A Church Planting Proposal

By Daniel L. Sonnenberg


My call to church planting

For purposes of this paper, I am assuming the requisite key elements, competencies and confirmation of a call to serve as a church planter. The key elements of a call to church planting include spirituality, ability, affinity and opportunity. Spirituality includes spiritual life and family life. Ability includes spiritual gifts and ministry skills. Affinity includes desires and motives. Opportunity includes need and support, that is, there is a perceived need for a new church plant and support is available. These key elements are assumed in sufficient measure by the grace of God.

Core competencies include theological (knowledge), personal (character), ministry (gifts and skills), and relational competencies. Theological competencies include the abilities to understand God’s Word (normative), to apply God’s Word (situational) and to experience God’s Word (experiential). Personal competencies include prayer, spiritual vitality, integrity, sense of calling, orderly family life, conscientiousness, humility, and boldness. Ministry competencies include leadership, evangelism, management, preaching/teaching, philosophy and training. Relational competencies include flexibility, likability, stability, sensitivity, and winsomeness. These core competencies are also assumed in sufficient measure by the grace of God.

The confirmation of a call to church planting includes prayer and fasting, ministry experience, and counsel. Prayer and fasting will provide an inner witness to the call. Ministry experience will evidence the requisite gifts and character. Counsel includes one’s spouse and family, mature Christians, the denominational Assessment Center, and the Church Authorities. The confirmation of a call is assumed.

My vision for church planting

As Haddon Robinson says, “Since our vision must be God’s vision, we must gain it from the Scriptures.” In Mat. 28:18-20, just prior to his ascension, we find recorded the statement of the risen Christ concerning his supreme authority as Lord of heaven and earth. On the basis of that authority, therefore, he issued to his disciples, and thus to us all, a command and a promise. He commanded them to go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them and teaching them to obey all that He had commanded. He then promised that he would be with them in carrying out the command, in all his authority, to the end of the age. On the basis of this passage and others like it (Jn. 20:21; Mk. 16:14-15; Lk. 24:45-49; Acts 1:8), the New Testament affirms God’s vision to bring the Gospel to all people in word and deed. For purposes of this paper, I am assuming that my vision flows from God’s vision, that I feel an inner witness that this is God’s calling on my life at this time. Therefore, I will seek to fulfill that vision as God provides opportunities and support to do so.

The biblical imperative for church planting

A vision for the Church of God bears in mind that the Church is God’s primary agency for fulfilling the Great Commission, that church planting is the essential task in the Great Commission, and that church planting movements are God’s strategy for the Great Commission.

Throughout the New Testament, we find evidence that Jesus and the apostles used church planting as their strategy for accomplishing the Great Commission in their day. Jesus said, “I will build my church and the gates of Hades will not overcome it” (Mat. 16:18). In Acts, the work which Jesus began, was continued by the apostles and early Christians (13:2; 14:26; 15:38). The apostle Paul wrote his letters to new churches that he and others had begun. In Rom. 15:17-24 he tells how he had planted churches from Jerusalem to Illyricum where Christ was not yet known, and since this territory had been covered, he now intended to go on to Spain. Paul’s pastoral letters were correspondence with Timothy and Titus, his church planting converts and assistants. The book of Revelation addressed a number of churches that had been planted in Asia Minor.

The practical imperative for church planting

Peter Wagner, in Church Planting for a Greater Harvest, has written that “Church planting is the most effective evangelistic method under heaven.” Church planting yields higher church growth, more conversion growth, greater flexibility, higher commitment levels, more unified vision, life cycle replacement, increased diversity (more options to the body), greater receptivity to leadership, more comprehensive ministry, and productivity as a new resource center.


My Church Planting Mission Statement (Expanded) 3.1-58

To establish a lively Gospel-centered presence to serve the growing beach, golf and supporting communities of southeastern NC between Wilmington, NC and North Myrtle Beach, SC centered in Supply, NC.

