Four Key Questions About Church Replanting
My guest blogger today is Dr. Jeremy Roberts, lead pastor at Church of the Highlands in Chattanooga, TN. You may read his blog and listen to his leadership podcast at JeremyRoberts.org.
- Church of the Highlands is a replant of the former Highland Park Baptist Church in downtown Chattanooga. How did you go about starting a new church plant out of a former mega-church?
When I became the pastor of the church, we were on the verge of closing, due to such a high debt load ($3.1M) compared with low giving and attendance (120 people). After much prayer, the choice was to either sell and close the church with dignity and start over as a new plant or try to jockey with the bank and live as long as we could survive. In order for a church to replant, the congregation needs to be realistic, urgent, and desperate.
- What are the key differences between revitalizing churches and replanting them?
Church replanting involves going into an established church and completely starting it over. If you’re a leader in a church thinking about doing this, you don’t list everything your church does on a white board, and then start erasing some things. That is revitalization. When it comes to replanting, you start with a new white board. Some churches need to be revitalized and others need to be replanted. Every church is unique.
- How does a church replanter go about instilling a new culture within a group of people who have been a part of a declining church for a long time?
In the last nine weeks at Highland Park Baptist Church, I preached a message series about DNA and began preparing those sticking with us to know what our DNA would be like. When we had Sunday night services, at Highland Park, we spent those last few months of Sunday nights completely to develop the new culture and DNA for Church of the Highlands. They were core group meetings.
Also, everyone from Highland Park had to go through our Church of the Highlands new members class and rejoin the church. I think this was a key process in making it clear that we didn’t just relocate and change names, but we started a new church.
- What would you say to a church leader who is thinking about going through a replanting process?
Have extreme clarity of the differences between replanting and revitalizing. I’ve written about that here. It may be unwise and unnecessary to replant. Another point of importance is that you must be willing to lose your job because the church may not want to do it. This is a situation where you put in all of your chips.