Church Planting Book Review: Church in the Making by Ben Arment

Church in the Making, Ben ArnettChurch planting is not easy work.

Ben Arment shares some lessons he has learned out of his church planting experiences in his book,

Church in the Making: What Makes or Breaks a New Church Before it Starts

In the introduction, Arment writes for church planters who struggle.

How did church planting become such a spiritual crapshoot?  Why is it that some churches fail why others succeed?  How is it that prayerful, hardworking men and women who are called by God and filled with faith could fall flat on their faces?

Pulling from his own experiences in church planting, both from one that struggled to get going and one that he is currently in, he takes this angle:

  • Understand the spiritual receptivity of the community where you are planting.

He writes:

This book attempts to uncover the mystery of church planting.  . . Church planting, it turns out, is remarkably organic.

Part 1 is called Good Ground – where Arment shares about spiritual receptivity at the level of local community.  I write about spiritual receptivity a lot, but focused on the one-to one conversation level.  Arment brings the wisdom of doing that work in the community.

Part 2 is called “Rolling Rocks.”  Arment looks at momentum and suggest some was to capture that social momentum.

Part 3 is called “Deep Roots.”  Arment looks at how a new church development springs out of the the roots of it’s community, rather than a vision being imported from another community.  Church planters will have a deep connection to their local community, some that will take the time to build.

“Planting a church in a spiritually infertile community can be done, but it’s like walking up an escalator that’s going down.”

Church Planting Challenges

I’ve got the church planting bruises and blessings.

I know that church planting is not easy work from my first hand experiences.

I spent 5 years on the team to start a church for immigrants that still is up and running with it’s founding pastor.

I spent 7 years on the team to start a second church for immigrants that continues to this day with it’s founding pastor.

Seven months ago, we’ve gotten our family involved in a third immigrant oriented church that will look forward to starting public services in October 2015.

My role has always been a support role and never the lead pastor.  That is consistent with God’s calling on my life.

But that doesn’t mean I’ve not seen the ups and downs of launching a new church.

Bruises from disappointments when people walk away.

Blessings of seeing people discover faith in Jesus Christ.

Bruises from early co-leaders who abandon the original vision and bail out.

Blessings from new believers who are so excited about Jesus they keep bringing their friends.

If you are planting a church, you’ll like this book

Other books to church planting take a look at leadership and theology of church planting.  This book adds a sociological layer, focused on momentum and social networks.

For my take, the core of this book is knowing the spiritual receptivity of the community where you will plant your church.

Some might call this

As I look to participating in my 3rd church plant in a brand new community where I have zero roots, this book points out some of the challenges that will be ahead of me.

Arment uses the parable of the soil types in Matthew 13:3-9 to apply to church planting along with examples from his own experience.

Not only is your ability to share the gospel dependent on a person’s heart condition, but your ability to plant a church successfully is dependent upon your community’s spiritual fertility as well. . . It never dawns on most church planters that their target community already has an established degree of spiritual fertility (page 20).

Arment then unpacks

  • the spiritual fertility of the “soil” in which the church is planted,
  • methods of cultivation,
  • tapping into social networks, and
  • creating and sustaining momentum.

To see how they all fit together, you’ll need to pick up your copy of Church in the Making: What Makes or Breaks a New Church Before it Starts, by Ben Arment

When I have taught churches that want to do a door to door evangelism campaign, I invite them to not only think about how to share the gospel, but also to learn about the spiritual thirst of the community as one of the 5 outcomes of door to door work.  I believe that noticing spiritual thirst will open good conversational doors.

You might do the community exegesis of visiting with local officials to learn about the community.

The church you want to plant is not a fortress, but are the people of God on the mission of God.   Brainstorm ways the church can bless its community and ask the question “How can we be the best church for the neighborhood?”

In the process, you’ll learn the spiritual receptivity of the neighborhood.