 The description of the Ministry Focus Group (People profile) 3.1-21

This area includes several groups of people that we would seek to serve. One group consists of relatively affluent retirees who have moved from northern climes to the beach and golf communities located near the coast. The goods and services needed by this first group gives rise to two other groups. The second group, then, consists of professionals who either own or operate retail or service related business, work in the county government offices or school system, or commute to GE or Corning in Wilmington. The third group consists of those who work in the retail or service businesses as clerks, waiters, carpenters, plumbers and so forth. Many of these in the last group are single parents and/or minorities.

The needs of the Ministry Focus Group (Felt and real) 3.1-58

The affluent first group is often uprooted from family, friends and church, if they had any, in the north. These folks need a faith community in which to use their gifts of service and share their life experience/wisdom with those who can benefit from them. The second group, the professionals, need help to prevent spoiling their children, learning how to make loving and serving God and their neighbor central components of their too-busy lives, and to experience a balanced, well-governed church. The third group needs help with managing finances, making a living and raising children in a low-paying service field.

The demographic imperative (Community Profile)

This area in southeastern NC is the fastest growing county on the east coast of the U.S., due largely to the growth of the coastal region in view. As a result, average land values in the county have increased 41% in the past year. It appears to be largely rural, but it’s population is primarily located in and around a few small towns supporting beach and golf communities.

Population: The total population of the county is 73,000 while that of this particular area is approximately 15,000.

The following demographic data represents the entire county, so it may be skewed one way or another from the focus area. However, this area is representative of much of the county and it contains the largest town in the county with 6,500 residents.

Age: Those 65 and above consist of 17% (5% above the state average), those 35-64 consist of 43%, those 20-34 consist of 16%, and those 0-19 make up 24% of the total. The largest groups by decade are those from age 35-44 and 45-54 each with 14%. I cannot speculate very much on these numbers, but they do bear out the larger than average number of residents among those age 65 and above. There also appear to be more than the state average in the 45-64 age group while there are fewer than average in the 18-24 and 25-44 age groups. Thus the median age for the area (42) is higher than average for the state (35).

Race: Approximately 83% are white, 15% Black and 3% Hispanic.

Household by type: Of the households with children under age eighteen, 25% have female heads of household, while the rest are two-parent families. Non-family households make up 28%, with 23% living alone. The average household size is 2.4 and the average family size is 2.8.

Housing occupancy: In the county as a whole, 59% of homes are occupied while 41% are vacant housing units with 30% for seasonal, recreational or occasional use. This indicates a fluctuating seasonal population with more people visiting during the summer months in this area.

Educational attainment: Among those age 25 and above, 21% have not completed high school, 33% have completed high school, 23% have some college but no degree, 7% have associate degrees, 11% have bachelor’s degrees, and 5% have graduate or professional degrees. All tolled 78% are high school graduates or higher and 16% are bachelor’s degree or higher.

Disabilities: Those with disabilities total 9% of which over half (53%) are employed. Of the population over age 65, 40% are disabled.

Place of birth: 97% were born in the U.S., only 3% were foreign born. Of those 57% were Latin American and 30% were European born.

Employment: Of those 16 years and over, 58% are in the labor force. Among females, 50% are in the labor force. Of those families with children under 6 years of age, 63% have all parents in the family in the labor force.

Occupation: Those in management and professional positions make up 35%; those in sales and office occupations consist of 25%; service occupations 18%; construction and maintenance 19%, production, transportation occupations 14%; farming, fishing, hunting, and forestry 1%.  Private wage and salary workers make up 77% of the work force, government workers 13%, and self-employed workers 10%.

Income: The median household income is $36,000. Those with retirement income make up 26%. Mean retirement income is $23,000. The median family income is $42,000. Median income for males working full-time year-round is $30,000 while for females is $22,000.

Poverty Status: Among families with two parents, 10% live below the poverty level. Among families with female householders and no husband present, 34% live below the poverty level. Among individuals, 13% live below the poverty level.

