Jai and his wife Jay-Ellen are planning to plant a church in Mackay in 2011. Better them than me! It’s a huge task. But that’s the exciting thing about The Geneva Push: having a chance to rub shoulders with all these different people, with all these crazy plans, and being able to play a part in helping them on their way.
That’s where the assessment of church planters and their plans comes in.
For Jai and Jay the most valuable part of the assessment was “…being able to lay out our plans and to have a couple of experienced guys run through it and at the end say, ‘Yep, you should go ahead with this’”.
“It just gave us that bit of encouragement that I needed from God to keep pursuing this path,” he says.
Church planter assessment is one of the primary reasons for The Geneva Push’s existence. It is something we believe a national organization can do more consistently than any one church or denomination. As anyone who has started our assessment will discover, it is lots of work: a lot of paperwork, a lot of detail, and an interview panel that can be quite overwhelming to walk into. But as Al Stewart is fond of telling candidates, “We’re interested in testing your eyes, not counting them”.
So why would a potential church planter submit themselves to such a gruelling process? We are convinced it is actually the best way to serve the candidates, as well as the wider network. Here are five quick benefits of a thorough church planter assessment:
Assessment digs in deep on big doctrinal issues to ensure that we are on the same page. Doctrinal agreement ensures healthy unity in the long term. Moreover, our doctrine flows out into the way we go about church planting. We want theologically grounded and evangelistically growing church plants. Sound doctrine is crucial for both.
The assessment process forces church planters to write out their vision and values. It forces them to do basic demographic work on the area they might minister in. It might seem cool to figure it all out organically, but experience shows most of the time that will just end in an aimless mess. The very process of assessment is setting them up with material that they will go on to use and refine from day one.
The assessment interview is the beginning of an ongoing relationship between successful candidates and their Geneva Push coaches. Whether it’s one of their interviewers, or someone else in the Geneva network, every church planter has someone travelling alongside them as they take steps towards starting a new church. Church planters are familiar with scarcity. They know there is no point going it alone when they can have a wise, sounding board, committed to them and their new work.
4. Creating confidence
There is real affirmation in having a group of experienced outsiders back up a candidate’s interest in starting a new church. It’s not just his crazy idea anymore. This affirmation also gives assurance to the planter’s team and his financial supporters.
A thorough interview process also gives time to uncover any issues that need to be discussed and addressed. The struggles of starting a new church are great; personal problems have a way of rising to the surface under pressure. The assessment process is geared to identify and deal with these early.
The Geneva Push is so committed to the assessment approach that it made it the main plank of its first New South Wales and Victorian conferences, and will be offering it again to church planters at its National In The Chute conference in December this year. These are just some of the reasons we have begun the Push. They are also the reasons why many churches, networks and denominations are keen to use The Geneva Push’s assessment in their recruiting of church planters.