Here are few suggestions I wanted to pass along on the subject of relating to your sending church. Most church planters don’t work very hard at maintaining a relationship with their sending church. These suggestions are ways I have related to sending churches and ways I have seen others relate to sending churches. let me preface this by saying that this is much easier if you actually have a relationship with them as opposed to simply receiving a check from them. The best relationships I have seen between sending churches and church plants are the one where the planter was previously a staff member or a member at the sponsoring church. These are things the planter can do to make or keep the relationship strong.
Visit often – You should build into your personal calendar a regular visit to your sending church. Generally speaking, established churches have Sunday evening services and church plant’s do not. If the churches are close geographically this is a perfect time to keep strong ties with the people and leaders of the sending church. Make this a regular part of your schedule and ask the pastor for permission to share a brief report about the progress made for in the previous week. For the first year the church planter should be involved with as many gatherings of the sending church as possible. The time may feel wasted but I assure you it is not. The congregation at the sending church will appreciate your attendance and melt away any skepticism they may have had about the church planting process.
Attend leadership meetings – Ask the leaders of your sending church for permission to attend leadership meeting at the sending church. Generally these meetings are once or twice a month, a relatively low time commitment that will return a great deal of benefit for you personally. Even if your sending church has a different view of church government, attendance at these meetings will allow you to know what’s going on at the sponsoring church, to learn from their leadership mistakes and to gather the wisdom of older, longer serving leaders. Go to these meetings with a humble attitude and a closed mouth. If you have questions ask them after the meeting. Do not use this time as an opportunity to advocate for your church plant, or announce your opinion. If you are asked to weigh in, do so; otherwise remember, “He who restrains his lips is wise.” (Prov 10:19)
Baptisms and testimonies – When you have a big success as a church plant it is only natural to share that with your sending church. Make a baptism video and ask them to show it in a service, send a couple with a restored marriage to give a testimony at your sending. Hold your baptism service at time when people from both congregations can attend.
Monthly Meetings with Pastor – This is huge. Generally speaking, the pastor is the most influential person in the church. Your relationship with the pastor of your sending church is vital, especially if this is the pastor’s first experience sponsoring a new church. His personal investment in you as an individual and in the new church is directly proportionate to the amount of attention your church plant will receive. Ask for a monthly meeting with the pastor, for just an hour or so. Treat him to lunch and work hard to show your gratefulness for his willingness to support your work. Share honestly about the struggles you are having and allow him to troubleshoot problems with you. You will be tempted to make your church plant sound like it’s going great and to withhold any problems you are having. This is foolish, the pastor of this established church may not be perfect, but in the majority of cases he is much more experienced than you. Use his experience to the advantage of the gospel among the people you are serving. Even if there is a great geographical distance between you plan a phone call or videoconference each month. Our church has participated in seven church planting projects (two of which are international) over the past five years. Most of the guys I meet with each week and a few of them I meet monthly.
Act like family – When it is possible share events, resources, equipment and people. Our church was started by Stafford Baptist Church in Stafford, VA. Before leaving to plant Pillar Church I had been a staff member at Stafford Baptist for three years. My close relationship with the people, the staff and the leaders made for a rich pool of resources for me to draw from when planting Pillar Church. But as Pillar Church has grown the relationship has remained strong between the two churches. When we have a victory, members from Stafford Baptist celebrate with us, when they have a victory we share in it too. When we are in need, the generally bail us out, and now the sharing is going both ways. Our churches share vehicles, cooperate together on mission endeavors, share thanksgiving dinner, hold an annual missions banquet and cooperate for training events. Since our towns are only ten miles apart we are able to recommend Stafford Baptist to people who live nearby and Stafford regularly recommends Pillar Church to those who are closer to us.
Include them in your story – Church planters usually tell their story something like this… “God told me to plant a church, so I launched out, just my wife and I, no help from anyone else, I worked 5 jobs to make ends meet, and we opened the doors and amazingly 200 people showed up.” The truth is, there is almost always a part of the story omitted. The part where a whole bunch of people and money some how migrate from another church. For some reason, church planters don’t like including this in their story. Maybe they feel more spiritual or important by leaving the details a mystery, but I say, Instead of omitting it – celebrate it. Say something like, “First Church was so generous with us they gave us the boost we needed to really get going, that’s the way churches should be. I pray that God will give me a generous heart like that when our church is mature.” Your version of the story will make its way back to members and leaders of your sending church. Give credit where credit is due. Don’t make them sound more wonderful than they are and don’t omit them if they played a part in the establishment of your church.