July 12, 2024
This entry is part 7 of 11 in the series Church planting

How will you know when your church plant is ready for you to leave? Can you prepare for that day from the beginning of the work?

In our last blog post, we noted that an exit plan (or transition plan), is a description of what we need to see in place and functioning in the church plant. This vision outlines the essential functions of a church that will continue to thrive without us. At this point, we have completed our work as church planters. When these functions are present, we know that we can either transition to a new role such as equipper and mentor, or we can move on to begin a work in a new area.

I’m sure that’s what Jesus had in mind when he told the disciples to make disciples of all nations. There was no way that they could finish that task all by themselves. Rather they needed to do it AND equip others to do the same thing. Did you ever notice that the Great Commission is somewhat circular? “Go and make disciples … teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.”

We noted that an exit plan

  1. Avoids wasting energy. It helps you avoid putting time, energy, and resources into good things that don’t help you get to where you as a team want to go.
  2. Keeps all team members focused and working together on clear goals.
  3. Helps define short and long-term goals.
  4. Inspires and encourages the team in making progress.
  5. Helps you not stay too long or leave too soon.

Consider the context

Your exit plan or transition plan will look different depending on the kind of context you are working in and the kind of church you believe you need to establish.  For example, the exit plan for a house church plant may be quite different than for a larger, urban church. We would like to look at various examples.

Here is an example of an exit plan from one church planting team. We were planting a large urban church in the Philippines, an open country. Our 9-point exit plan was as follows.

An exit plan for Pathway Community Church

The missionary team will have accomplished its mission when:

  1. There is a locally led worship planning team (magnification).
  2. There is a (or are several) master communicator(s) for the Sunday service.
  3. There is an established, working, locally-led discipleship training process (maturity).
  4. There is a locally-led children’s Sunday School and youth ministry.
  5. There is ongoing training of small group leaders (membership).
  6. There is an ongoing outreach ministry plan and coordinator (mission).
  7. There is a functioning system of discovering members’ gifts and placing them in suitable ministries (ministry).
  8. The church is financially capable of sustaining the ministry and its expansion.
  9. There are recognized local elders functioning as leaders of the church.

After this, the church will be considered “established.” At that point, the church should be strong enough to continue to grow and carry on its own ministry and expansion under its own leadership.

As you can see from this example, the points were designed to produce fruit in the future church in the areas of outreach, discipleship, gift discovery and service, membership care, financial resources and oversight.   

The process of developing an exit plan

Together, we considered the biblical purposes of the church. Then we tried to determine what ministries we would need in our context to produce the essential purposes of God for the church in that location. These are key activities, functions, or roles that we wanted to intentionally develop in the maturing church. As a result, God’s purposes for the church would be accomplished in the years ahead. 

Note that the elements of the exit plan do not tell us specific methods or materials we would use. They also are not just descriptions of what a healthy church is or what a healthy church does. Rather, they are functions intended to support and produce the health we are aiming for. They are the targeted ministry areas that we need to work on and for which we will later develop processes, materials and training or equipping. Different people on the team can become the champions for each of the areas depending on their gifts and interests. 

Of course, we would be developing these areas and preparing leaders throughout the process of planting. Even as we initiate a new function, we seek as soon as possible to bring people alongside us in order to equip them in each area. In our ministry in this church, we started with what we could manage and slowly added areas as God provided us people to handle those areas. Each year we would meet and see how we were doing in following our exit plan. We would determine how to strengthen what was already working and what aspects of the list we would try to add in the coming year.

A bitter-sweet moment

The day came when Kathy and I were sitting in church one Sunday and all the ministries of the church were being led by local people. I leaned over to Kathy and said, It’s time. They don’t need us anymore.  It was a bitter-sweet moment because it had taken so much to get there. But we knew we could be confident that we had laid a good foundation. We could leave and start planting again somewhere else.

“It’s time. They don’t need us anymore.”

In our next blog post, we will look at an example of exit-planning for a house church movement. We will also be looking at steps you can take in preparing your own exit plan.

Response: In the comment section, below share your thoughts about this exit plan. How is this helpful to you? What suggestions would you have? Is something missing?

This blog post was originally posted to the TEAM church planting blog at Examples of Exit Plans for Church Planters: #1 An Urban Church Plant (goandplant.com and is republished with permission of the author.

Series Navigation<< Having an Exit Plan from the StartExample of an Exit Plan for a House Church Plant >>

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Back To Top