What does it take to start a new church? | Part 1 of 6

This is part one of a 6 part series explaining in detail the essential elements for starting a new church.


A Minister
(the church planter)

The three most important factors in a successful new church are the planter, the planter and the planter. Everything else is secondary. If God has wired you to be a planter you’ll succeed even without money or people. If it’s not your gift and call, no amount of money or help will make the difference. At MissionMinnesota we go to great lengths to assess potential planters. The most irresponsible thing we could do would be to encourage a guy to undertake an endeavor that they are not gifted for. Church planting is exciting for the right guy, but it is a high wire act.

So what makes a good church planter?
In addition to all the basics that every pastor needs to have – godliness, knowledge of scripture, a prayer life, integrity, theological knowledge, ….there are a few special items that are critical.


#1 A track record of successful experience in ministry. 

Church planting is not an entry level position. Church planters are Lead Pastors with an entrepreneurial bent. First they have to start a church and then they have to lead a church.  The best preparation for church planting is a number years of successful experience in a ministry position. This position is also the best indicator that a person is ready to be the point leader of a church. Often the best church planters are student pastors, young adult pastors, associate pastors, worship pastors, who are experiencing the prompting of God towards the Next chapter in their ministry.


#2 A Gifted Speaker

It would be great if every pastor were a gifted speaker. But it’s particularly important for a church planter. Part of the process of launching a new church is to utilize prayer, personal invitations, and marketing to draw a crowd of several hundred mostly unchurched to people to an Opening Sunday. It’s an exciting time when two or three or four hundred people show up to the birth of a new church. But all those people have one thing in common. They’re visitors!

The question is how many will come back. And the most important factor is whether the guy up front is interesting and has something life changing to say. No Pressure.

You see, marketing will only get someone there one time.

The big question is not how many people are there on Opening Sunday. It’s week two, three, four, and five that count. And mostly people come back because they feel a connection to the pastor.


#3 A Catalytic Leader

Do you like to start new things? Do you have too many BIG ideas to chase them all? When you have an idea do you pull the trigger and go after it. When you recruit people to get on board, do they? Is your life characterized by starting new things that actually happen? What are those things?

One of the most exciting things about starting a new church is there’s no one to tell you you can’t do it that way. Many pastors long for the freedom to try new things. Church planters have to try new things. They have to start a whole church full of new things. And they’ve got about a year to do it.

A key part of starting a new church is recruiting a launch team. A group of 50+ who sign on because they believe in the planter and his vision. The planter shares his vision with them one at a time, and a whole bunch of them say ‘I’m in’. Then they begin to meet, to pray, to plan. The planter leads. People follow and a church is born.

#4 A Passion for the lost and unchurched

That’s the big WHY. That’s why we do it. Not to start another watering hole for the already convinced. But to search for the lost coin, the lost sheep, the lost son. Luke 15

Some church planters have the gift of personal evangelism. Some programmatic evangelism. Some proclamation evangelism. What all planters have in common is a vision to reach lost people. They stay awake at night dreaming about how to reach more people. New programs to start…to reach more people. New groups to start…to reach more people. Marketing endeavors…to reach more people.

Why would you leave a secure, comfortable position? Why take a big risk?    Because the ‘harvest is plentiful’ and God cares about the harvest.


Phillip Santillan