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 church planting phases

Church Planting Phases

~~~ A Checklist for Staying on Course ~~~

[Edition 3, February 2003]



The Need for Clear Cut Goals

The Church Planting Phases Checklist

Using The Church Planting Phases Checklist

PHASE 1: Launching the Team

PHASE 2: Bonding with the People

PHASE 3: Evangelizing

PHASE 4: Gathering and Making Disciples

PHASE 5: Training Leaders

PHASE 6: Appointing Elders

PHASE 7: Reproducing and Exiting

A Coach’s Help

The Move Is On!

1,000 teams to the unreached

In the mid 1990s the Lord launched YWAM into the most challenging and exciting adventure in our history! With the full backing of the Global Leadership Team and enthusiastic support of YWAM Frontier Missions leaders, YWAM’s President, Jim Stier, urged our mission to work toward sending 1,000 teams to unreached people groups.

"This would be a significant contribution to world evangelization, and certainly is well within the realm of the achievable!" Jim declared.

What goals are these teams to pursue among the unreached? What steps do they take to reach those goals? A thousand missionary teams need these questions answered as they move ahead.

Moving Where?

The Need for Clear Cut Goals

"If you don't know where you're going, any road will get you there," as the saying goes. One of our leaders, who oversees several church planting teams, complained to me of their difficulties which stemmed from what he called "ill-defined goals."

David Hesselgrave, in his book, Planting Churches Cross-Culturally, writes:

"Goals are essential…. Most will agree with that. But in spite of that agreement we often lack well-understood goals. Why? For four main reasons. First, because measurable goals sometimes seem incompatible with spirituality. Second, because of our lack of discipline. Third, because of confusion as to what the goals should be. Fourth, because even when we establish goals they are often too general and imprecise.

None of the four reasons offer a sufficient excuse for lack of goals."

How vital it is that Frontier Missions (FM), as an arm of YWAM, have clearly defined goals and that each of our teams have the advantage of knowing what they are to do and how to do it.

Jeff Romack, a YWAM leader in South East Asia, helps us get down to the basics:

"It is my assumption that YWAM FM exists as a distinct expression within YWAM in order to reach unreached peoples in particular. It is also my assumption that the key strategy for reaching the unreached is the planting of reproducing churches among these people groups. That is the measurable goal -- the primary goal which we must keep in focus."

Jeff hit the bull's eye, the very center of the target! Our goal as YWAM Frontier Missions is the establishing of church planting movements among unreached people groups. This is a goal that is objective and measurable. It provides all of our workers—mobilizers, trainers, administrators, strategy coordinators, coaches, church planting team leaders/members—with clear direction.

Each new worker can begin his or her journey with the "destination" in mind.

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A "Map" for Getting There

The Church Planting Phases Checklist

It takes more than envisioning the destination to complete a journey. You need to plan the route. A map is an extremely useful tool to help you get somewhere you’ve never been before. The Church Planting Phases Checklist serves as a map. It helps church planting teams chart their course and assess their progress toward their destination.

Evangelizing and discipling a people group is obviously a long-term goal. The goal will not be fulfilled as the result of one big "leap," it requires a series of many small steps. Those directly involved in church planting use The Church Planting Phases Checklist to help identify the specific kinds of activities that lead to the planting of reproducing churches among their people group.

This checklist was originally developed by Dick Scoggins, church planting coach for FRONTIERS (the mission organization devoted to bringing the gospel to the Muslim World). He sent a copy to our "YWAM Church Planting Coaches" office. Seeing how well it meshed with the church planting strategy most widely used in YWAM, I asked him for permission to circulate it among our teams. He kindly agreed.

Since then, he and other FRONTIERS leaders further developed and expanded the checklist to cover seven phases which are normally part of the church planting process.

Along with Jeff Neely, of the YWAM FM International Coordinating Office, we adapted the checklist. We added some YWAM terminology and also made it applicable for teams working among Hindus, Buddhists, Tribals as well as Muslims. In 1995, in Seoul Korea, YWAM FM "officially" adopted this checklist of church planting phases.

We are extremely grateful to FRONTIERS for all the work put into this project and for allowing us to use it in creating our own church planting phases checklist.

