I have had several of my youth pastor friends transition to church planting. I know of more who are very interested. Church planting is not only a huge move of the Holy Spirit today, it is also a huge fad in church culture. I asked my good friend, Matt Townsend to write briefly on how to think through the transition from youth ministry to church planting. Matt is a youth pastor gone church planter now in Philadelphia with a healthy, vibrant, and growing church plant. I respect Matt greatly as a pastor, and I’m always amazed to hear his wisdom as he thinks through tough issues. So here is what Matt has to say to youth pastors who are thinking about planting churches:
Church planting is the “extreme sports” of church life. It’s hard, really hard. Yet, so many people want to do it. So before you take the plunge, I want to talk to you about my experience and transition from youth ministry into church planting.
Jesus saved me at 15, called me into ministry at 16 and called me to plant churches when I was 20. What I didn’t know was the how or when of church planting. Do you just move into a neighborhood, start knocking on doors like a JW and say, “Hey, um, I starting a church in my basement, wanna come?” You’d probably end up doing prison ministry from the inside that way. So I waited.
I did youth ministry at First Baptist in Ohio for 5 years. During that time, God would remind me of His calling on my life. In 2007, I attended a Straight Up Ministry Conference at Harvest Bible Chapel. This is where I discovered the how.
The great part of church planting these days, you don’t have to do what I described above. There are networks and fellowships to join now. What I like about Harvest, they gave the tools I needed to go out and get a church up and running quickly. I hit the ground with not one team member on Feb. 1, 2011. On Sept. 11, 2011, just 9 months later, we launch with 212 people in attendance and leveled out at 150 a year later. I couldn’t have done that without the Harvest Fellowship.
The when was a little more complicated. For me, there were two factors, a push and a pull. The internal pull to leave the youth ministry and planted kept intensifying, daily. The push was external. Circumstances had formed helping me to realize that the timing was right. When those two things came crashing together, through much prayer, my wife and I (who was 100% on board with church planting, you can’t and shouldn’t force her if she doesn’t want to, even if you feel called) decided to join Harvest.
This is the hardest thing I’ve ever done. My calling is the one thing that pulls me through the days I want to rip out my hair and the sleepless nights. If you are considering church planting, just make sure you’re called.
Pastor @ Harvest Bible Chapel. Philadelphia West
Church Twitter: @harvestphilly