Churches: New churches planted in the area include Catholic and Lutheran as well as a Hindu temple! Only one Presbyterian church is found in the area and it is of the liberal stripe. There have been a number of short-lived Pentacostal churches in the area that focused strictly on the experiential aspect of faith.


My Ministry Purposes

With such diverse groups of people, it seems a ‘worship-fellowship’ approach would work best. This would involve highly planned and attractive worship services combined with stress on group life and meeting personal needs of member, with a more relational approach to all of its communication and structure. Here “strugglers” would feel welcome. This approach seems the most consistent with the needs of the focus groups and the giftings of my wife, myself and the confirmed ministry partner couple identified below.

My Ministry Styles

  • Worship styles: Since the congregation is mixed it will blend transcendent and immanent, traditional and contemporary, with a liturgy that includes some higher elements, but mostly low elements.
  • Learning and Communication styles: the initial learning style will be relational.
  • Fellowship / Infrastructure styles: the initial fellowship style will be celebration, congregation, cell.
  • Outreach / Acts of Mercy (Front door, Side door): the initial outreach style will be front door and will add side door events and groups within the first year.
  • Leadership development style: (6.1-8, 10): I am more of a builder / waterer.

My Core Values

Universal values (true of all churches):

  • Worship: participational worship that focuses attention on God while celebrating our corporateness.
  • Fellowship: unity, interdependence.
  • Mercy: reaching into the community to touch physical and emotional needs of those who are hurting
  • Evangelism & Missions: reaching out to the community and world to heal the spiritual needs of those who are lost without a Savior
  • Learning: equipping the saints for their work of ministry by helping them discover their spiritual gifts and temperaments, and releasing them into service and mission, growth in holiness

Unique values:

  • Gospel-centeredness
  • Church multiplication ministries

My Ministry Flow Chart

My Discipleship Strategy 3.1-61

  • Membership strategy (winning): Overall, the strategy will be relational. People tend to come to a group meeting, worship service or event when someone they know invites them to come. The relationship can be short-term, such as a realtor, builder or neighbor who is a member of the church inviting a new resident or contact to a general event or worship service. Or it can be a long-term relationship such as a co-worker recently divorced being invited by a member to a divorce recovery group with a spiritual emphasis. Visitors to the worship service or event would be followed up by a team trained in evangelism and hospitality. Visitors to felt-need groups or events will be followed up by the group or ministry leaders. These will be encouraged to attend a one-time Newcomers’ class around a meal and then to attend the New Members’ class which extends several weeks that includes a small-group component each week as part of the class.
  • Maturity strategy (building) / Ministry strategy (equipping): The people will be taught how to reproduce themselves in others. It seems that a missing element in many ‘maturity’ models is the application. Therefore, I would combine these two elements. Scripture tells us that the role of pastors, teachers, etc. is to equip the saints for their work of ministry. It does not seem to indicate a separate stage called maturity which is fully completed preceding any ministry. Growing into maturity cannot be divorced from serving in ministry. Therefore, discipleship classes and home groups should be connected with ministry. Jesus reproduced himself in his disciples by both talking with them on the way and showing them how to do ministry in an alternating pattern of Word and work. There is generally too much Word which does not correspond to service in the church today. As John Frame said in a recent lecture, the best model of discipleship he has seen was at his church in California where people followed the pastor while he showed them how to win the lost to Christ and help them begin to grow in their new faith. This is much more dynamic than sitting around a table simply studying Scripture with no end in mind. To do this requires a mentoring model beginning with the pastor, which is passed on to his leaders and then on to the people in the congregation. We must stay close to the lost in the community, both at home and abroad, constantly seeking opportunities to reach them through mercy and evangelistic ministries or the church will soon dry up. Learning Scripture takes on new meaning when I am preparing to explain it to a person who is lost or is a new believer. Or if I am seeking to apply what Christ said about ministering to the poor, the lonely, the needy, or the sick,  for example. This should be applied as well to those working with children or students. One mission trip or one visit to the nursing home per year is not sufficient. Unless disciplers require their charges to put legs on the word it profits little. A ministry component should be included in every step toward maturity. Likewise, every ministry, such as the choir or outreach to the homeless, should include a teaching component, so as not to lose sight of their purpose in God’s plan to reach the nations. Teaching and application go together.
  • Mission strategy (reproducing): The church will seek to reproduce itself at home and abroad. There are many strategies for starting new churches and various methods will be used according to the situation. However, the best strategy for local church plants seems to be the branching of a mother church into daughter churches which planting a series of churches in neighboring communities. The church will include in its annual budget monies for church planting staff whose purpose will be to develop a team to go into the next community. As this staff and team prepare to leave, other staff will be sought to fill the vacancy(s) and begin the process over again until Jesus comes or the mother church is disbanded. A similar strategy will be used for planting overseas churches.
  • Leadership strategy (developing): Leaders should emerge from among the congregation as they are observed and tested by the pastor and other leaders in the maturity/ministry stage. One who serves well as both a follower and a leader in ministering and training others should be sought out for further training more directly with the pastor and not simply in a classroom setting. They must work alongside him in ministering to the lost and discipling new believers, so that they will know his heart and see his fruit and he will know and see theirs firsthand. If they are going to lead the church together it cannot simply be on an intellectual basis.


