters could never yield such results. (Gupta,Breaking Tradition to Accomplish Vision, p.39.)
Creating Multiplication Movements
Train a different kind of student: HBI students were not taken away from their villages or jobs by using a non-formal approach. Every three months the students received 10 days of training. The training became available to diverse kinds of people who felt called to plant churches.
Use repetition: The training focused on putting simple training into application. 'Hands on' ministry engagement also weeded out those not ‘wired’ to do true church planting ministry.
Create cohorts: People learning together and applying learning together had greater success.
Evaluate and Improve Systems: HBI's results were measured and the training processes were improved according to the measurements of success. HBI's statistics showed increasing numbers of churches, but also increasing average church size among new churches.
Furnish Mentoring and Coaching: When mentoring and coaching was paired with training, the results improved.
How will you provide church planter training?
The results HBI achieved were due to their attention to helping learners grow in practical ways while providing support, feedback, and evaluation. This is experiential learning, helping learners achieve tangible, real world results. Many training systems simply impart information.
Effective training for church planters enables them to help churches multiply in healthy ways, through the multiplication of converts, disciples, leaders, and small groups. Formal education approaches focus mostly on knowledge. Church planters need knowledge, but they also need practical experience in the skills and competencies needed to multiply converts, disciples, leaders, and small groups.
Consider the context:
The best training is adjusted to the type of church being planted and the type of planter: House church, pastoral church, catalytic church, or apostolic church planter.
There are many types of curriculum and materials. What is missing for effective church planter training from taking place in your area? What is missing from the training you have seen or offered to make church planters more effective? What kind of follow up is needed?