3. Training and Assessment Tools for Church Planting
Training and Assessment Tools for Church Planting
Dr. Dietrich Schindler
Executive Director of Church Planting, Evangelical Free Church of Germany (Bund Freier evangelischer Gemeinden in Deutschland), author of Das Jesus-Modell: Gemeinden gründen wie Jesus, SCM Brockhaus, 2010 [The Jesus Model: Planting Churches like Jesus].
The Evangelical Free Church of Germany is a relatively small denomination with 470 churches and 40,000 members. We are trusting God to help us plant 100 new churches in ten years. As of 2006 we have planted 55 new churches. This year we will see one new church planted every month, on the average. What are the support systems that we have put in place that has made us into a major player in church planting in Germany and in Europe?
I. Training venues currently being used in the Evangelical Free Church of Germany
A. Assessment of church planters
Once a year we invite potential church planters to be assessed by us as to their church planting ability. The church planting assessment takes four days and involves some front-end processing. Applicants are asked to give us a written summary of their ministry involvement as well as an assessment of their strengths and weaknesses. References from leaders and peers are also gathered. Each participant undergoes the DISC test.
During the assessment itself participants are asked to tell the group how they came to Christ, give a short evangelistic sermon, share their calling into ministry, talk about personal evangelism, evaluate a church planting case study, do a leadership exercise, a team-building exercise and then work in teams on developing a church planting strategy for a particular city in Germany and present their findings to the group. At the end of the four day assessment the assessors will agree on what recommendation we would give to each participant: unconditional recommendation as a church planter, or a conditional recommendation, or no recommendation as the head of a church planting ministry.
B. Training for the church planting process
For church planting teams made up of volunteers we offer a year and a half long process of training. The teams gather together regionally every two months and, through a series of short lectures and much interaction discuss issues that are not only relevant to their church plant, but are tailored for application in their local setting. Our goal in these “church planting shops” is to help people plant solid and healthy churches.
C. Training for church planting leader
We also offer a three day training venue for the head of a church planting team, whether volunteer or supported church planter. We cover such topics as what is the church? What is the gospel? What are the four stages of planting a church? What are the specific growth challenges in the first 3-5 years of a church’s existence? What does a healthy church look like? What are the major pitfalls in church planting?
D. Coaches for church planters
We advocate not starting a church without a competent church planting coach to come along side the main leader. We conduct training sessions for either new coaches for church planters, or offer advanced training for those who are already coaching church planters and what to improve their skills.
E. Apostolic church planter training/synergy
I have recently begun meeting twice a year with XL church planting leaders, which I call Apostolic church planting leaders. These are people who have proven church planting experience, have a vision for reaching a region or a large city with the gospel, have exceptional leadership gifts, want to network with like-minded leaders, are the kinds of leaders that could very well be part of a church planting multiplication movement.
F. Annual conferences for church planters
Once a year we host a three day conference for church planting. We often invite a main speaker but will also offer various seminars or workshops that dig down into the nuts and bolts of church planting. We typically have between 100 and 150 people in attendance.
G. Regional committees for church planting strategy throughout the country
We are convinced that a national department for church planting can only be a motor to help others get started, but that the real significance lies in regional committees for church planting. Here committee members meet several times a year to pray, evaluate and strategize on how area churches can band together to see new churches planted in their region. In half of the regions in Germany we now have a committee for church planting.
These being the systems that we have set up to help plant solid and healthy churches, what have we learned?
II. Thankful but not satisfied (basic tenor)
A. Positive results
- Better screening of church planters, with better ministry fit
- A clear church-planting process, understood by all
- Church planting coaches are helpful guides along the way
- Gifted church planters teach others
- Regional committees are closer in proximity to church planters
B. Disconcerting impressions
- Discrepancy between church planting knowledge and daily life-structure
- The pastoral model (default mode) often outweighs the missional model
- Fuzziness as to the nature and function of the church, gospel to life
III. Improving our effectiveness – What will it take?
- A clearer understanding of theological centralities: the church, the gospel, spiritual leadership
- Apprenticeship: A new church planter spends time with an experienced planter in his daily ministry context (“Wanderschaft”)
- „Ear to the ground“: listening to those being affected by the ministry of the church planter, not just the church planter himself