Into the Harvest Archives
Whenever I look at my 16-month old granddaughter, I am filled with an awe and wonder that I cannot explain. It was the same feeling I had whenever I looked at her father, my son, Nick, and his sister, Angie when they were little. There is a mystery to creating a new life that is indescribable. That may be why I am so drawn to starting new churches. I love to experience that joy and deep sense of participating in something so much bigger than I am. I realize that my part in this is only a fraction of the whole, but what a privilege it is to partner with God in this way.
For many years I’ve made the case that every church can become a parent. I realize that many congregations think it is beyond them, something only the bigger churches can do, but I flatly do not believe this. I am convinced that God has designed everything in the natural world to reproduce itself. When all systems are in place and that organism is healthy and functioning normally, it reproduces. The Church is no different. I will concede that it complicates life to become a parent. Giving birth is not for the faint of heart – just ask any woman who has done it! But, for all the drama and messiness, the bond you have with your children and grandchildren is an amazing and unparalleled gift. I believe God wants every church to experience this same joy.
One important thing to note is that there are many ways of becoming a parent church. Historically, our larger churches have given birth to “high birth-weight babies” - daughter churches that start their life with an associate minister and a number of families from the mother church. This takes a serious commitment of financial and people resources but is very effective. More recently, we’ve begun to explore other models that are also very effective, but less costly to the mother church. Fresh Expressions, Missional Communities, and Satellite Campuses are all effective ways to touch communities that are not being reached by the congregation’s current ministry. These models have the added benefits of activating the multiplication gene in a congregation’s DNA and may also be a better fit for the congregations who are smaller in size and capability.
This summer, seven churches in the Diocese of the Mid-Atlantic formed a learning community to explore what it means to become a multiplying church. These New Church Incubators have agreed to meet 2-3 times a year for fellowship, lunch, and a group study of books and other resources. Together they will hear guest speakers share their testimonies and best practices, develop strategies for multiplication and funding of new churches, and pray for God’s guidance and wisdom. As a learning community, they are developing a conceptual framework and vocabulary for multiplication, including the biblical and theological foundations of church multiplication and a philosophy of ministry that is consistent with our Anglican polity. My great hope and expectation is that this initiative will assist us in developing our own internal “farm system,” i.e. a leadership pipeline that consistently identifies, enlists, raises up, and deploys new leaders into the harvest field. The DOMA Internship and Residency programs will also be instrumental in this effort, helping to provide training and coaching for our emerging leaders. I see this as a collaborative effort between all members of the learning community and our diocese. My role will be to convene the group, coordinate our activities, provide training and coaching, and lend some organizational leadership to our efforts.
To help kick off this initiative, many of us attended Becoming Five, a regional conference sponsored by the Exponential Network at New Life Church in Chantilly on September 12-13. We also began reading the book Becoming a Level 5 Multiplying Church Field Guide by my good friends, Todd Wilson and Dave Ferguson, who lead the Exponential Network and have done much to stimulate church multiplication in North America.
I invite every church in DOMA to join us on this journey as we say ‘yes’ to God’s invitation to participate in the miracle of new life. I believe this initiative will be critical for the long-term health and growth of our congregations and our diocese, as we explore new ways of reaching our communities with the Gospel of Jesus Christ.The Rev. Dr. Tom Herrick is Canon for Church Planting for the Diocese of the Mid-Atlantic.