From 2000 to the present, there has been a deliberate church planting effort in Tasmania by a network of pastors called The Vision 100 Network (vision100.org). I was a founding elder of the first of these church plants, Crossroads Presbyterian Church, and have watched the gradual expanding of this network, from two initial mother churches to 12 churches.
Of these 10 church plants:
- 4 were planted by the Christian Reformed Church of Kingston (CRCK),
- 2 were planted by One Way Christian Church, itself a daughter church of CRCK,
- 2 were planted by Cornerstone Presbyterian Church
- 1 was planted by Crossroads Presbyterian Church.
In other words, Christ has used a few mother churches to make this church planting ministry happen.
In this brief article, I want to make five quick observations of this type of mother-daughter church planting. This is not meant to be a global assessment of Vision 100's work, but rather a few thoughts particularly about mother-daughter church planting:
1. Small churches can be church planting centres
While CRCK is a church of over 500, Cornerstone has around 200 people, Crossroads around 100 and One Way less again. You don't need to wait until you are a big church to help start new churches. There are some things that make church planting out of a larger church much easier and our church plants are getting better at building healthy structures to help them to grow larger. But at the same time, we have seen that small churches can think big.
Also, a network of churches can allow multiple small churches to partner together in planting new churches — as Crossroads and CRCK did in planting Cornerstone, and One Way and CRCK did in planting Redeemer.
2. Church planting gets into the culture of the church plants
From the very beginning, the leaders of The Vision 100 Network articulated a vision to 'plant churches that plant churches'. We did not want just one church plant, nor just one church planting centre. And this culture has gotten into the church plants, so that two 'daughter' churches — One Way and Cornerstone — have already planted 'grand-daughter' churches, with others in the network currently planning to do the same.
3. Serial church planting requires deliberate leadership development as well as external recruitment
For churches to sustain themselves while also sending out new pastors, leaders and members to begin new churches, there needs to be great systems in place to develop leaders. The Ministry Training Strategy (MTS) has been a very important part of our network's culture. And on the other side, some of the hardest experiences in our history have surrounded lack of leadership, or possibly ill-suited leadership.
More than just internal leadership development, we have also needed to bring new leaders into our network, to keep the network growing. Both Cornerstone and One Way have recruited senior leaders from outside Tasmania and we are working at improving our ability to recruit from outside, so that we are not limited by our own capacity to raise up leaders.
4. Serial church planting impinges on the ministry of the senior pastor
Those pastors who have lead church-planting churches — David Jones, Brian Vaatstra, Graham Sayer, Campbell Markham and myself, have been personally committed to the cause and our own ministry work has been bent out of shape by this commitment. To facilitate multiple church plants will affect your work hours, work routines and personal life.
It might lead you to straddling across multiple churches for a season, as Campbell has done, or leaving the comfortable mother church to be the planter yourself (as both Brian and David have done). Don't expect serial church planting to happen while the senior pastor sits comfortably behind a nice oak desk.
5. Not all of it will 'succeed'
In addition to the 10 surviving church plants, there were also 5 church plants and 2 'service plants' that were shut down (and 1 church (iChurch) morphed to become a AFES FOCUS ministry: actually a 'success', even though it doesn't help the church planting 'scoreboard'). Not everything you try will work. And these failures to establish self-sustaining churches come at great cost to the finances and morale of the mother church and the planting team.
We are currently asking the Lord for wisdom to learn from our short history, and we are thankful for founding of Geneva to help us in future planting. But we are also ready for future 'failures' to be part of cost of seeking to obey the Great Commission in our evangelism and church planting.