One of the tasks in church planting is figuring out where you are actually going to plant a church. As we have finished our time with Sunrise, Amy and I are trying to be open to any place the God may want us to go. The next practical question is, “How do you start realistically narrowing the choice when your list includes everywhere?”
When we set out to plant Sunrise we relied on the groundwork that an experienced church planter of one of our sending churches had already done in the area. He focused us on several locations in the Dallas/Ft. Worth area that were growing areas with few churches. We ended up settling on south Grand Prairie because of those reasons as well as its proximity to our two sending churches.
As we consider planting again we don’t have the convenience of an experienced church planter’s groundwork. (I guess I should be the experienced church planter now!) So how do I start? Doing a big demographic study to find out the fasting growing communities in the United States just does get me very excited. As we got settled into south Grand Prairie with Sunrise I kept finding my heart pulled north to poorer more established parts of town. I also recently heard a story about some church planters who had narrowed their list to 10 potential cities and began making survey trips to see which would be the best fit. During the course of their discernment they made contact with someone who asked them to consider another place not on their list. Ironically, that ended up being the location they settled on to plant.
Since hearing that story I have begun to think though church planting location not based on demographics or statistics but on personal connections. I get much more excited about a particular location knowing that someone already there is asking me to consider it. To this point the people connections we have made have led us to consider three places – Grand Prairie/Arlington area, Houston area, and North Carolina. If anybody out there thinks we would be a good fit in another place, let me know. God often speaks through his people and we are trying to listen!