Church Planting Q&A with Jason Allen ~ BitterSweetLife

Monday, December 31, 2007

Church Planting Q&A with Jason Allen

Time for another interview with an active church planter. This talk with Jason Allen actually dates back to last semester. Since Jason is planting LifeConnection Church in Independence, Missouri, we had the luxury of meeting at Westport's Broadway Café, my favorite coffee shop.

Over some really great espresso, Jason explained what he’s trying to do in Independence. I'd known Jason informally via his blog for some time, so it was a pleasure to meet him in person. I'm especially impressed that he's launching his church plant as a married guy with three young kids! (Possibly I see a mirror of my own life here...) Great interview Jason, thanks.

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

I graduated from Midwestern Theological Seminary in 2003, and worked at Central Missouri State University for four years as a collegiate minister. I took the “long path” to church planting…saw stats on the numbers and effectiveness of new churches, and as a strategically-minded guy, it made a lot of sense. My interest in the subject began five or six years ago. I came to Christ in high school, but my church experience up to that point had been lame. Gradually, I realized that church could be a vital experience. I read Robert Webber’s The Younger Evangelicals, and that was a very journey-shaping book.

What’s been the greatest challenge(s) of church planting?

The tension of having to juggle so many diverse things at the same time: Reach people, raise funds, recruit team members. All these things together are daunting, and require juggling a lot of details. Then building into your team—you have to add that to the mix. It's exciting, encouraging, discouraging. And then it's lunch time. It's this up-and-down deal.

How do you deal with the financial needs?

Aside from starting a meth lab in the garage to fit in? [Independence has gained a local rep as a high-meth area.] We focused heavily on relationship networks—starting at the place of friends and family—and they lead to other contacts. Eventually, we talked to people a couple degrees removed from us. Also church networks, although I only called churches that I had relational links to, either myself or someone on my team. The last piece is our affiliation with the Southern Baptist Convention—we get some financial support.

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

We started with fifteen, twenty, people and asked for input: “What do you think of Jason Allen starting a church?” Community is the context. At this point I know the growth and discipleship needs of everyone on the team. It’s very small, very relationally-driven, very community-driven. We have one-to-one discipleship and small group meetings.

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...?)

I started a year ago at CMSU--began quietly recruiting people, since I was very relationally connected. College ministry was my network, so the vast majority of people we talked to were college students or former students. We spoke to 40-50 people initially, then to a second layer of relationships, friends of friends. More recently, we've connected with people via extended networks. Our most recent piece has been a preview service we do monthly. As people come to check out the church, we're trying to connect with them relationally. We've talked to a lot of people...but there are a few things we are really looking for: An outward focus--people who are committed to focusing on others. People who are teachable--we can't have people coming in who think they have it all figured out. A servant's attitude--we don't have the luxury of doing "niche ministry" right now. And faithful people--ready to commit to the vision and value we have, what we are willing to fight for. As we talked to more and more people, it became evident that some wouldn't come along.

What was or is the role of your mentor(s) or role model(s)?

A church planting pastor in Belton has filled that role, Chris Pinion at LifeQuest Community Church. I meet with him twice a month, essentially to be encouraged and bounce ideas off him. More than anything, Chris is a guy who's encouraging. I thought it would be different--that there would be multiple pastors and leaders who would want to support what we're doing, but that hasn't happened. Chris has been that guy. There have been other guys for shorter periods...I just try to soak in as much as I can when someone opens that door.

I think the rarity of mentors continues to instruct us...we want to end up being these people, pouring time, energy, and money into growing new leaders. Ultimately, that's what our city needs--a reproducing church network.

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

For us, it's been relationally-driven in this region. Financially, there's a lot that existing churches can do. Beyond that, some level of mentoring and accountability would be great. Also, physical involvement and ministry partnerships at some level. So far, we haven't seen this take off as much as we'd hoped. We have more individual than church connections. The bottom line is, I don't want to be out there alone--not just with that kind of responsibility, but with that kind of burden.

There's also something valuable in being tethered relationally to the Southern Baptist Convention and Missouri Baptist Convention. Most families since Adam and Eve have been dysfunctional in various ways--but you don't give up on your family. This is derived from our commitment to community.

Something we run into, a huge obstacle in forming partnerships, is confusion about what church planting looks like today as opposed to 30 years ago. Ideally, now there would be several sponsoring churches, not just one "mother church"--it's about that conglomerate. No single church can foot the bill with people, money, time and energy. My hope is that we'll start to see more of the other churches partnering with us so they'll be part of this project physically.


Other church planter interviews: Kevin Cawley, Pete Williamson, Hunter Beaumont.

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