I’ve written about how I worry for pastors during this COVID-19 crisis. The truth is that I’m also worried about a particular kind of pastor: church planters. And I’m concerned for their new churches.
Church planting is a fragile thing. You move in to an area as a missionary and try to evangelize a church into existence. It’s hard and risky. Not everyone survives at the best of times. I’ve heard Ed Stetzer say that a third of churches thrive; a third survive; a third fail.
But we’re not in normal times. I’m going to guess that more are teetering on the edge of closure right now.
Plants face a number of challenges:
- Most of us haven’t been able to meet with our people in at least three months. This is hard on every kind of church, but church plants may feel this more acutely at their stage of development. And it may be a while until everyone is able or willing to return in person.
- Many church plants meet in rental locations that are no longer available to them (schools, theaters, etc.). Figuring out where to meet will be a challenge. And we’ll need bigger spaces due to social distancing restrictions
- Funding church plants just got harder. Bivocational and covocational models are great, but unemployment is up. Fundraising has also become harder in an uncertain economy.
- In-person evangelism also got harder. It’s harder to meet people in our communities while restrictions are in place.
- Some church planters were in the early stages of planting, and were planning to launch in the Fall. Their preparations are now a lot more complicated.
- Planting forces planters to confront their idols and insecurities more than any form of ministry I know. The pandemic may have amplified many of these as most of us struggle through this period.
I pray that God will bring encouragement into the lives of church planters through his presence, through friends who care, and through rest. I pray that they won’t give up.
I pray that God will resource church plants in unexpected ways so that planters don’t have to make the difficult decision to pull the plug on a church plant, or to stop paying salaries and bills.
I pray that God will open up facilities for churches that can’t find a place to meet, or that he will help them restructure so they can meet in ways they hadn’t considered before.
I pray that new churches will hold together, that people on the edge will not fall away, but will stay connected to the young congregations.
I pray that God will open up new avenues for evangelism that weren’t possible before.
If you know a church planter, please consider reaching out to see how that planter is doing.
If your church owns a building, please consider allowing a church plant that lost its facility to use your building if you’re able.
And please pray for church plants.
God is in control, and we can have confidence in him no matter what’s happening, but we still need prayer as we try to work our way through the challenges. And right now, a lot of church planters could use your prayers.