Planting churches in California: beginning the process

Planting churches in California: beginning the process

FRESNO — The need for more Southern Baptist churches in California is a no-brainer.

In a state estimated by the US Census Bureau in 2018 to have 39.56 million people who speak at home in at least 300 languages, some 450,000 Southern Baptists worship in 89 languages in California Southern Baptist Convention’s 2,300 congregations.

In 2018, CSBC planted 70 churches — 10 percent of the national total of new congregations — but more are needed.

At least 400 locales — 250 in Southern California alone — without an evangelical witness have been identified by the Convention as the potential area of a church plant.

But what does it take for a church to be planted?

Over the next several issues, the California Southern Baptist will look at different aspects of the church planting process, the ways California churches are responding to the need for more churches, and how established congregations — and individuals — can be involved.

The planter

“We want the Lord to call them,” says Ross Shepherd, CSBC church planting initiatives team leader. “We’re just trying to help those who are called.”

That being said, potential planters emerge from existing churches.

“Every church ought to be raising up leaders,” Shepherd asserted, by “providing information and inspiration, just trying to encourage people to get involved in ministry.”

He suggested several ways to highlight church planting: frequent references during church services of the need and the opportunity; consistent gospel-centered discipleship; and asking during the invitation time at the close of a service, “Does anyone feel a call into full-time ministry?”

The support

Prayer for God’s guidance and direction is more than pivotal — it is essential, Shepherd said. Planting a church is hard work, and requires God’s strength. Planters who focus on God’s will and not building their own kingdom tend to have less stress and more endurance, Shepherd added.

Pray for the planter and the potential location for the church plant. Pray for the Holy Spirit to be poured out in the area. Pray for the people living there. Pray for people to volunteer. Pray for partners in the planting process.

It costs to start a church, Shepherd said. Money is needed for printing, promotion, a website presence, for crowd-drawing activities, space rental and more, plus a stipend for the planter. Multiple partners are needed so no one church is over-extended.

It also costs time for the pastor of a sending church to encourage a church planter, and provide directive coaching. This might take an hour or two a week, perhaps at a local restaurant.

The sending churches

Some congregations pray for the church planter and the new plant; some pray and provide occasional hands-on help as well as a one-time or occasional financial gift. Some pray, and also send members for a short time or permanently to be part of the new work; some provide monthly financial support. And some become multiplying churches.

Churches that “send” are known to grow spiritually and missionally, as well as growing leaders and numerical growth.

The sent

Citywalk Church in Yuba City calls its volunteers “bridge builders” because they are people building a bridge to connect people with Jesus (see story page 6).

Church plants need a variety of bridge builders, such as people in the parking lot greeting newcomers and providing location directions; servers welcoming people in the coffee and munchies area; volunteers to set up and tear down the worship center in borrowed space; accountants, tech specialists, graphic designers to develop church branding; cleanup crews; prayer-walkers; home visitors. All this in addition to children’s workers, student leaders, worship team members, sound/video teams and more.

A strong and stable church plant needs much more than just the church planter, Shepherd said.

“Every church planter needs just a lot of help.”

“Whatever you do for a living, or whatever you’re gifted at, let’s use that gift, that calling, that position, and use it for the community,” says Johnny Hunt, a former Georgia pastor and now senior vice president of evangelism and leadership for the North American Mission Board.

California Southern Baptist Convention has nine church planting catalysts scattered throughout the state who are available to talk with pastors, churches and individuals about getting involved in the church planting process. Contact Shepherd at or 559-256-0839; visit; or contact the local Baptist association to connect with a catalyst in the area.

“What we do every day is, we pray,” Shepherd said. “We pray to the Lord of the Harvest for church planters and for churches to grow so they can send out people.”

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