What does it take to start a church?
Assessment of potential church planters rightly digs deep into a candidate’s character and especially the candidate’s family life. If anything is going to put stress on a church planter’s family, it’s the combined pressures of the high risk entrepreneurial endeavor and the high level of pastoral challenges that go hand-in-hand with a church plant. A church planter’s abilities and emotional intelligence are also usually evaluated through a church plant simulation at an assessment event, and through a variety of fill-in-the-bubble tests. The people that make it through the scrutiny of their character and competency are approved and often funded to start a church.
But how about this for an alternative assessment: Make the potential church planter start a business.
Make the candidate think through everything that’s involved in understanding a particular group of people, what their problems are, and what kind of financially sustainable remedies could be applied to those people with those problems. Then make the candidate actually start the thing.
That entire last paragraph could be applied verbatim to a church plant proposal. And that’s exactly the point.
Assuming the candidate already has, or is on the way to acquiring, the theological and pastoral training necessary to serve well in a ministry context, there is no other “assessment” tool more relevant and revealing than the real-life challenge to start and sustain a business.
By having to start a sustainable business, a candidate may end up doing far more than just qualifying himself to plant a church. He may end up funding the church plant himself in the process. He will gain credibility from the people in the community. He will much better understand the people for whom he is called to plant a church, and the place that will serve as the church’s host community. Having started a business that bears the financial weight, he will then be freed to plant the church as a true act of spiritual entrepreneurship and apostolicity, rather than as an awkwardly-funded, must-become-financially-self-sufficient-soon business masquerading as a spiritual fellowship.
The reality is that in the “connection economy” and the post-Christian era, it may be easier to start and sustain a business than it is to start and sustain a church, though the skills are perhaps the most transferable skills a church planter will ever learn.
Is anyone doing this? Are you? Have you considered it? What are the down-sides?