Quotes I liked:

  • When a new church struggles year after year to see fruit from its activity, we should assume it’s not quite time to plant. Instead, there is tilling, watering, and cultivating to be done.
  • It doesn’t matter how good your service, your worship, or your preaching, your church is ultimately judged by social network.
  • There are two activities for church planters: cultivating and planting. If you do the right thing in the wrong season, you get zero results.
  • But if people are leaving because they don’t like our vision, we should celebrate. Their exodus verifies that our purpose is being lived out. Vision is affirmed not only by the kind of people we attract but also by the kind of people who leave.
  • Not everyone in your church can help you further the movement. Nor should they be made to feel guilty if they don’t. But fueling a movement is about identifying your connectors and enabling them to reach even more people. This is what Jesus did by investing in twelve disciples to keep the movement going from his time until ours.
  • People aren’t inspired by spreadsheets. They’re inspired by changed lives.
  • After seven years of planting a church, it became clear that our most committed colaborers were the people who had found Jesus through our ministry.
  • Paul made a groundbreaking statement to the church of Corinth that ought to forever change how we view our churches: “We have the hope that as your faith increases, our area of ministry will be greatly enlarged, so that we may preach the gospel to the regions beyond you” (2 Cor. 10:15–16).
  • Planting a church in a spiritually infertile community can be done, but it’s like walking up an escalator that’s going down.

Links to Other reviews:

  • If you are a church planter or thinking about planting a church you should read this book. Don’t expect it to make you feel great about planting and pump you up to a spiritual high though. It won’t do that at all. What it will do though is make you think through some issues and consider some reasons church planters struggle. I do not agree with all of Arment’s points, but I do think he does an adequate job of painting a realistic picture of church planting.  From: http://pastortodd78.com/book-reviews/church-in-the-making-ben-arment/
  • Church in the Making is a helpful resource for church planters and other ministry leaders, particularly those who are undertaking new ventures such as beginning new programs or casting vision for renewal. I wish I would’ve read this book before launching a youth ministry from scratch five years ago. Arment provides helpful insights on contextualization, innovation, connecting and fostering relationships for the building up of the church. He also cites a number of stories of hardship and trouble that are common to ministry–experiences that are authentic, humbling, and helpful towards those that suffer from naiveté or lack of ministry experience.  (http://benjaminasimpson.com/blog/2011/1/13/book-review-ben-arment-church-in-the-making.html, also found on Twitter at @bsimpson
  • Church in the Making by Ben Arment doesn’t mince any words, and it has the tone of a soldier who has fought the good fight and won, but at a high personal cost, with the sense that the battles could have been easier with better intelligence, and mourning the soldier-friends who he has seen fall around him.  http://therooftopblog.wordpress.com/2010/05/24/book-review-church-in-the-making-by-ben-arment-terrific-and-not-just-on-church-planting/, also found on Twitter at @JamesWJewell

Related Church Planting books

All links will connect you with the book on Amazon.  Any purchase made will earn me a small commission.  I’ve read each of these and can recommend them to the discussion.

Ben_Arment

Connect with the Author

Order your copy

Order your copy of Church in the Making: What Makes or Breaks a New Church Before it Starts, by Ben Arment  from Amazon.  I will receive a small commission.

Escalator photo credit: Going up via (license)

Recorded Class for Hospitality Ministry Leaders – January 15, 2015

Church Hospitality Training WebinarIf you are a new leader in your church’s hospitality or welcome ministry, buy access to this online class to help you get started in preparing for the upcoming season of welcome.

If you

  • Were recently appointed as leader of your hospitality ministry
  • Want to reorganize a stale welcome ministry
  • Re-launch your hospitality ministry for the next season of growth.

you may not know where to begin.

Where do you begin?

If you are just getting started, you are likely feeling a little overwhelmed with where to begin.

It feels like staring into the fog.

Let me help you get the fog out and help develop an action plan to help you get unstuck.

Sign up for Step up!: First Steps to Running or Restarting Your Welcome Ministries, an online class with other leaders who are in a similar position.

I’ve helped other hospitality ministry leaders breakthrough that log-jam of inaction and set them moving forward again. They felt like they were staring into the fog and not seeing much of anything clearly.

You’ll get your creativity going as you think of ways to move forward with your hospitality ministry.

The cost is an investment in retaining new families in your church membership.

Here is what you can expect to learn:

  • The Best Measurements of Effective Hospitality
  • The Master Word that will Help You Find and Remove Hidden Faults
  • 7 Areas to Form Your Action Plan

As I have been the new mover looking for a new home church, I have fresh lessons to share.

Details

  • Actions-help-about-iconDuration: 1 hour and a 30 minutes.
  • Replay recorded from January 15, 2015 Class
  • It is a narrated PowerPoint presentation.
  • No travel necessary.
  • Price: $39 USD.

Who is this class for?

  • If you are the new leader of your church hospitality committee and not sure how or where to start
  • Did you inherit a stale welcome ministry and need to re-launch it?
  • Perhaps you’ve been appointed as the new director who oversees the hospitality ministry of your church.
  • Does your hospitality ministry feel stuck?
  • Or maybe your hospitality committee is not quite sure where to start?
  • Or perhaps you are rotating off your committee leadership soon and need to train your replacement.