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Staying On Course

Using The Church Planting Phases Checklist

The purpose of The Church Planting Phases Checklist is to help team leaders and team members stay on course as they move toward their goal. It helps to remember where you have been, recognize where you are now and reach ahead for where you want to go next. While not all the details of church planting strategy are meant to be included, there is enough to keep a team advancing as they seek the Lord for specifics.*

Jim Stier has spent many years ministering to YWAM church planting teams all over the world. He has this response to The Church Planting Phases Checklist:

"The Church Planting Phases can be a very important tool for us. Too many church planting teams are out there, but get stuck doing almost nothing for long periods of time, and then quit. They aren't lazy or bad people. They just don't know what to do. This can give them guidelines as to what the next goal is. …Visible and measurable progress will encourage our teams more than any amount of pastoral commiseration."

Take time to study The Church Planting Phases Checklist carefully. There will be overlap in these phases. For example, a team may have most of their work in Phase 4, but also be doing some of the activities of Phase 5 and 6. This is to be expected. Not every team is going to engage in all of the activities on the checklist. Some activities may be irrelevant in a specific context. It is certainly likely that some will skip over a whole phase and still plant reproducing churches. Other teams will create new, more fruitful activities, which we will want to add to the checklist in the future. The checklist is a point of reference, giving basic guidelines not rigid rules.

As stated earlier, The Church Planting Phases Checklist is like a map. A map has its limitations: it does not supply the vehicle; will not provide the fuel; cannot change a flat tire; will not tell you if the bridge has washed out; nor caution you to stop gazing at the beautiful scenery because there is a water buffalo in the middle of the road. Nevertheless, a good map is a great help in getting you heading in the right direction!

-Kevin Sutter

*For more on the Biblical church planting principles upon which these phases are based, read "Multiplying Churches On The Frontiers", available from YWAM Church Planting Coaches.

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Church Planting Phases Checklist

(Edition 3, February 2003)

Cross-cultural church planters must be clear on what it is they intend to plant. We define a church as "a group of believers of any size, committed to one another and to obeying Jesus’ commands." However, the goal is not simply to plant a church, but to establish a church planting movement among the target people. It is important to note that certain features of rapidly growing, indigenous church planting movements are quite different (though Biblical) from models of established churches you may have known at home. Small, reproducible churches of 10-30 members meeting in homes or storefronts are a universal element of movements we are seeing among the unreached.

Use this checklist as a means to evaluate your progress toward the goal of planting cell and/or house church movements. The different steps listed below are intended only as guidelines, and may not necessarily take place in the same order as presented. Place a checkmark on the line next to the steps you have taken.

PHASE 1: Launching the Team

Definition: Preparing the team. Initial church planting plans and strategies are formed. When begun: The aspiring team leader is officially commissioned by appropriate YWAM leadership to form a new church planting team.

___ 1. Research best information available on language, history and culture of country and target people group.

___ 2. Form a team with a good balance of gifts: leadership, teaching, mercy, evangelism (if possible, recruit evangelist from the target group or culturally similar group).

___ 3. Prepare a vision statement

___ 4. Develop a Team Profile

___ 5. Plan a strategy paper (if necessary, include plans for "tent making" or small business to enable entry and visas)

___ 6. Each team member (TM) secures adequate prayer, financial support

___ 7. Whole team owns the vision and strategy for a "movement of multiplying churches" among the target people group

___ 8. Each TM commissioned by home church and maintains good relationships with it.

___ 9. Team is commissioned by appropriate YWAM leadership and sent out.

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PHASE 2: Bonding with the People

Definition: Learning the language, adjusting to the culture, becoming "belongers" in society. When begun: Most of the team is on-site (and usually engaged in active language learning).

A. On-site Orientation:

___ 1. TMs "land," secure suitable housing in the midst of the target group, arrange for (initial) entry strategy

___ 2. Resolve conflicts arising in the home

___ 3. Address conflicts arising in the team

___ 4. Develop a team life which spiritually sustains members

___ 5. Pray regularly as a team, to know God’s will in setting goals and making plans

B. Language and Cultural Adjustment:

___ 1. TMs work hard at learning the target language (most people must spend 30 to 40 hours per week)

___ 2. Language-learning program and accountability in place

___ 3. Learn how to survive in area chosen, get comfortable, and enjoy life among the people in the new community

___ 4. Enable the whole family to do the same

___ 5. Discern what the Christian life should look like in this culture and begin to model it

___ 6. Start residency procedure on basis of strategy

___ 7. Develop multiple relationships of varying depth with target persons

___ 8. Prayerfully evaluate your friends for a prospective "man of peace", can he bring others with him?

___ 9. Enable all members of the family to develop relationships with target persons

___ 10. Bring redemptive elements into your relationships

___ 11. Enhance character through the stress of adapting personally, as a family, as a team to the culture

___ 12. Discover any evangelistic tools available in your target language, choosing those the local believers can use

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PHASE 3: Evangelizing

Definition: Praying and seeking for men and women of peace around whom churches may be planted. Evangelizing is presenting the good news of the Kingdom so the hearers understand that the call is to follow Jesus in community. When Begun: Most of the team spends most of their ministry time on evangelism, as opposed to an exclusive focus on language learning.

