Welcome to the "how to join" page for pastors of existing churches! We're glad you've made it here, and out team is excited to answer your questions about what it looks like for an existing church to join our network of churches.
Since 2011, we've had the privilege of adopting several churches, guiding them through a process that moves from exploration, to assessment, to membership. But, we're getting ahead of ourselves. At this point, we're sure you have many questions:
- What exactly is Sojourn Network? (if you haven't already, you can read more about our network here)
- What makes it unique from other networks and denominations?
- How exactly does it serve it's churches?
- What does it mean for churches within Sojourn Network to "partner" together for church planting?
- How exactly do you help your churches plant churches? (you can head over to our church planting page to read more about that process!)
- Do you provide any avenues for ongoing pastoral care, support, training, counsel, and relationships? What do those look like?
- What do you expect from your partner churches?
These are great questions, and if these resonate with you and your elder team then you've come to the right place!
What exactly is a "church adoption"?
While Sojourn Network is committed to planting churches, we recognize that there are times when God sovereignly unites us to churches we did not plant. This reality surfaces organically as we walk in friendship and discover a relational, doctrinal, and functional affinity. In response to God’s activity in uniting our hearts, we will formalize the relationship through a church adoption into Sojourn Network. A church adoption then, is the process where an existing church, that is self-supported and self governed, joins the Sojourn Network family. Typically, a church is adopted through general exploration and relational development with the network, moving through our more formal assessment process, and then finally going through our assimilation and welcoming process.
The Adoption Process
The process for an existing church to join Sojourn Network moves through three broad steps: (1) an exploration phase; (2) an assessment phase; and (3) an assimilation/welcoming phase. Here are some additional details on each of those.
Phase 1: Explore
There are many ways to begin exploring our network. Many pastors choose to begin their exploration of our network at a distance:
- read over the website (you're here!)
- follow up on Twitter and Facebook
- sign up for our “Useletter”
- listen to past conference messages or recent conference message via our podcast
- read our resources - blog, guides, white papers
- sign up for our online exploratory course (coming fall 2016)
These are great places to start, but at the heart of our network is relationships. To build relationships with the pastors in the network, you may opt - and we recommend! - to take a more relational approach to exploring our network. Here are a few ideas:
- Reach out to a network pastor in your area to discuss what partnership looks like
- Come to one of our Leaders' Summit. We’re also at large evangelical conferences like T4G and The Gospel Coalition’s annual national conference
- Email us! firstname.lastname@example.org
After reading through all the material online and working through some of these other exploratory outlets, if you and your church feel like you’re ready to take the next step, then complete this Existing Church Connect Questionnaire. This form acts like a bridge to help us determine whether or not to move towards assessing your church for adoption into the network.
phase 2: Assessment
The assessment phase has two parts:
- The written assessment
- The in-person visit to your church
The written assessment is a 5-page document we email out to the Lead Pastor (or his designate) of the interested church. Once complete, this form is emailed back to a member of our staff. We will then review the paperwork and contact you with any questions we desire to discuss. If everything looks consistent with SN beliefs, vision, mission, and values, then we proceed to the second part of our assessment: the on-site visit!
The in -person visit is the most relational part of our adoption process with an existing church. It serves multiple functions:
- it allows the network to send someone to meet the local pastors and answer any additional questions they may have.
- it allows the network to determine if the church, in practice, is operating in alignment with our values and mission.
- it allows the local church to see a face and hear a voice from the network as the network representative preaches at the church.
- it allows the local church to ask follow-up questions and/or clarity any reservations they have about joining the network.
- it allows a relational connection to deepen between network leaders/pastors and the local church, which is a core value of our network.
- it allows the network to gently press into the leadership of the church to see if they have counted the costs of partnering with Sojourn Network.
Once these two parts are complete, both organizations - the church and the network - take time to pray and evaluate the adoption decision. If both are in mutual agreement and eager to formalize the partnership, then the church will be formally received and welcomed into the network.
phase 3: Join Sojourn Network!
By this phase, most of the hard work is done! Yet, this is an important final phase, as it provides the church with all the necessary steps to become fully involved in the network and connected to all our resources and programs. When this phase works well, both the network and the church work through the following steps over a 2-4 week period of transitioning into the network.
- Completes a website information (form), the annual church commitment (form), and the lead pastor's information (form)
- Reads the member church covenant and the most up-to-date Program Guide
- Connects with existing internal network communication channels - The City, "insider" email list
- Connects with existing programs - coaching cohorts, access to strategists, upcoming network conferences, crisis care, network-specific content
- Receive and process all forms once they are completed
- Communicate and welcome new church on various internal and external communication channels
- Help connect the lead pastor and his team to all existing programs
Q: How long does this process usually take?
A: This entire process, from start to finish, usually takes anywhere from three to six months.
Q: Who leads Sojourn Network (SN)?
A: The board of directors, comprised currently of six men, exercises governing responsibility for the network and works with the executive director to set vision and direction for the network. The executive director provides the specific leadership to execute the vision and and mobilize the staff.
Q: What is the relationship of authority between SN and the local church?
A: SN holds no authority over its local churches. The local churches are “autonomous” in that they are constitutionally distinct and self-governing. Churches are free to leave the network if they feel the partnership is not serving their local church and the network leadership is free to revoke the partnership status if a leader or church strays from the SN beliefs, vision, mission, and values. Naturally, in either situation, we would expect a process of honest discussion, prayer, outside counsel and commitment to preserve the unity of both the local church and the network.
Q: How does SN provide supplemental avenues of care, support, and training for its pastors?
A: Once a pastor or church planter works through either the church planting assessment process or the church adoption process (for existing churches), they now have full access to our suite of programs and services for pastoral care, support, and training. These include:
- Coaching Cohorts
- Strategic Counsel via “Strategists”
- Content and Resources specific to SN’s mission
- Crisis Care and Counsel
Q: Are SN churches required to give back to the network? If so, how much? How often?
A: Yes. Network churches joyfully give 5% of either their annual budgets or their actual giving. In most cases, the church gives monthly, but churches can also give quarterly or a one-time annual gift of their entire pledge.
Q: How does SN serve multisite churches?
A: Almost a full one-fourth of our churches are now multi site in some form. Campus pastors have full access to all the programs and activities that the network is already doing to serve pastors (listed above), but we do offer a few additional services to these churches:
- We can help assess potential campus pastors through our assessment process.
- New campuses/congregations are eligible for one-time financial gifts if their lead pastor/campus pastor has gone through our assessment process.
- The network can help guide the eldership to ensure mission success is not reduced to local multi-sites.
Q: Are there SN churches who are part of both a network and a denomination?
A: Yes! Many churches in SN choose to align with both a network and a denomination. The reasons are myriad but among the most common are that the denominational affiliation often provides a seminary connection with attending discounts, a strong financial base that is capable of resourcing churches and church planting, and a set of beliefs and practices that have passed the test of time. We are grateful for these fruits, and we recognize that SN has stronger churches because of denominations. As a family of like-minded leaders, SN feels more like a “boutique” - smaller, more nimble, and able to fill certain missional, relational, care, and training gaps that exist within many denominations.
Take the next step!
If you've made it here and are excited to take the next step, here's some suggestions for learning more and connecting with us: