Church Planting Models

Ask different organizations and churches for their model of church planting and you will probably get totally different answers. There is no universally agreed upon list or model of church planting. A lot depends on the target audience and the social, religious and political context – and the history and calling of the founder of the church or movement. God works through people!

There is a difference between a “model” and a “strategy”, and how models and strategies relate to “values”.  People often confuse “models” with “strategies.” A careful study of the life of Jesus and the life of Paul the apostle reveals that they followed well prayed through, Spirit-led strategies. In Luke 4:18, Jesus announced His strategy. It was to “preach, heal, liberate and recover…” His strategy included gathering a small group of disciples, and from them gathering leaders among them that would lead a movement that would take His message to all nations. His ultimate goal was to establish a new covenant people that filled the earth with the glory of God. When Jesus sent His disciples He gave them a strategy, and that was to “go, teach, baptize and make disciples…” A strategy is how we do ministry; a strategy can be led by the Spirit or done in the flesh. Paul’s strategy was to go to key cities, starting with the Jews first, preaching and teaching that Jesus was the messiah, with the goal of reaching the gentiles and establishing churches that would reproduce and multiply.

A model of ministry is the style of doing things, a certain approach or pattern that is followed and taught to others to follow. We can follow a model and understand the values or follow the model and not understand the Biblical values it is based on.


A few church models popular today:

- Sunday celebration model

- Seeker sensitive model

- Sunday school model

- Recovery group model

- Emerging church model

- Cell church model

- The teaching pastor model

- The church planting movement model

- The revival and prayer model

- The dynamic worship model


To be led by the Holy Spirit does not mean we don’t have a strategy or a well thought through model for how we do things. God leads different people to follow different strategies and models. God uses our minds as the Holy Spirit inspires us to think through the best “way” of doing things for us The way He leads us is what we commonly call a “strategy”, or more often, “God’s leading”. A Spirit led strategy is carefully devised plan of action to achieve a goal. Nehemiah had a strategy for rebuilding the walls, Gideon had a strategy for defeating his enemies, and David had a strategy for fighting Goliath. Jesus had a strategy for reaching the world. Paul had a strategy for reaching the gentiles.

God’s ultimate goal for humanity is revealed in the Bible: He longs for all people to come to the knowledge of the truth and to be saved, and as a result to give glory to God. God’s ultimate goal is the worship of His son Jesus by every tribe and tongue and people. God has different ways of reaching this one great goal; those ways are His strategies, and they are passed on to us in the Bible and by the leading of the Holy Spirit.

God is the God of all knowledge and wisdom. God guides His servants with insight into how to approach various people groups and nations and religious groups bound in darkness. Preaching the good news, advancing the kingdom of God, healing the sick, revealing the secrets of people’s hearts through words of knowledge, making disciples, starting churches – are all strategies God has given the church to reach the ultimate goal of Jesus being worshipped by every tribe and nation. Jesus is the ultimate goal, and strategies are ways He leads us to glorify God by raising up worshippers to Jesus. Different ones of us in the body of Christ are creative in finding new strategies, but we cannot deviate from the “required” strategy God has commanded all of us to obey: to go, to teach, baptize and make disciples, and to  love our neighbor as yourself. We are all commanded to obey the great commandment and the great commission.

God gives new strategies for those who will listen to Him, who are open to learn new ways of doing church. Creative, God-given strategies and models for church planting give us the joy of creating new wineskins and the flexibility needed in responding to the needs of people. We are allowed and encouraged by God to be part of creating of new “wineskins”, new models of church, for the sake of advancing the kingdom and bringing glory to Jesus. New wineskins are new forms of church to reach the lost, they are “new strategies” so to speak. When we listen to the spirit, then create a new wineskin by the leading of the Holy Spirit, we who do so receive great joy, lost people receive great mercy, and God receives great glory!


For your interest as a church leader and church planter, below is one of the strategies Jesus followed in finding and equipping disciples and leaders in His movement, simply called the “crowd, curious, committed” strategy.


The crowds:  Jesus preached, healed, announced the arrival of the long awaited kingdom of God, and did and said things that gave hope to the people that God was in their midst. Jesus spent enough time with large numbers of people to plant the seed of the gospel in great abundance. He saturated whole regions of Palestine with the gospel. Sowing the gospel abundantly to large numbers of people was a strategy.  He did this my ministering to crowds physical needs, by feeding them, healing them, and teaching them. And He invited them to receive more from Him… He invited them to a better way…He intentionally stirred up lots of spiritual curiosity and hunger in the crowds.

The curious:  Jesus spoke to the crowds in order to stir up spiritual hunger in people that were open to change. These were the ones who left the crowds, usually to “get something” from Jesus, or to find out more about Him. They wanted to know more. Like Nicodemus. And the lady who wanted to be healed. And the rich young ruler. And the Samaritan woman. And of course, Peter and John, and Matthias, and Simon the Zealot, and Thomas and others of His disciples. They were amazed and intrigued by Jesus. To those who were spiritually hungry, He always gave invitations to take a further step, usually a step of obedience that would cost them something in order to become part of His disciples. He invited the “curious” to belong before they understood how or what to believe. He gave them opportunities to pursue their spiritual hunger. “Follow me…” Jesus would say. From the thousands in the crowds, Jesus looked for hundreds of curious, hungry people. He was searching for the “person of peace”. To find them, he asked those who were “curious” to take steps of obedience, to do something to show they were sincere, to pay a price to find more. That price involved selling everything they owned, or getting in a boat right then and joining him, or abandoning a funeral for a close family member, or leaving a tax table, or joining Jesus in a meal -  in their own house! Jesus sought to activate the faith of the curious and turn them into committed disciples by asking them to small steps of obedience. The discipleship that Jesus taught and modeled was obedience oriented discovery based discipleship: obey Jesus and you discover more!  

