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Church Planting Tutorial: 9. Philosophy of Ministry

Just as the body’s DNA defines the characteristics of the body, the philosophy of ministry shapes and defines the character of the new church.

Every Church is Unique

Although all healthy churches seek to fulfill the Great Commission, no two churches are exactly alike. Church planters are each called to plant new and unique works as God has placed upon their hearts. Each planter has different passions and priorities. Many characteristics including the style of music, the formality of service, the style of teaching, the use of creativity/multimedia, and the approach to outreach shape and define the personality of the new church. Just as each person has a unique personality with specific likes and dislikes, so will the new church.

Milestone: Define the Church’s DNA

The Philosophy of Ministry is one of the most important actions that a church planter completes. Think of the philosophy of ministry as the church’s filter for decision making. The long-term impact of these actions is profound. Fast forward the clock to the new church’s ten year anniversary celebration. A healthy growing church can look back and see how previous decisions were consistently and faithfully made through the filter of this philosophy of ministry. From staffing to facilities, and from service styles to outreach events, decisions are shaped by the philosophy of ministry.

In his bestselling book “The Purpose Driven Church”, Rick Warren highlights the importance of churches making decision through the filter of purpose. The basic idea is to narrow the focus, do fewer things well, and be almost fanatical in living out your purpose. Don’t try to please everyone or you will end up pleasing no one.

In their best selling book “Built to Last”, Collins and Porras studied visionary companies that have stood the test of time and have made profound impacts on their industries. They studied the traits common to all visionary organizations. They found that organizations with “cult like cultures (i.e. organizations that fanatically lived out their purpose)” and organizations that remained steadfast to their core ideologies (they defined core ideology as core purpose and core values) became visionary organizations. Here is the key take away: they found that a steadfast diligence to living out the organization’s culture and core ideology was far more important than what the specific culture and core ideology is.

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At its heart, the philosophy of ministry shapes and defines the church’s culture (unique DNA) and its core ideology. It is vitally important for the church planter to understand and define it before making other key decisions about the new church since the philosophy of ministry should shape the other decisions. Church planters with a clear philosophy of ministry have a much easier (and more joyful) time in completing the prenatal phase of the new church. Spend the necessary time to get this at least roughly right!

The key parts of a philosophy of ministry include:

  • Understand the concept of organizational alignment, DNA and culture
  • Develop church purpose
  • Develop church beliefs
  • Develop church values
  • Develop leadership approach
  • Adopt team/structure philosophy
  • Adopt process philosophy
  • Develop church priorities/strategy
  • Develop member expectations
  • Develop discipleship/next step process

Passion for Planting has developed a point paper on the philosophy of ministry and its parts.   This is a great place to start. Here are a few Free Downloads that might be helpful: