Read Part 1.
Steps to Starting a Home Church
First, don’t start a home church, yet. Rather, start a home Bible study. Meet together on a regular basis for the simple (yet transforming) study of the Word. Don’t take an offering. Don’t elect any leadership. Don’t set a budget. Just meet and study God’s Word. If you want to get fancy, serve cake.
If this home Bible study begins to have some cohesion, it may be time to transform the Bible study into a church. But a church needs to be under some kind of spiritual authority, preferably of another church. Is there a church somewhere, anywhere, that holds the same doctrine as your group? Would this church become the sponsoring church for your new group? Don’t look for a church that will take you as a satellite (leave that business to NASA), but look for a church that will take you as a sponsor to provide spiritual and practical guidance. That sponsor church should be committed to your future independence and should desire that independence as soon as possible.
Here’s what the sponsoring church can provide:
- Help with setting doctrinal parameters.
- Help with teaching materials (the best would be video or other recordings from the Pastor, possibly even having the Pastor join the group on a regular basis via Skype or other video technology).
- Help with the creation of leadership guidelines.
- Help with bookkeeping or other financial or legal issues.
- Help with eventually calling a Pastor.
Notice that what wasn’t included in the list is financial assistance. I am convinced that a new church almost never needs the financial help of the sponsoring church, denomination, or church-planting agency. In fact, such help can be detrimental to the church’s future (and a waste of hard-earned dollars). If there is a financial need that must be covered and cannot be covered by those meeting in the home, the sponsoring church might consider it, but it would and should be rare.
Why is a Sponsoring Church Necessary?
I am a firm believer that churches start churches. If you want more on the problem of church planters starting churches or denominations starting churches, read my article called Evaluating the Church Planting Movement: The Failure Nobody Is Talking About.
When you have a sponsoring church, you have placed yourself under spiritual authority. This is good for the future of the church. Without this, it is very possible that a few strong personalities in the new congregation could quickly change the DNA of the church. Just like a baby needs parents, a baby church needs a parent also. The sponsoring church can use its loving expertise to guide the church through its most important days.
How to Approach a Sponsoring Church
If your home Bible study did not have a sponsoring church from the start (most will not), then approach a sponsor as early in the process as you can see that this fellowship has potential to become a church.
Here’s the homework that your group should do before approaching the church-
- Does the potential sponsor have a solid doctrinal statement, in writing?
- Does the potential sponsor adhere to their own statement?
- Is this the kind of church we would want to be members of?
- Does the church have a pastor who would love your group and invest his energies and expertise into your wellbeing?
- Does the church have a willingness to release you when you are fully capable of continuing in an independent manner?
I wish it didn’t have to be said, but beware of sponsoring churches and pastors who may want to use your group to gain money, notoriety, or property.
If you have a church in mind, after doing your homework, then contact the Pastor (i.e.: the guy who preaches on Sunday). Schedule a time to visit (face-to-face, if possible) and ask that Pastor to pray about the matter and approach his own church about this matter. Recognize that this may take weeks or months to accomplish, and don’t rush the process. Small home fellowships can move much more quickly than established congregations and should beware of insisting the sponsor church move more quickly than it is able.
In the end, what you want is a sponsoring church that will guide the founding days of your fellowship until you are able to independently call a pastor and support the ministry. The sponsoring church won’t be giving you funding (that will come from your own members) but will be protecting you from the wolves that would like to sweep in and take your home fellowship and create their own empire.
May God bless those who start home Bible studies which become churches which help make disciples of all nations.
Randy White Ministries began in 2011 as an online and radio Bible teaching ministry. Today, the ministry is focused on producing verse-by-verse Bible teaching resources for individuals. White has 25 years of pastoral experience—including 12 years at First Baptist Church of Katy, Texas, where he ministered to a large congregation and preached numerous times each week.