With all due respect to the various people who write about church planting in the UK, I thought that it was time that I did everyone a favour by writing a short guide on how to be a successful church planter.
The first thing to do is to define what we mean by success. Now some people measure church success by the number of people who attend the various meetings — behinds on seats. Obviously, that is not a good criterion by which to measure success in Christian ministry.
No, a successful church planter is someone who has been commissioned to write a book, a series of articles in a prestigious magazine or who has been asked to speak at a big conference. Don’t settle for anything less, be ambitious for your ministry.
Where to plant
Recently, there has been a fair bit written about planting churches in the north of England. Frankly, this doesn’t make sense — there are hardly any Christians up there. No, you should aim for somewhere in the south east, where there are enough Christians to attract to your new work.
I would recommend basing yourself in a university city if at all possible. If you can get a bunch of students to attend your church (and they do like to drift from church to church), it can give the appearance of growth in a very short time and nothing breeds success like success.
Statistically, there are more Christians among the middle classes than any other group, so that is where you should aim your efforts. A nice, sophisticated, slightly intellectual vibe should do it. Middle class people also tend to have more money and so you can look to build your ministry as resources are liberated into it.
Some people have been talking about planting churches among the working class — personally, I would advise against it. You have to think long-term and do you seriously want your teenage children attending a youth group with children from a housing estate? Of course not.
The important thing here is not what you believe, but that you are distinctive. You need to have something that makes you stand out from the crowd, something to make people come to your church and not the other one down the road. You need a USP; a unique selling point. As I say, it doesn’t actually matter what it is. If your vibe is Reformed, you can be more Reformed or less Reformed than the competition; it doesn’t matter which, just be different.
Likewise if you are Charismatic; be more or less Charismatic than the guys down the road. Make sure that people know you are different from other churches in the area. Personally, I always aim to be a Reformed Charismatic complementarian who believes in female leadership in the church — that is distinctive and doesn’t offend anyone.
Just in case it is needed — this article is written in humour!
Eddie Arthur is based in West Yorkshire and studies how the theology of mission agencies affects the work they do. He also gives time to help Wycliffe Bible Translators in the UK.