My Church Planting Action Plan

Combination gathering strategies (front and side door) [Reference: Steven Childers, Gospel Centered Church Planting and Renewal]

  • Front door church planting strategies (event orientation)
    • Preview services – a regular series (monthly) of public meetings that display the emerging values, vision and ministries of the church plant
      • Vision casting: sharing the church values and vision
      • Community building: folding people into relationships
      • Worshipping ‘light’, tasting the worship that is to come
      • Teaching/preaching ‘light’, tasting the preached word
      • Networking/evangelizing: following up the seekers
      • Recruiting/enlisting: inviting people in circles of influence
      • Mentoring: developing emerging leaders who participate
    • Exhibition services: a weekly series (2-8 weeks) of worship services held at the same time and place of the anticipated public worship but not made known to the public. Dress rehearsal for essential ministries.
      • Worship (sound, ushers)
      • Welcome (greeting, refreshments)
      • Set up (tear down)
      • Children (nursery)
      • Assimilation (follow up)
      • Groups (discipleship)
      • Outreach (service)
      • Administration (finance)
    • Public services (worship & ministry): weekly worship services made known to the public by major outreach campaigns inviting people to the first public worship service and introducing people to the church values, vision and ministries.
      • Networking invitations (circles of influence)
      • Media invitations (direct mail, advertising, phone calling)
    • Side door church planting strategies (cell group orientation)
      • Discipleship development: evangelizing and discipling individuals in the ministry focus group through one-on-one and / or small group meetings:
        • Milestones:
          • Contextualized, transferable discipleship methods that work
          • Gospel transformation in the lives of disciples
          • Penetrating “circles of influence”
          • Multiplying disciples
          • Emerging leaders (spiritual reproducers)
        • Methods:
          • Spiritual renewal groups (2,3 max)
          • Spiritual retreats (weekends, sponsors)
        • Cell group development: gathering the emerging disciples into cell groups for ongoing spiritual growth and reproduction in the context of community:
          • Milestones:
            • A healthy prototype cell group (love, prayer, learning, community, evangelism, service, church values and vision)
            • Mature, equipped cell group leaders and apprentices
            • Multiplication of healthy cell groups

My Church Planting Milestones (Goals)

Most of these items are taken from Robert E. Logan & Steven L. Ogne, Church Planter’s Toolkit. These are not arranged in any particular order at this point.

