Assessment crucial for success
Mission USA News
Church planting today is more successful than it was even 15 years ago. Recent research by organizations such as Lifeway Research, led by author and speaker Ed Stetzer, indicates that church plants across America have roughly a 15 percent higher success rate than in 1995.
“We are doing many things better and much of this is due to the emergence and development of church planting systems,” writes Stetzer.
Success of Mennonite Brethren church planting is following this national pattern. The MB church plant success rate for the past 15 years is around 80 percent, which is where the national average stands. A “successful” church plant means the new church reaches a point of self-sufficiency and viability.
One of the most important ingredients for successful church planting is church planter assessment. Mission USA, along with the various district church planting boards, is committed to having each potential church planter assessed by a competent independent assessment agency. Typically a potential church plant couple will spend three to four days in an intensive assessment that includes personality profiling, psychological reviews, gift-mix analysis, family health review, physical health review and peer assessment. There are also in-depth ministry-related exercises and performance reviews. It is a challenging event.
“It continues to amaze me how much we learn about a couple’s readiness for church planting through these intense assessments,” says Mission USA director Don Morris. “Sometimes couples attempt to fool the assessors when they first arrive at an assessment, trying to put on a flawless front. But the assessments are so involved that we soon see the couple’s realities. Assessment is not perfect, but it’s a great filter. We don’t want to put couples into the tough realm of church planting until they’re truly ready.”
Mission USA has used various assessment agencies, but most often uses Church Planting Assessment Center based in Johnson City, Tenn. Up to 10 assessors, including an assessor from Mission USA when a Mennonite Brethren couple is being evaluated, and 12 to 14 couples are involved in the process.
True church planting success involves not only the sustainability of a new church. More importantly is whether that new church is seeing life-transformation. According to Morris, that’s how all of this fits together.
“If we assess people for church planting and simply determine that they have good skills, that’s one thing. But if we discern that they have a passion for reaching those who don’t know Jesus, that’s something even more vital,” says Morris. “So, we look for both—skills for planting and a burden for the lost. Why else would we invest so much time, energy and funding into church planting if it wasn’t to help build God’s kingdom?”
One thing is certain: Church planting is getting better returns these days. No longer is it just a shot in the dark. Good systems, networks, planning, partnerships and funding initiatives have all added up to help ensure that when a church is started it has a high degree of expected sustainability.
But without assessment, even those safeguards are incomplete. Morris says, “Even if Billy Graham came to us and wanted to plant a church, the first thing we would do is send him to assessment.”
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