Going the Distance: Longevity in Church Planting


Warning: Church planting might can be hazardous to your health.

The road to church planting is littered with pastors who burned out, committed moral failure, or simply walked away from the ministry. For many what started out as an exciting adventure ended up as a nightmare.

The good news is not all church planting ventures ends in disaster, failure, and frustration. Many church planters can and do thrive in various contexts. It doesn’t matter where you are.

I want to help encourage church planters thrive and grow wherever they are. Several years ago I began a research project where I interviewed over 30 long-term planting pastors throughout the United States. They are examples of ministry health, longevity, and mission. They are courageous leaders who planted and led their churches through various seasons of ministry and have brought their churches to a place of health, stability and growth.

Who are they?

They come from 19 different states and their church vary in size from 150 to 4500. The average tenure of the pastors I interviewed was 20 years. They come 13 different denominational backgrounds including Baptist, Presbyterian, Episcopal, Methodist, Anglican, Pentecostal, Charismatic, and non-denominational.

Although they have different backgrounds, they all have one things is in common: they are examples of ministry health and longevity. They have weathered through the highs and lows of church planting and have lead their churches to a place of health and vitality.

The result of this research was 10 common essentials that these church planting pastors recommend for  ministry health and longevity. Of course there where others things, but the following ten things ranked among the most recommended among them.

My prayer is that you will find a few golden nuggets of wisdom and refreshing for your soul that will help you become a thriving church planter wherever God has called you to serve.

10 Common Signs of Longevity

Long-term Vision

These planters had a long term vision for their ministry context.  As James Boice once noted, “We tend to overestimate what God will do in one year and underestimate what He will do in twenty.”

Marriage and Family

These planters know that you have to pastor your family first. They did not let the church come before their family. Paul says a pastor must manage his household well.

Self Care

These planters seek to maintain a balance of spiritual, emotional, and physical health. The church will only as healthy as its leader.

Prayer is a Priority

These planters make prayer a major priority in their life and ministry. Healthy pastors are praying pastors who depend on God in prayer.

Healthy Relationships

These planters know the value of healthy relationships. There are no lone rangers in the kingdom of God. They seek to have healthy relationships inside the church and outside.

Outside Ministry Involvement

These planters know that being in ministry can be like a pressure cooker without an outlet. They all have some outside ministry involvement such as writing books, planting new churches, going on mission trips, or community outreach.

Ability to Handle Conflict

These planters have learned how to handle conflict and criticism. Conflict comes with the territory. They know that it is not if, but when and how you handle conflict.

Leadership Development

These planters don’t go it alone. They have the ability to develop leaders and build teams around them.

Ministry Coach

These planters had ministry coaches or a someone who mentored them. They understand that we need the wisdom and counsel from others who has been down the road of ministry. We all need a Gandalf if we are going to make it for the long haul.

Life Long Learner

These planters are life long learners. They never stop learning. They read books, attend conferences, and study theology., etc. Never stop growing and learning because it is an important part of long term health and vitality.

Winfield Bevins has a passion for equipping others to spread the gospel in their own context. He serves as the Director of Asbury Seminary’s Church Planting Initiative. As a seasoned practitioner, he has used his experience to train leaders from diverse backgrounds on three different continents. He frequently speaks at conferences, churches, seminaries and retreats on a variety of topics. He is the author of several books, including Plant: A Sower’s Guide to Church Planting. He and his wife Kay, have three beautiful girls Elizabeth, Anna Belle, and Caroline.