What will you receive?

  • Access to the class on the night of the presentation.
  • Access to download the video (MP4 for Windows Player and Quicktime) within 24 to 48 hours
  • Copies of MP3 audio to download
  • Copies of the slides as a PDF.
  • The optional handout that accompanies the teaching, along with links to further resources.
  • Permission to use this recording and resources in your congregation.

Cost:

  • This class has a registration fee of $39.00 USD per person.
  • Payable on-line via PayPal OR Credit Card via the order button below.
  • I will not see payment information.
  • You’ll receive a reminder emails with the access codes as time grows closer.
  • You’ll receive your receipt by email which should contain the entrance link that will be unique to you.

Order Now:

Click on the big button below and you’ll be taken to the page in the EvangelismCoach.org store to add it to your cart.

OrderNow

Who is Chris Walker?

Evangelism Trainer Chris WalkerChris has given Evangelism Training seminars around the US and 9 Countries in Latin America. He is fittingly known as the Evangelism Coach because of his extensive work with churches in the US and Latin America in the areas of evangelism and church growth. Chris is an ordained pastor in the Presbyterian Church (USA).

His website has over 1000 articles on personal evangelism, congregational evangelism, and hospitality, as well as a podcast feed, all for free.

Ready for Results?

  • Practical. Based on my life experiences teaching evangelism and church hospitality on two continents and in two languages.
  • Biblical – No compromising of Scripture to get butts on benches here.
  • Personal – You’ll work with me to plan and  apply lessons to fit the personality of your church.
  • Affordable – A fraction of the cost of taking your ministry team to a conference or me to speak in person for a few days.
  • Step-by-Step Help. – You get some great ideas and focus to apply right away.
  • Gospel-Centered – It’s all about Jesus, proclaiming the glorious good and making disciples.

Frequent Webinar Questions

Q. What if I’ve been leading the hospitality ministry for a few years?
You may find that this class will spur some creativity or give you different angle to look at things.

I won’t simply say “be nice to people” or “tell your greeters to say this phrase”  but teach hospitality leaders how to identify shortcomings in their own context and think through ways to fix them.

The get started steps will focus on helping provide a framework for action over the next six months or so.

Questions before the live class?

Q.  What happens if I register and then miss the class?

You’ll be given access to the replay, typically within 24-48 hours of the webinar.

Q.  What if the audio is really awful?

Sometimes, there are problems with bandwidth.  If the audio is really awful, I will re-record the webinar in a studio and make the re-recording available for replay.  I did that with the last church greeter training webinar.

Audio quality can vary based on your audio software/hardware manufacturer as well as your operating system. When using VoIP, the following best practices are recommended:

  • For optimum sound quality, a headset is recommended, preferably a USB headset for ease of use.
  • If a headset is not available, a microphone and speakers are required, preferably a USB microphone for ease of use.
  • If using a microphone, it should be a distance of at least 1.5 feet away from any speakers that are built into or connected to your PC.
  • The use of a Webcam microphone is not recommended.
  • The use of a integrated laptop microphone with laptop speakers is not recommended.
  • Ear buds or earphones and use of the integrated laptop microphone is a workable solution.

Q.  Will I hear pitches for products and services?

You will not hear me sell anything during the webinar.    There is nothing more to buy.  You are buying access to a class and the registration fee helps me cover the cost of the technology.

Q.  Why do I need to pay the fee?

People value what they pay for.

I want people who are motivated to learn and will apply what they learn.

Free webinars are great when I am selling a product or service, where I can recoup the cost the webinar.

What others have said about Chris Walker’s Teaching

  • -Inspirational, re-awakening.
  • Do not be afraid! Evangelism is not scary – or need not be. It can be a friendly conversation.
  • “Attend one. ” You will no longer fear, ridicule or avoid evangelism.
  • More people really want to know Jesus and how to help others reach Him.
  • Good. Well worth it.
  • The seminar was awesome.
  • You will lose your misconceptions about evangelism.
  • Go with an open heart and mind and you will leave fulfilled.
  • You’ll learn to listen better.
  • An inspiring motivational speaker with a message for all.
  • Just do it – You will find that the skills are within, this encourages you to put them to use.
  • The seminar helps you feel more comfortable about evangelism.
  • Tools to share one’s faith with others to help them.
  • Your Church Hospitality Webinar Inspired Creativity

Order Now:

Click the big button and you’ll be taken to EvangelismCoach Sore to process your payment and receive instant access to the recording.

