Leaders ready to plant

Ric Thorpe

Bishop of Islington, England

Never plant two churches in the same week. It’s crazy. Like I was. In 2010.

In 2010, we had the opportunity to plant a leader and a team into two parish churches in Tower Hamlets, London from St Paul’s Shadwell. It took a lot of hard work, listening, waiting, praying and negotiating! But we knew that they would both happen around September (I wouldn’t recommend planting two at once but that was what happened!). We had had a curate, Adam Atkinson, training with us for three years who was experienced, called and ready to lead one of the plants. I had been looking for the other leader within our own church or our network for a year. A few people were interested in coming to check it out, but when faced with the challenge, no one came forward. I realised that we had an extraordinary opportunity provided by God where if we didn’t act, the parish would be absorbed and ministry to this particular part of Tower Hamlets – one of the most deprived – would peter out. But we had no one ready – no one trained, with our own DNA, ready to be deployed at the right time.

As always, the Lord provided a wonderful solution when I met Cris Rogers just three months before, and he moved with his family from Soul Survivor Harrow into a rather different setting in the East End. Since then the church has thrived.

But it left me thinking we do not have people ready to go to specific and sometimes difficult places when the opportunities to plant come. And they will start to come thick and fast. We need leaders of various kinds who have been identified as pioneers, exposed to church planting, who are also ready to be deployed. The training is partly in place through the various pioneer tracks in our theological colleges, and the identification of this form of leadership has been identified as “pioneer ministry”. What we need is a much clearer pathway for them to follow. This is where the leadership pipeline comes in.

A leadership pipeline works when there is a “pipeline” full of leaders who have been trained with appropriate skills and character to match and are ready to be deployed. We have a wonderful ordination and training process in the Anglican Church and it is time to enhance it with a more specific programme. Planters could be placed in churches, used to sending, for a year, with regular opportunities to experience church plants and be coached by leaders who have already planted. This three-fold exposure will mean we have the right people, ready and willing to go when the call comes!

We can all
play our part!

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