  • Ministry confirmed
  • Ministry team recruited
  • Church name selected
  • Cash flow for first year projected
  • Financial and bookkeeping procedures established
  • Start date confirmed
  • Meeting place confirmed
  • Office space confirmed
  • Church name selected
  • Stationery and business cards ordered
  • Bank account established
  • Donor receipting procedures confirmed
  • Liability insurance secured
  • Office equipment secured
  • Nursery and children’s ministry equipment secured
  • Worship equipment secured
  • Worship set up crew mobilized
  • Core group formed
  • Children’s workers recruited and trained
  • New Christian follow up confirmed
  • Leadership training meetings planned
  • First sermon series outlined
  • Demographics completed
  • Home group leaders trained
  • Home group philosophy established
  • Newsletter publication scheduled set
  • Intercessor team mobilized
  • Newcomer’s class orientation scheduled
  • Advertising strategy designed and scheduled
  • Postal address secured
  • Bulk mail permit obtained
  • Newcomers class recruitment process designed
  • First newcomers orientation class completed
  • Worship services first quarter planned
  • New children’s classes started
  • First worship service completed
  • New home groups started
  • Annual goals and budget developed
  • Curriculum for groups determined
  • Plans for daughter church confirmed

My Church Planting Objectives (Specific)

  • Leadership
  • Worship
  • Discipleship
  • Fellowship (Cells)
  • Evangelism
  • Assimilation
  • Service (Mercy)
  • Administration (Finances)

 My Church Planting Timeline (One to three years)

Launch indicators:

  • Number of small groups
  • Worship team intact, children’s ministry, etc.
  • Money committed
  • Number of people coming to meetings


The church planter’s bio (Qualifications, gifts, passions, experience)

The church planter has served as Director of Music and Arts on a church staff full-time for eighteen years. He has seen the ups and downs of church ministry, serving under five senior pastors and survived two church splits. He has witnessed the successful planting of two daughter churches from Myrtle Grove while on staff and still has contact with the pastors of those two churches. His primary gifts are administration and leadership. He is passionate about winning the lost to Christ, building them up in the faith and mobilizing them into ministry in the world. He has participated in three short term missions over the years to Guatemala, the British West Indies, and Hungary. He has built a sizable music ministry from the ground up, loves putting structures together, developing ministry and leadership teams and is willing to take risks.

The church planter’s family (Spouse and children)

The church planting pastor’s spouse, Beth, is the mother of two teenage sons, ages sixteen and fourteen. Beth is outgoing, loves people and desires to be an integral part of the ministry. Her past experience in ministry includes leadership roles in music ministry among children, youth and adults; participation in women’s ministries, prayer ministries, counseling ministry and one short-term mission trip to Argentina. She trained worship leaders for one of Myrtle Grove’s  daughter churches in 1999. She has worked as a school teacher for approximately ten years at all levels. Beth is gifted at identifying motives and working through problem areas.

Our sons, Stephen and James, spent their early years in Christian school, but for the past few years have transitioned to public school. As children of church staff members all their lives, they have seen the ups and downs of ministry life. They are both in high school and pretty solid in their Christian walk and are favorably disposed toward church planting at this time.

The ideal Launch Team description (Leadership roles needed)

A ministry dream team would include following persons (Reference: Robert E. Logan, Church Planter’s Toolkit, pp. 2-4):

  • Recruiter/Evangelist: magnetic personality and networker; invites and attracts numerous people to the ministry and motivates others to do likewise
  • Worship Leader/Facilitator: able to plan, lead, and involve others in worship.
  • Children’s Ministry Leader/Recruiter: able to plan, lead, recruit and train others in ministry to children.
  • Shepherd/Caregiver: a highly relational person who provides for the care of needy new believers, ideally someone experienced in starting support and recovery groups
  • Organizer/Implementor: designs and launches ministry systems to enable vision to become a reality.
  • Recruiter/Mobilizer: creates opportunities and encourages people to get involved in groups and ministries.
  • Financial/Business Administrator: designs and implements systems for financial, facility, and business management without blocking the flow of ministry.

Note: My gifts seem to correspond more to those of the Organizer/Implementor, Recruiter/Moblizer, or Worship Leader/Facilitator in this list. Hmm.

