Church Planting Q&A with Pete Williamson ~ BitterSweetLife

Monday, November 19, 2007

Church Planting Q&A with Pete Williamson

For those of you keeping score, this is church planting interview # 2. My first talk was with Kevin Cawley, who happened to be in town at the time. Since Pete Williamson pastors Oikos Fellowship in Bellingham, Washington, I had to track him down via the internet--and while that took away my chance to calculate his coffee IQ, it didn't detract from what he had to say. Here's our e-interview. Good stuff--thank you Pete.

Can you tell me a little about yourself (biographical stuff), and how you got interested in church planting?

I'm 38; born in Tacoma, WA. I have lived mainly in the Pacific Northwest, but spent two years teaching in Japan. Cheryl and I were married at the end of '95 and between us we've produced three great kids - Kristian (8 1/2), Noah (7) and Naomi (3 1/2).

Education - did my undergrad at Washington State University, graduating with a degree in Russian Literature & Language and another in History. I graduated from Regent College in '03 with a Masters in Christian Studies (emphasis in NT Studies).

I grew up in a Christian home, but wasn't converted until sometime around my 3rd year of college. Planted Oikos on January 30, 2005 [in partnership with Acts 29]. My interest in church planting was the result of a couple different streams.

First, after I was converted I felt a very compelling urge toward pastoral ministry. Since that time I had served at a couple different churches in various capacities and over that time realized the challenges of working within an existing church structure vs. starting a church from the ground up.

Secondly, at the time I was converted I became acquainted with another new Christian at Washington State U. by the name of Mark Driscoll...we hit it off quite well, were in each other's weddings, etc. Over the years as Mars Hill Church got going, I kept tabs on Mark and really resonated with a lot of what he was doing.

What has been the greatest challenge of church planting?

You mean, aside from me? I think it's been trying to find and develop leaders to help share the work and beyond that trying to find elder-able men. At this point, I don't have any other elders.

About three months into the plant, I had a handful of guys who were consistent in their attendance and gave a lot of their time to helping at the church on their own. I approached each of them and invited them to be a part of a leadership team. I did talk to a couple about eldership, but both declined for the time being mainly because of a lack of life experience (neither were married). They're still here and I'm hoping to go through a deacon training program with them and then see if they're up for eldership after that.

As far as developing leaders, it's mainly through our regular meetings (which include an ongoing study through Grudem's Systematic Theology). I also contact each periodically to check up on their spiritual health. One of the guys is hoping to be a church planter someday; I'm going to have him work on his own statement of faith and philosophy of ministry.

How do you deal with the financial needs?

We had some support from Mars Hill for the first couple years as well as some other outside help, but we were able to keep our costs low and I worked full-time for the first full year at Logos software. In other words, we were mighty blessed.

Our fund-raising connections were through already-existing relationships - relationship with A29, friends, etc. A few came into the picture afterwards, but really outside of A29 we haven't had a large degree of external support. We weren't on an aggressive plan to get financially independent. We're there now, but we probably could have been so within a 1 - 1 1/2 years of launching.

How do you deal with the "people" needs? (finding the right people to back you and deciding who your plant will target)

Keep preaching the gospel and the vision. I'm not so much targeting a particular group but trying to get us as a church to look at Bellingham as a whole; help them to look at where they live, work, etc., and think about how to reach out to the particular people God put them around.

How did you (or would you) put together a core group? (What type of people did you look for, how did you get them on board, how many did you want to have before you launched...?)

When we got started we first joined with a church about 30 min to the south of Bellingham that was drawing a number of people from there. We stayed with that church so that I could get to know folks and go through their eldership process so that when it was time for us to go I would have both some people connections as well as a legitimate "sent-ness." While that was going we also ran a Bible study out of our home and began to develop relationships largely through that. Most of our contact since the beginning has been through word-of-mouth.

What was or is the role of your mentor or role model? How did you find your mentor(s)?

Honestly, I don't have one and I really regret that. When I came in to Acts 29 there was a lot of talk about this, but not much action. I have a loose network of pastor friends that I draw upon, including [Kevin] Cawley...but it's still short of a regular relationship. A29's been playing around with a coaching model, but it's pretty loose and unstructured for my needs.

What is the role of sponsoring/partner churches? What has worked? What would you change and why?

Primarily financial, plus Mars Hill provides a lot in the way of conferences and regional events. Not a whole lot on a personal level though. I'm not sure what I would change. I like the relative independence that we have from MH, but it would be nice to be a bit more on their radar than we are.

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Anonymous said...

"I like the relative independence that we have from MH, but it would be nice to be a bit more on their radar than we are."

Are you sure about that?


Ariel said...

Driscoll tends to be a lightning rod, doesn't he? The article doesn't really grab me though. Based on the article's tone and the comments, it seems like the people who read & write The Stranger are predisposed to hate Driscoll anyway.

Pete Williamson said...

anonymous...quite sure, thanks. Ariel's take on how the Stranger views MH is pretty accurate. I'm friends with a good number of the leadership as well as several members and attenders, the sum of which leads me to trust what MH did rather than the Stranger's interpretation.

Eugene R Smith Jr said...

Being a fellow church planter from the Northwest who ended up in Orlando, FL. I can tell you that developing leaders is fundemental in establishing a strong work. I will also tell you one of the biggest mistakes that leader make is delegating to much authority to quickly. Someone has said that "leadership is an art". When to ask? How to ask and who to ask? The answer to the questions will be one of the deciding facts in whether or not your plant will be successful...By that I mean sustanable beyond a couple of years...

Eugene Smith

Ariel said...

Thanks for the comment, Eugene. Most of what I've learned about church planting has been "by the book" so far, so I really value the input of active planters.

Several of the people I've talked to have made similar statements about you have any advice you could give me? How have you gone about IDing and recruiting leaders in your church? (And do you and Pete know each other?)


Culture. Photos. Life's nagging questions. - BitterSweetLife