OrderNow

Do you have other questions?

Please use the form below to ask me other questions that you may have.  I’ll reply as well in the comment field.

Conference: Personal Evangelism for Ordinary People February 28, 2015

Imagine:

  • You confidently answer a question about why you follow Jesus.
  • Your friend asks you how you became a Christian and you give a clear story.
  • You share the gospel story without being tongue-tied.

I once met a church member who felt that evangelism was not doable because he felt he had

  • no talent,
  • no skill,
  • nor verbally eloquent like his pastor.

My friend lacked any confidence that he could witness to anyone.

Maybe you feel the same way. You find personal evangelism intimidating. You would rather clean a pig sty instead of talking about Jesus to your friends.

I was.

Learn how Personal Evangelism can be Natural

Speaking at Your Evangelism EventThe Personal Evangelism for Ordinary People seminar will help you overcome those natural fears and find fresh freedom in sharing your faith.

As you go through the seminar with Chris Walker, you’ll

  • Learn to recognize God given moments to talk about your faith
  • Discover evangelism can be as normal and natural as breathing.
  • Find and develop the four core evangelism skills you need, even if you don’t know your Bible.

Discover a compassion for the lost and learn how to share your faith.

This seminar is designed to give you a clear understanding of personal evangelism which results in a compassion that swallows fear and equips you to be effective in everyday life.

It’s designed to move you from clumsy to confident in just ONE day.

Coming to Richmond Virginia, February 28, 2015

If you live in or near the Richmond Virginia area you don’t want to miss this FREE event. . . .

Chris will help you find the same confidence that has helped him talk about his faith in Christ to anyone who asks. He used to be the obnoxious evangelist no one wants to be and has learned core skills to make evangelism accessible to you.


The seminar dispelled the fears associated with evangelism. Both personal stories and Biblical truth provided a framework from which to proceed in making sharing my faith conversationally more a part of my lifestyle.

I would highly recommend this class to anyone with a heart for becoming more verbal in their witness. — Participant


Come to learn some of the practical ways Chris has discovered to share your faith out of his research, study, and first hand real life experience from serving as a local pastor, planting two churches and doing evangelism work cross culturally in 9 different countries.

Date:

Saturday, February 28, 2015

9:00a – 4:00p

Registration opens at 8:30am.

Location:

Westminster Presbyterian Church, Richmond Virginia

4103 Monument Avenue, Richmond, VA 23230


View Larger Map

Cost:

This personal evangelism seminar is free. It is sponsored by Westminster Presbyterian Church.

Chris will have a resource table available for purchase of DVDs, CDs, and books.

Other Notes:

  • Registration information will be shared with EvangelismCoach.org.
  • Lunch will be provided. More information as time draws closer.
  • A resource table will be available, where Chris will provide audio CDs and other items from his resources.
  • When you register online, you’ll receive a complimentary subscription to the weekly newsletter by email, every Friday at 2pm. You can unsubscribe at any time.

Register Here:

Register online for free. You’ll receive reminders as the conference draws near.

We encourage you to bring your ministry leadership team to this event.

Event is open to the public and other churches are invited to register and attend.

Who is Chris Walker?

2013ChrisWalkerHeadShot425x287Chris Walker, of http://www.EvangelismCoach.org, is the featured speaker.

He is fittingly known as the Evangelism Coach because of his extensive work with churches in the US and Latin America in the areas of evangelism and church growth. Chris is an ordained pastor in the Presbyterian Church (USA).

His website has over 1000 articles on personal evangelism, congregational evangelism, and hospitality, as well as a podcast feed, all for free.

He has written:

Chris has also recorded 2 CDs on church hospitality issues, authored 2 DVDs for training greeters, and a 3 DVD set on Breaking Unseen Barriers that keep your visitors from coming back. Plus, he’s recorded additional DVDS and CDs on personal evangelism. All resources will be available at the resource table. Credit Cards will be accepted.


“Fall 2010 has gone well. I believe the First Touch teams have a renewed sense of purpose and others are doing their part to apply the welcoming concepts they learned when you spoke here. I heard from many folks about how helpful and energizing it was to hear you speak.

Your talk helped us see the need to engage people, not just serve them. I think overall it was one of our most successful events ever, and was a real example of how the momentum is shifting in a positive way.” P Strachan, Midlothian VA.


Chris is a highly accessible speaker who brings a passion and energy to his workshops that is contagious.

