Church Planting Q&A with Hunter Beaumont ~ BitterSweetLife

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Church Planting Q&A with Hunter Beaumont

I'm playing catch-up as I post this interview with Hunter Beaumont, the founding pastor at Fellowship Denver in...right, Denver. I had a phone interview with Hunter midway through the semester, and appreciated his energy and honesty. He's an upbeat guy, but I never had the impression that he was doing anything less than shooting me straight. (Thanks, Hunter!) Here's what he had to say.

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

I developed a love for Denver while I was commuting there for my job with Arthur Anderson (before the company fell apart). I noticed that there weren't any churches having a major impact on the city, and thought, "Someone should do something about this." Later, a friend from school, Dallas Theological Seminary, said, "We should plant a church together." I said, "I have the place."

This was a casual conversation: "Church planting would be fun." "Why don't we do it now?" The main reason not to "do it now" was that we didn't know what we were doing. So I attended a church planting residency program in Little Rock, Arkansas for a year, to avoid flying blind. [Fellowship Associates] I moved to Denver two years ago, spent a year getting to know the city and gathering people, then launched the church in September '06. [See Hunter's blog for more.]

What has been the greatest challenge of church planting?

Just one? Well, it's very spiritually make slow, incremental progress. The first year can be very lonely--go with a partner, don't do it on your own. That first year you need a big skill set. You have to be a leader, but you have to be able to do grunt work as well. The second year you need a whole different set of skills.

How do you deal with the financial needs?

We raised money like missionaries, primarily raising funds from individuals. Our goal was to gain some financial independence within a year or two, not only to be on support.

How do you deal with the "people" needs? (finding the right people to back you)

Mostly by networking--asking friends if they knew anyone in Denver. We arrived with a list of 150 people from personal recommendations. And that was my job for four months--calling and introducing myself, meeting people for coffee...our group grew incrementally.

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...?)

At the beginning, you don't choose, you just take whoever will come! Every warm body. With 150 people involved at this point, I now have the luxury of not babysitting high-maintenance people. Before, I did whatever I could to make them come. Invitations were casual--not real firm commitments--just invite them to come check it out.

Thirty, forty people met in a coffee shop pre-launch, then most stayed for the church launch. A lot depends on what your starting point is. You may have a really solid core group...or, if you just move somewhere, you have to develop it slowly. I think we're starting to get our legs under us. We've reached critical mass, and credibility skyrockets when people start showing up.

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

There are a couple guys at the Little Rock church [Fellowship Associates] who act as consultants, coaches. I used to talk to them frequently about my church and people issues or leadership questions, structuring questions. At the beginning, I leaned on my coaches like crazy, especially to figure out staff issues. I talked to them once every two weeks then. Now it's once every two months.

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

We didn't really have a sponsoring church. The Little Rock church backed us informally, not with money, but with their endorsement and credibility, which helped raise money--and with counsel. Having an established church's approval helps with credibility.

Anything else you want to add?

There's no right or wrong way to plant a church. Sort through them all... What are your strengths? Your situation? Money? People resources? There are all kinds of ideas. Sort through your life and figure out the best fit for you. For example, for a skilled preacher, not very relational--why not start with a small core and pick up guys who would fill in your weak spots? Take a picture of yourself and ask, "What kind of church do I want to plant?"

Also, there were previous church planting interviews with Kevin Cawley and Pete Williamson.

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R. Sherman said...

I wonder how these congregations deal with governance issues, once they reach the point where they are more-or-less self-sustaining? That is, does the pastor recede in favor of a group, so that the church/congregation can continue if the pastor moves on? It would seem these would be important questions to address, given that there is no over arching governing "diocese" or whatever. The object is a permanent presence in a community and not a personal following.


Ariel said...

The question of raising up leaders came up in the earlier interviews with Kevin and Pete. If Hunter makes it over here, I'm curious to hear his didn't really come up in our conversation as much.

A number of the guys I've talked to aim for a "plurality of elders" ("elders" being the biblical term), meaning they multiply leaders around them in the new church, guys who take ownership of aspects of ministry, some of whom eventually come on staff.

Typically, the founding pastor takes on a "first among equals" role as more leaders emerge. Ideally, if that first leader goes elsewhere, the men who have taken on lead roles can continue what he started.

Hunter said...

Ariel, thanks for posting this summary of our talk. It was fun to read it and reflect a bit.

On the question being discussed, I see two related issues: permanent presence and leadership by plurality of elders (vs. a single founding pastor).

On the permanent presence, I think best case scenario is the founding pastor has a vision big enough to sustain him for a long time of service at the church. One of the questions I get from newcomers most often is, "How long do you plan to be here?" The assumption is that since I'm a church planter, I'm probably going to move on. But I always reply, "I hope to be here a long time." And I mean it because, honestly, I like the building-on-the-foundation phase more than the starting from scratch phase. Mark Driscoll often talks about "replanting the church every year," and I resonate with that because every year has fresh challenges to keep going toward the vision.

On the elders issue, one way we've addressed that is that we started with two - me and another founding pastor/elder. So we do plurality from the outset and let the church see two very different dudes leading. Sometimes people ask, "When are we going to have elders?" And my reply is, "We already have two."

Anonymous said...

Is this really Ward Cleaver's son in real life?! Fascinating! Does anyone say "Leave it to Pastor?"


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