___ 1. Memorize stories from the Bible (e.g. parables, miracles, etc.) in the target language. Avoid sermonizing.

___ 2. Learn to share the essentials of the gospel in the language

___ 3. Pray with the sick and oppressed for healing and deliverance

___ 4. Develop a sympathy for the gospel in friends' minds

___ 5. Develop a strategy for reaching receptive people ("men and women of peace") and their family and friends as a group

___ 6. Begin evangelistic Bible studies or oral witnessing (for illiterate or barely literate people) in homes, using methods which can be easily imitated by the people

___ 7. Encourage people to bring some committed relations

___ 8. Prayerfully identify one or more heads of households as potential leaders among your relationships

___ 9. Lead people to commit to following Jesus, continually seeking to reach heads of household who can then win their families. The goal is to get a cohesive social group to agree to follow Jesus in community. Individuals can then be added to this community

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PHASE 4: Gathering and Making Disciples

Definition: Discipling one or more believers from a cohesive social group of the target community. As soon as two or more disciples are gathered and commit to obey Jesus together and begin meeting regularly for the purposes of fellowship, teaching, prayer, sharing the Lord's Supper, etc. the church is born! (See definition of "church" in the opening paragraph of this Checklist). For ongoing discipling, care should be used to identify and concentrate upon potential leaders, as Jesus did. Local leaders and the new church will emerge together. You and your disciple(s) should recognize discipleship as a long-term process, working toward the maturing of the believer in character and service for Christ. When begun: Regular discipleship occurs with a believer of the target group.

A. Disciple the Believer(s) by:

___ 1. Challenging one or more believers (head of household if possible) to be discipled by TM(s) in their home

___ 2. Modeling Christ's lifestyle before them and their network of relationships

___ 3. Having the believer include some of his family or friends in the discipling process (see 4.B.)

___ 4. Equipping the believer to know and obey Jesus' basic commands (i.e.: repent and believe; be baptized; love God and others; pray; give; share in the Lord's Supper; make disciples)

___ 5. Using Bible stories, parables, dramas, proverbs, while avoiding heavy preaching

NOTE: Remember to do all ministry activities in a manner that your disciples can quickly imitate and pass on to others. Do not allow yourself to become stalled in this phase – your disciples will make better disciplers than you.

B. Disciple the Believer(s) to:

___ 1. Fully understand their new identity in Christ, by faith not works. (Are there tendencies to return to "works" mind-set of previous religion?)

___ 2. Be baptized, understanding the purpose of baptism as an outward sign of the death of self and rebirth in Christ

___ 3. Celebrate the Lord’s Supper (have head of household help)

___ 4. Relate Bible stories to their families which will impact life practices

___ 5. Develop a regular habit of turning to the Bible to deal with specific life problems as they arise

___ 6. Recognize sin in personal life and respond by repentance, confession and developing new life patterns

___ 7. Live out Christ's life in extended family (e.g. Matt.5-7)

___ 8. Develop godly patterns of loving spouse (e.g., resolving conflict, forgiveness, reconciliation)

___ 9. Develop godly patterns of child rearing

___ 10. Implement godly patterns of conflict resolution with others

___ 11. Understand the place and function of suffering and be able to apply it to their own lives

___ 12. Practice godly response to those hostile to his faith (e.g., government, family, employer, friends)

___ 13. Understand the Biblical perspective on local occult practices and godly alternatives and responses

___ 14. Be ready to give a reason for their faith in non-fearful, non-combative but prepared way

___ 15. Share the good news with family/friends, while maintaining lasting, loving relationships with them.

___ 16. Begin to identify his gifts and calling

___ 17. Become familiar with God's plan for the extension of the Kingdom in the Book of Acts

C. Mobilize Believers (to):

___ 1. Begin to explore good news together with family and friends