Geoff McClean, Pastor


I feel rejuvenated in learning to pray after the Salvation Army Quest ministry workshops in Michigan. Chris is very passionate and on fire for what he speaks about. Keep up the good work!

Dean Groendal
Muskegon Corps, Salvation Army

Church Shopping Visit Number 6

We were prepared to be the first time church visitor in our new home town of Port St. Lucie Florida.

The church planting team we are a part of has taken a holiday break, so our family was free on a Sunday morning to be that first time visitor and experience once again the challenge of being a new mover Christian family looking for a church home.  It is another visit in our series on church shopping.

First Time Church Visitor Story

Since we have no church going friends in this city, we are dependent upon advertisements and the internet to find a church to pick from.

We share some of first time visitor experiences here, here,here, here, and here.

How we picked this church

We chose a local church based on some advertisements we saw in a local circular that was delivered to our house.

There was nothing really impressive about their full page ad.

It was full of stock photography of young families and young adults.

The ad contained their service times and location and made it easy for us to make our way there on Sunday morning.

Our First Time Visitor Experience

As we made our way into the massive sanctuary, we discovered that stock photos of young families does not reflect the reality of the service we visited.

We mostly saw retired baby boomer retirees and the preaching pastor regularly referenced retirement and grandchildren.

The young families may be at other weekend services, but the morning service we picked didn’t match the marketing.

We arrived 5 minutes late (having missed a turn during a wonderful conversation in the car).   The parking lot was full, but we found a parking space on our own.  I realized that I had expected a church this size to have parking teams to facilitate this.  Another mismatched expectation.

If the church has morning greeters, we didn’t encounter one.    Another mismatched expectation.

We got a bulletin from an usher who wished us a Merry Christmas and left us alone to find our own way to our seat anywhere we wanted.  Another mismatched expectation for a church this size.

The sermon struck me as mediocre.  The teaching pastor went on for about 45 minutes going word by word from a text.

But I couldn’t tell you what the takeaway point was.  Neither could my family.  We all felt that there was no cohesive point in the verse by verse exposition.  I realize that I am working at improving my own talks and thus have an extra critical grid as I listen to other sermons.

The invitation to the altar call was not related to the sermon in any way, so there was another disconnect for me.  The invitation should always reflect a response point to the sermon, and not a tangential add-on.

When the service was over:

  • We left as anonymously as we came,
  • We talked with no one,
  • We felt noticed by no one, and
  • We were inspired by nothing.

However, the quality of the music, instruments, and vocals was excellent.  We could tell each of the singers and musicians enjoyed what they do and the level of professionalism in their leadership was excellent and something all churches should strive for.

Their Visitor Connection Card

Their visitor connection card was a separate card inside their bulletin.

I saw it after the offering had passed, so I missed a chance to turn it in.

While filling it in, they asked for birth dates of my children, anniversary dates of my marriage.  I think that’s too much personal information to give on a first visit.

The bulletin said I should turn it in at the welcome center for a free gift.  The bulletin didn’t tell me where the welcome center was.

I looked for the welcome center in what I thought was the lobby, but couldn’t determine which of the 4 tables was the visitor center.

No one was at any of them and there was no sign.

I know we will not get any visitor follow up letters or any other contact, as the church has no record of our attendance.

Our final impressions

This is a good church for many people who attend and have become part of its family.

The church is clearly Jesus centered – from the songs to the sermon.

The church is actively involved in the community in various projects.

We could tell from the Sunday bulletin activity list that there is a lot of good activity and potential for discipleship growth and many places we could potentially get involved.

The visitor contact card clearly told us what our first class would be if we wanted to give involved.

I’d still recommend this church to my future friends as an option for visiting.

From a hospitality systems standpoint, there is much room for improvement.   They might benefit from a quick review of my ebook How to Welcome Church Visitors

But our overall experience was so bland that nothing compels us to make a repeat visit.

What you can learn from our first time church visit

Send Your First Time Church Visitor a Followup Letter

Church Visitor Follow Up lettersOur family was the first time church visitor as a result of moving our home office to the state of Florida.

We visited a few churches around our new little area of Port St. Lucie.

Since we have no church going friends in this city, we are dependent upon advertisements and the internet to find a church.

We share some of first time visitor experiences here, here, here, here, and here. Due to my teaching schedule this fall, I have not made another first time visit.

I have written before about different ways to follow up on church visitors, but want to share with you some current life experiences of followup letters. [Read more…]