Church replanting is a relatively new term, but it’s a simple concept to understand. Merriam-Webster.com defines replanting as “To plant again or anew.” In church life, it means to restart or relaunch a church that is struggling to survive. Death is a near certainty unless – as Scott Thomas puts it – “conditions are drastically changed to facilitate growth.”
A Replant Success Story
While I have never led a church replant effort myself, I was heavily involved in a church replant support role in my association a few years ago. You can read more about it here, but Island Creek Baptist Mission was a 40-year-old “mission” of my home church. During its heyday, the mission grew to over 100 in attendance in a rural community. There were high hopes that it would soon become an autonomous church. However, those dreams were never realized. Through a series of difficult circumstances that I won’t recount here, the congregation dwindled down to a handful. It seemed that the church’s death was inevitable and imminent.
God had other plans.
A local pastor – who had grown up in the community and had attended VBS at the mission as a child – approached the Senior Pastor of the “mother church” and me about assuming leadership responsibilities. After much prayer and discussion, we determined that the best course of action was to treat this opportunity as a replant. We closed the Island Creek Baptist Mission, and encouraged the church replanter to relaunch a new church from scratch.
New vision. New ministries. New leadership. New schedule. As the church replanter would often say, it wasn’t a new chapter in the book. It was a new book.
After eight months of developing a launch team around the new vision and strategy, Creekside Church launched with over 260 people in attendance during their first worship service. Two years later, the church constituted as an autonomous local church in our association. It has baptized more people than nearly every other church in our association since its inception. It’s an amazing comeback story and all the glory goes to the Lord!
Why Every Church is a Replant Right Now
While your church may not be near death, it is still a replant right now. Just like every other church.
The reason for that statement is that every church placed most of their ministries on pause during the early stages of the pandemic. Every church had to make significant adjustments as they relaunched worship services several months later. Every church is still making decisions about what ministries to bring back and when. Every church has the opportunity to reshape their ministry strategy from the ground up. So, for all practical purposes, every church is a replant right now.
If you’re still having trouble making the connection, here are five specific characteristics that your church probably has in common with a church replant right now:
- New vision: The old normal for your church isn’t coming back, and it probably doesn’t need to – unless your church was experiencing massive spiritual growth at the time of the pandemic. Therefore, your church has the opportunity to cast a new vision for the future. Just like a replant.
- New strategies: A new ministry vision will bring new strategies along with it to accomplish this vision. The pandemic has taught us that although the church’s mission doesn’t change, our strategies for accomplishing that mission certainly are subject to adjustment. Just like a replant.
- New ministries: Similarly, your church will likely need to modify some of your current ministries and may possibly need to introduce several new ministries. Perhaps your church shifts from a Sunday School model to a home small group model, or vice-versa. Maybe your church decides that its outreach ministry needs a complete overhaul. Every ministry in your church should be up for discussion. Just like a replant.
- New leaders/volunteers: As you relaunch various ministries, you may discover that some of your leaders and volunteers do not plan on returning to serve. While their decision may be due to COVID concerns, there’s also a strong possibility that some have been looking to step away for a while, and this is the logical time to do so. Therefore, your church may need to recruit a number of new leaders and volunteers. Just like a replant.
- New schedule: Replants have the opportunity to create their weekly schedule without feeling tied to any established precedent. Many churches right now have adjusted their weekly schedules as well. Some churches have placed Sunday evening activities on a long-term pause. Some churches are conducting a virtual prayer meeting on Wednesday evening. Some churches have shifted to multiple Sunday morning worship services. As your church continues to relaunch, church leaders will have the opportunity to establish a new weekly schedule. Just like a replant.
4 Questions to Consider
Every church was once a church plant, and it’s likely that your church hasn’t faced a strategic opportunity like this since it was first planted. As your church thinks about how to take advantage of this opportunity, hear are 4 questions to consider:
- What needs to stay? What needs to stay about your previous vision? What needs to stay about your strategy? What current ministries need to continue? What volunteers need to stay in their current roles? There are certain aspects of your church that need to return. Take some time to consider what those aspects are.
- What needs to go? What parts of your ministry strategy need to be retired? What ministries need to remain on pause after the pandemic has subsided? Take some time now to consider what aspects of your church’s past don’t need to be a part of its future.
- What needs to be added? What new ministries do you need to implement? What new ministry roles need to be created? Do new service times need to be introduced? There are so many things that have changed since March 2020. What may need to be added to help your church accomplish the Great Commission in the future?
- What needs to be improved? There are likely some ministries in your church that need to stay, but they need to be tweaked or adjusted in some way. Take some time to consider what those ministries are and how best to make those improvements.
These 4 questions aren’t the only questions you’ll need to consider, but they will definitely start a conversation among your church leaders that can bear fruit for years to come.
There is Hope for Your Church
When I look back on the Creekside Church replant story, I simply praise the Lord for how He used a renewed vision and strategy to accomplish great things for His glory. As you consider the similarities between your current church situation and those of a replant, my prayer is that you too will get excited about the opportunities that the Lord has provided on the backside of this pandemic.
Your church has the opportunity right now to make significant adjustments that can set it on a course to spiritual health and evangelistic effectiveness that you haven’t experienced in many years. No matter what challenges your church faced before the pandemic, you and your fellow church members have an opportunity to write a new chapter together right now.
However, this opportunity won’t last forever. To take advantage of it, you need to think and act like a church replant. Because that’s what you are right now.