The committed:  The curious were invited to become disciples. The ones who did follow and obey Him join Jesus - these were the disciples we read about in the Bible. They were the ones who obeyed Jesus. They heard Him teach and then they did what He taught.  They were with him constantly. They stayed with Him and He rubbed off on them. They were still often confused and missed the point, but they kept coming back to Jesus.  They were the 12.  And they were also the 72 and probably several hundred more disciples whose names we don’t know.

Note that all three categories of people: the crowds, the curious, and the committed, were referred to as “followers of Jesus” if they showed interest in Jesus. Jesus honored each person where they were on their spiritual journey, while always calling them to more.  When we use the term “follower of Jesus” we mean any person who is sincerely interested in Jesus. Jesus practiced this inclusive approach, while not compromising His standards for being a committed disciple. The threshold was low for following Jesus, but the bar was set high for being a committed disciple of Jesus.

Today as well, we recognize these same three groups of people in every culture and context of life; all three groups are on a journey. We need to both accept people where they are on that journey, and inspire and encourage them to keep moving forward on the journey. We have the privilege of inviting them to take the next steps toward becoming a fully obedient disciple of Jesus who accepts God’s mission for their life.


With the above in mind, let’s consider at a few “models” of church planting:

1.      The Parachute Model – A planter and their family move into a new location to start a church from scratch, on their own.  They are dropped into the area alone, without support systems close at hand. The planter has very little connection with or existing support within the new area.   The planter and their family are “pioneering” new territory.   Where there is great risk, there is great reward, but this approach is not for the faint of heart. 


2.      The Mother Church Model – An existing church or church planting organization provides the initial leadership and resources (dollars and/or people) to get a new church started including the selection of the church planter.  Often the church planter is selected from within the existing local church and “planted out” with a group of people to go with them. The mother church has already bought into the vision, values and beliefs of those going out.  The existing relationship allows for a close working relationship between the “mother” and “daughter” churches.   Although the new church is autonomous, the sponsoring church/organization often has significant influence in the new church (including decision making during the pre-launch phase).  Advantages often include increased financial resources and the ability to draw core team/launch team members from the sponsoring church/network.


3.      Collaborative Network / Partnership Model – This is a rapidly growing trend where an organization (or many organizations) committed to church planting work together to plant churches.   These informal alliances are referred to as collaborative or partnership networks.   The participating organizations often share common beliefs and a passion for starting new churches.   Planters often get many of the benefits of the “sponsoring church” model but with increased autonomy in decision making.


4.      Cell Church Model– Small (5-20 people) groups / cells form and multiply via a network of people meeting in homes.  In most cases, the individual cells are connected in a larger congregation that meets together for Sunday celebrations.   This model focuses on personal growth in the cell groups, care and teaching through one-on-one and small group discipleship, and weekly celebration as all the cell groups gather together.   Cell groups are birthed through multiplication, and, sometimes die, only to resurface months or even years later.  This model requires very little funding.


5.      Satellite / Campus / Multi-site Model – An existing church opens new locations.   The idea is for one church to have many meeting locations.   Motives range from reaching more lost people to making more room at an existing location.  The evolving multi-site model is proving important in creating an entrepreneurial spirit of multiplication / replication within existing churches.   It is still to be determined whether this model will spark an increased rate of new salvations and new autonomous churches planted.


6.      Restart / Re-launch Model – An existing struggling church decides to bury the old and plant a fresh new church.   The restart for the old church may or may not be at a new location and may or may not be with the same leadership.   Using the resources of many older stagnant churches are a good way to bring new life to the community being served if there is a willingness on the part of the congregation for major change – which is rare.


7.      Church Split Model – Unfortunately, this model of church planting results from disunity.  As a result, it is the most dangerous form of church planting.   A split typically occurs when competing groups conclude there is less energy required to “split or divorce” than to resolve differences and reconcile.   The underlying factors causing the split often develop over years, only to “explode” in what seems like a spontaneous act.   In many cases, the dysfunctional character traits of the old church carry forward to the new churches, and what is done in reaction to the old is birthed in the new.


8. Man of Peace/Discovery Bible Study Model – We advocate this model in All Nations training courses, not because it is better than other models, but because we have found it is the best model to learn and pass on the values we are called to, and because we believe it best prepares workers with All Nations for a personal discipleship approach to reaching unchurched and unreached people, the neglected peoples we are called to as a church movement in All Nations (you can learn more about this model by writing to us at or going to Floyd McClung on FaceBook or visiting my personal website/blog at


We encourage our members in All Nations to know the difference between the model we advocate, and the values behind the model. It is far more important to lean the values that simply imitate the model. Some models work better than others in making disciples, and as people go out from us we want them to be fully equipped to be values based and Spirit led. We want them to be able to discover the model that will work best for making disciples and raising up a movement where God calls them.


9. The Market Place Model – Increasingly, market place and government leaders are recognizing that church is not a place to go to, but a people to belong to. Many such leaders are being liberated from the old wineskin of Sunday attendance, and are creating new, fully-church wineskins that are designed for the busy working person. Church for active market place ministers often works best if it is integrated into the place of work and with the people one associates with through the work experience.