___ 2. Covenant together to follow Christ in a committed "Kingdom community"--the church.

___ 3. Pursue God's plan for forming the church among their family and friends

___ 4. Witness to family and friends

___ 5. Embrace God's plan for the church to grow and multiply

___ 6. Learn to recognize and maximize their spiritual gifts to build up the emerging church

___ 7. Practice the "one another" verses of the Bible and how this defines church life

___ 8. Develop culturally meaningful forms of worship for the church

___ 9. Celebrate the Lord's Supper together

___ 10. Meet together regularly as small groups for meaningful worship, instruction, and prayer in homes.

___ 11. Do the work of evangelism throughout their community

___ 12. Demonstrate God’s love to the poor and needy in practical ways

___ 13. Keep their gatherings small and vital by multiplying rapidly and frequently (Note: meetings are private and the public is not invited until local leaders are in place.)

___ 14. Develop a firm sense of identity so the church is able to resist being taken over by other groups with conflicting vision and values

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PHASE 5: Training Leaders

Definition: For the church to become strong and healthy, local believers must be trained to lead the church. Churches typically need a variety of leaders to build up the church and serve the community. When begun: the CPer starts regular training sessions with potential leaders, including elders who oversee, protect and coordinate the proper functioning of the church.

A. Potential Elders Emerge:

___ 1. Suitable curriculum chosen for on-the-job training of local leaders.

___ 2. Mature believers are discipling new believers

___ 3. Mature women teach newer women Titus 2 skills

___ 4. Potential elders trained to take on increasing responsibilities

___ 5. Believers take responsibility for Biblical instruction

___ 6. Management of church finances is taught to leaders

___ 7. Local believers are presiding at the Lord's table and baptizing new believers

___ 8. Initial leaders emerging, functioning as shepherds

___ 9. Church gatherings are evaluated regularly for spiritual health and cultural attractiveness

___ 10. Leaders plan the first public worship service to which outsiders are invited (unless church must remain "underground")

___ 11. Leaders recognize the place of their church within the broader body of Christ and begin to establish appropriate relationships with other churches

___ 12. Growth in godliness in their homes sets pace for others

___ 13. Gifts encouraged and developed for edifying the church and meeting needs in the community

___ 14. Leaders practice 2 Timothy 2:2; training others to reproduce new cell and/or house churches

B. Church Planters Begin to Phase Out

___ 1. Responsibilities between CPers and local leaders defined

___ 2. Withdrawal of most of the CPers from church worship meetings

___ 3. Redeployed CPers focus on starting new churches, ideally with local believers

___ 4. Remaining CPers take lower profile in meetings as observers, lead from "behind the scenes."

___ 5. CPers go on "planned absences" to allow local leaders to experience unaided leadership

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PHASE 6: Appointing Elders

Definition: Last steps so that the fellowship becomes a healthy and reproducing indigenous church. The main goal is leadership development and installation. In this phase any remaining CPers will target leadership development. When begun: the two or more potential elders have been proven, as Scripture requires, and are readied for commissioning to oversee, protect, and coordinate the proper functioning of the church. Leadership development is now the main work of the team. Future elders are appointed by the church (in whatever decision making model they choose).

A. Train and Recognize Leaders:

___ 1. CPers often absent from church meetings, trains leaders from behind the scenes

___ 2. Suitability of prospective elders evaluated in light of Biblical qualifications

___ 3. "Team Leadership" concepts modeled, taught, implemented

___ 4. Discerning the will of the Lord by leaders and church modeled, taught and practiced

___ 5. Leaders' place in conflict and peacemaking in the church modeled, taught, practiced (Phase 6,B)

___ 6. Emerging provisional elders recognized (who, after proving themselves, will be installed as elders)

___ 7. Mature women recognized in ministry

___ 8. Elders lead the people in following Jesus' basic commands

___ 9. Conflicts about leadership appointment dealt with

___ 10. Leaders begin shepherding and church discipline

___ 11. Leaders continue to disciple new leaders, using on-the-job training curriculum

___ 12. CPer often absent from leadership meetings

___ 13. Elders formally commissioned as church gathers and celebrates

B. Peacemaking Skills Exercised by the Community:

___ 1. Forbearing and forgiving

___ 2. Confronting, exhorting, reproving erring members

___ 3. Avoiding and "dis-fellowshipping" those persisting in sin

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PHASE 7: Reproducing and Exiting

Definition: Facilitating the multiplication of churches among the target group and beyond. The CPers are not making a career out of working with the churches they have planted, but are working with local believers to establish a church planting movement. When begun: Plurality of Biblically qualified elders recognized and installed. Local authority and responsibility for shepherding rests solely in the hands of indigenous leaders.

