As one of the EPC’s four strategic initiatives, church planting is a priority in the EPC. A significant aspect of supporting church planting is supporting and ministering to church planters. A key strategy in supporting EPC church planters is the annual Church Planters Retreat.
This year’s retreat was held October 25-27 at Cheyenne Mountain Resort in Colorado Springs, Colo. Nearly 50 EPC church planters, their spouses, and members of the Church Planting Team (CPT) joined presbytery leaders and others for three days of training and renewal that included peer networking, breakout and mentoring sessions, fellowship, prayer, and more.
Tom Ricks, CPT chair, explained that “church planting nuts-and-bolts” training sessions focused on topics such as fundraising, worship, self-care, and preaching in a start-up situation.
“Church planting is one of the hardest and loneliest endeavors of which I have ever been a part,” said James Daniels, pastor of Chelsea Presbyterian Church in suburban Birmingham, Ala. The church plant is not yet holding formal worship services, but is in the formation stage of hosting social events such as prayer breakfasts to build a local core group.
“The retreat came at a critical time in the process, and offered a beautiful balance of information and transformation,” Daniels added. “I’m entering back into my local community renewed and inspired for the days ahead.”
“This retreat was absolutely necessary,” said Brian Roskin, pastor of River City Church in St. Charles, Mo. “The topics were thoughtful and relevant for my current situation. I was able to connect with others doing the same thing, creating a network for me.”
Breakout sessions for spouses were led by Patty Robinson, wife of Shawn Robinson, founding pastor of Clayton Community Church in Clayton, Calif., and a CPT member. Her topic, “Engaging, Equipping, and Encouraging,” addressed how to navigate the call to be a church planter’s wife—including managing expectations and boundaries.
“Taking care of your relationship with God, knowing how and when to invest in the (church) plant, and protecting your marriage and family is what make the journey unique,” she said.
Another component of support for EPC church planters is a Church Planters’ Cohort, now in the planning phase with a launch goal of January 2018.
“The cohort will meet bi-monthly via FaceTime,” Ricks noted, “and cover topics essential to the first two years of church planting.” He added that “covenant triads” will provide opportunity for church planters to check in, support, and pray for each other.
Cohort leader Bart Garrett, pastor of Christ Church East Bay in Berkeley, Calif., reported that eleven church planters expressed interest during the retreat in this continuing training/support effort.
Jeff Jeremiah, EPC Stated Clerk, noted that the retreat could not happen without local church giving to Per Member Asking, since food and lodging are funded in the EPC budget.
“Commissioners to the 2017 General Assembly in Sacramento approved funding church planting—as well as the other strategic initiatives of church revitalization, effective biblical leadership, and global movement—in the EPC budget, so every church that participates in Per Member Asking is investing in EPC church planting.”
Ricks noted that many EPC presbyteries pay travel expenses for church planters and their spouses, “so they can attend virtually cost-free.”
“The Church Planting Team and I are grateful for the opportunity to help invest in and grow the next generation of EPC church planters,” Ricks said. “We’ve seen many churches come along side us as ‘Parents, Partners, and Patrons’ of church planting. Thank you to everyone who supports church planting. If you’re not yet involved but interested in learning more, let me know!”
Ricks can be contacted at email@example.com or 314-909-9197, ext. 1007.