As of the writing of this blog (May 2015) the Small Town Partnership is just over 4 years old. Of course when it started we didn’t know it would become a partnership. What started out as a conversation at Panera Bread with Michael Gatlin (MultiplyVineyard National Coordinator) led to Ross Nelson (senior pastor Northwoods Vineyard, Tomahawk, WI) and I planning a small town Vineyard church planting conference. This eventually led to a partnership being formed.
After a couple years of retreats, online meetings, and coaching from Michael and Bob Logan we are able to attach goals and strategy to our vision. In other words we’re finally ready to answer the question where are we going?
Our vision is simply to plant Vineyard churches in small town USA. This perfectly fits into MultiplyVineyard’s overall vision and statements. MultiplyVineyard simply wants to go where the humans are – big city, small city, English speaking, Hispanic speaking, metropolitan, micropolitan, etc. The Small Town Partnership is focusing on towns that are classified as micropolitans and under with our “sweet spot” being towns of 3,000-10,000.
The Strategy of this vision is two-fold consisting of a strategy for increasing the number of sending churches and a strategy for the church plant itself. First our strategy for increasing the number of churches who send planters to small towns centers around church planting triads. A church planting triad consists of three leaders from three different churches who partner to plant churches in specific towns. They meet regularly (often monthly or every other month) in order to coach one another towards the planting of a church. If the triad starts with no planter or town identified then they meet to pray about who and where as well as to plan shared events to stir up church planters in their churches. Once a town and/or planter has been identified the triad will begin to focus on action steps in getting the church off the ground. Each triad member will have responsibilities and each church will be able to contribute resources (money, people, supplies, etc.).
What does a church planting triad meeting look like? For starters participants use basic coaching questions, like Barnabas Coaching questions, to draw out of one another what God is already doing in their Area. As towns and potential planters are identified participants can begin to strategize, set goals, and assign action steps. The power of the triad is three fold: encouragement, accountability, and the fact more can be done together than alone
The church planting triad fits nicely into MultiplyVineyard’s slogan: Every church a parent. Every church a partner. Everyone gets to play. As of May 2015 we have two triads actively planting churches. The Northern Wisconsin triad consists of churches with 80, 150, and 200 in attendance. The SE Ohio triad consists of churches of 180, 300 and 360. Every church – no matter the size – gets to play when it comes to a church planting triad. Read that again: Every church gets to play!
Our strategy for the actual church plant centers around this mantra: make disciple making disciples who make disciple making disciples. Jesus did not commission his disciples to plant churches. He commissioned them to make disciples. Each town and region of the US are free to use a variety of methods to plant a church (small groups building to a Sunday morning service, establishing a site/campus, an instant Sunday AM expression, etc.). But no matter the model we want churches that are making disciple making disciples. This cannot be an afterthought. As many of us know all too well churches don’t automatically make disciples let alone disciple making disciples. From day one we encourage all small town planters to be about making disciple making disciples first. Once enough of those are made then a church will automatically form. The opposite unfortunately is not true.
A variety of resources can be used to make disciple making disciples. One that we’ve found incredibly helpful is the Vineyard Dimensions of Discipleship by Logan, Ridley and DeVries. These booklets incorporate 8 dimensions that make up a well-rounded disciple of Jesus. The booklets lead participants to foster relationships within a group and to disciple one another. It is not primarily informative but rather transformative. Weekly action steps along with encouragement and accountability are built into the process. Most of all no one has to be an “expert” to lead this. In fact as Ross Nelson puts it if you can read it you can lead it. This means it is reproducible which is necessary when the goal is making disciple making disciples who make disciples.
In part 2 of this blog I’ll cover our big hairy goal along with the resources we are making available to help foster our vision and two-fold strategy.
About the author
Joel Seymour is beloved child of God, the husband of Kristi, the father of 3 great kids, and the lead pastor of the Lancaster Vineyard. Although Lancaster is a mid-sized town, his first church plant was in a town of 5,000. He serves on the team of the Small Town Vineyard Partnership and as an Area Leader for Vineyard USA. His particular Area is mainly comprised of villages, small towns, and rural areas. He can be reached through Twitter @JoelSeymour or via email [email protected]