The profile(s) of any confirmed ministry partners

We have only one couple confirmed to date. Jimmy and Rachele Hobbs have lived and worked in the focus area for over twenty years. The past ten to twelve years, they have commuted the forty five minutes to Wilmington and Myrtle Grove Church (the proposed mother church). They run a family held real estate business in Holden Beach, building, renting and managing vacation homes. They have prayed and dreamed about a church plant in this area for over ten years. They have both worked in the local school system, Rachele as a volunteer in their four children’s classes and as a substitute teacher and Jimmy as a school board member. As a result of their various involvements, they are very familiar with the area and its people. Rachele told me in a recent phone conversation that there are now at least six families attending Myrtle Grove church who live in the focus area. Rachele has served as worship leader and Jimmy as deacon at Myrtle Grove. Rachele is the daughter of a pastor who served in the focus area as well as overseas as a military chaplain and missionary. Since her father’s death, her mother has remarried another pastor and they reside and minister in Ireland.


Prayer support plan (Levels of intercession, communication plans)

Prayer must be a priority in church planting because of the reality of spiritual warfare. We must keep in mind that the success of the church plant is dependent on prayer. The church planter needs to maintain an active daily personal prayer life including reading, meditation, prayer, and contemplation along with his wife. Three levels of prayer support should be established like the model of Jesus’ relationships (three in the inner circle, the twelve, and the seventy). Time commitments should be established for each person committing to be an intercessor, whether 3, 6, or 12 months. The three levels would consist of Level One Intercessors (Large Group, 25-100), Level Two Intercessors (Small Group, 6-12), and Level Three Intercessors (Select Few, 2-3). The Select Few would commit to being called for prayer anytime night or day over the phone and should meet weekly, or better yet, twice a week for breakfast and prayer. The Small Group would be committed to pray together weekly on a weeknight at someone’s home and daily individually. The Large Group would commit to meet for prayer as a group monthly on a Sunday evening and pray weekly individually. Ongoing prayer needs, according to the stage in the planting process, would be posted on the website and sent out weekly via email to all intercessors and especially to group leaders. Answers to prayer, vision reports and opportunities would be included in each report. In addition, before significant points in the church planting process, special focused days of prayer and fasting and concerts of prayer should be scheduled. Items for prayer should include the church planter and his family (personal needs), the church planter’s vision and heart, initial networking and outreach, launch team formation, core group formation, financial support, first worship service, follow-up, etc. These items could be divided up among the various teams or some could be prayed for in the meetings and others prayed for individually. Team leaders would be responsible for accountability of the members of each group.

Coaching support plan (Training and mentoring plans and schedule)

The formal Gospel Centered Church Planting and Renewal course was completed at RTS in the summer of 2003. This will be followed by non-formal training at boot camps, seminars and conferences in addition to seeking out coaches and mentors who have successfully planted churches such as those men who planted daughter churches in the Wilmington area and those in our denomination (EPC).  I understand that one those planters from Wilmington has recently moved to the mountains of NC to work strictly as a church planting coach for our denomination. Moreover, individual church plants locally can be studied informally while I remain in Orlando and by using Coachnet online (unless that is limited to PCA folks). I would need to attend an assessment review with our denomination, establish a learning contract and a coaching/mentoring contract.

Financial support plan (Financial Support Model)

As noted above, the single church planter’s salary would be funded by the mother church while he serves on the church staff to build his team, then would be funded by the mother church for a period of no more than two years after the first public worship service. All other funds would be raised from among the core group.

If other staff positions are desired to fill out the church planting ‘dream team’, personal fund raising will be used to raise short-term support for these positions for one, two, or three years.

It should be determined if other funds may be available from the denomination National Outreach Committee as well.


  • Networking contacts
  • Prayer needs (Personal and ministry)
  • Financial needs (Short-term commitment, long-term results)
  • Recruitment (On-site service, one-year commitments, etc.)

Categories: Papers


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