Lessons In Church Planting

By Janice Hill

I once led a Church-Planting team in Southport, between 2010 and 2014. Since then, I have sometimes tried to evaluate how well I did at it. I have come to the conclusion that while I did what I could, in an ‘ideal world’, I might have done it differently.

However, we don’t live an ‘ideal’ world, we live in the real world, and when God calls us to do something we run with it, always seeking to follow the movement of the Spirit.

So what can I share, from my experiences, that would be useful to others?

  1. It is important to pray, to have a vision, develop a plan, and build team.
  2. It is more important to be willing to throw all your plans out of the window!

If God takes you in another direction to what you had envisaged, the best thing you can do is to follow Him, in whatever that is, and wherever that is.

We get stuck in a rut far too quickly.

I have spent so much time, in the Church of England, trying to avoid this. This has not always been comfortable but it has been important.

We need to be flexible – fluid in our planning, open to the Spirit, listening to God. As Rick Warren, in his book ‘The Purpose-Driven Church’ says:

“Our job as Church leaders, like surfers, is to recognise the wave of God’s Spirit, and to ride it”.

According to a web-site for surfers, a lot of skill is needed to ‘ride a wave’: you paddle out to catch it, you stand up on your board, and then you ride it!

We can apply these ideas to starting new congregations, too:

  • paddle out – you work hard on the preparatory work (behind the scenes)
  • stand up – you launch your new congregation (implementing the plan)
  • ride on! – you respond to whatever happens next (as well as you can!)

Beginnings are great, but this is the point when the real work begins. This is the time when you see plans come to fruition, and you see God’s Spirit at work.

But this is also the time when you need to pay most attention, or you will fall off the board and lose the wave you are trying to ride!

Starting new congregations is a great ride! It can feel bumpy, unexpected, and even dangerous at times, but it is worth all the effort, as it is one of the best ways to obey the command of Jesus, to: “go and make disciples” [Matthew 28.19].


Revd. Janice Hill has been Diocesan Missioner for the past two years, working with Local Missional Leaders in the Diocese, co-leading the Pioneer Network, and overseeing the collection and use of Statistics for Mission including the Missional Activities database. Janice previously had experience establishing a café church, as well as leading and working with a young church plant, and starting Toddler Church.