A. Church Multiplication:

___ 1. Vision casting for church multiplication intensifies

___ 2. Church plans for the planting of daughter churches, actively looking for receptive communities

___ 3. Daughter churches started in a new locations

___ 4. Leaders network with emerging leaders of daughter churches, taking some responsibility for their training

___ 5. Leaders formally recognize newer emerging leaders (potential elders)

___ 6. Leaders of churches meeting regularly

___ 7. Elders take more responsibility to develop leaders in the new churches

___ 8. Churches care for each other -- resources shared

___ 9. Peacemaking with leaders of different churches practiced

___ 10. Elders (possibly with CPer) lay hands on new elders in the daughter churches

___ 11. Relationships between churches and leaders worked out

___ 12. Peacemaking skills between churches and leaders of different church associations exercised

___ 13. CPers commend the church to God and cease attendance at church meetings. May sometimes visit.

___ 14. CPer redefines relationship to church leaders as "coach." No longer attends leadership meetings unless invited

___ 15. New churches started with indigenous CPers.

___ 16. Momentum gains toward a movement of church multiplication.

B. Great Commission Vision Imparted:

___ 1. Vision developed to plant churches beyond local area

___ 2. Vision includes recognizing, training and sending indigenous CPers to other cities/countries/cultures

___ 3. Vision given by leaders to churches

___ 4. Means of sending their own CP teams devised

___ 5. CPers sent out either with YWAM or other group

___ 6. New clusters of churches started

C. Pioneer Church Planting Team Departs

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Added Encouragement!

A Coach’s Help

While it’s extremely useful to have The Church Planting Phases Checklist to serve as a map, it’s even better to be able to go over the map together with a friend who has been down that road before! We call this person a "coach." Ideally, every team leader should have a coach available to offer encouragement, input and prayer. A coach will help you stay accountable to the Lord and to your ministry goals.

If you do not yet know the benefits of having a coach, then here are a few:

A. The world's greatest athletic teams have coaches who give objective input to encourage and challenge the teams on to the victory they desire. Coaches likewise help our church planting teams reach their goals.

B. YWAM’s training for pioneer church planting (through our courses in SOFM, SOSM, SOM, SOE, etc.) provides a good introduction to the work of reaching the unreached, but ongoing and timely input is also essential. We help one another continue to grow in the Lord and in ministry skills.

C. YWAM church planting teams are propelled forward by a coaching structure which is decentralized, non-controlling, relationally oriented and which promotes flexibility, creativity, and innovation yet insures quality of team leaders, teams, and the churches they plant and reproduce.

In the Book of Acts, we see Barnabas (the "Son of Encouragement") arriving in Antioch to coach the new believers: "Then when he had come and witnessed the grace of God, he rejoiced and began to encourage them all with resolute heart to remain true to the Lord; for he was a good man, and full of the Holy Spirit and faith. And considerable numbers were brought to the Lord." (Acts 11:23-24) A good coach is one who wants, with all of his or her heart, to see you reach your goals and will work and pray with you to see it happen.

A coach can look at The Checklist with you. You will be able to describe specific activities in which you have been involved. Together, you may better discover where God is at work. You can also point out where you might be having struggles and discuss some of the options for overcoming them. The Checklist can often help in making plans for the next steps.

Between visits with a coach, you may want to stay in contact and use The Checklist to report your progress, by simply explaining your current phase and activity.

Because coaching is such an important element in a team’s success, in 1993, YWAM Frontier Missions launched "YWAM Church Planting Coaches." Our purpose is to develop a growing, international network of trained YWAM church planting coaches who serve teams on the field. Our goal is that every YWAM church planting team has access to a church planting coach. If you do not have a coach and would like to have one, contact us.

YWAM Church Planting Coaches

381 Bayside; Arcata, CA 95521 USA Phone: (707) 822-4662 Fax: (707) 822-8952

E-mail: [email protected]



"Ecclesia Plantada!"

The Church must be planted!

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CPC Designs. Copyright © 2000-2003 [YWAM Church Planting Coaches]. All rights reserved. Revised: 03.15.2007

YWAM Church Planting Coaches is a ministry of YWAM International

CHURCH PLANTING COACHES  --  381 Bayside Road -- Arcata, CA 95521  --  USA

Tel: 1 (707) 822-4662 -- Fax: 1 (707) 822-8952

email us at: kevin[at]cpcoaches[dot]com