A proper church planting prospectus will serve you on multiple fronts over the first three to five years of your church plant. It will serve as a primer for those interested in becoming a part of your core-team, for possible financial supporters, or for those who simply want to know how they can pray for you. It will serve as an atlas as your forming your small groups, launching gatherings, and putting together documents like by-laws and articles of incorporation. In the midst of chaos, confusion, and difficulty, it can serve as a well needed reminder of why you’re planting and help you remember the long-term vision and goals of your church plant. While a prospectus in no way guarantees the success of a plant, it’s an important part of, as Tim Keller puts it, “building an altar that God would honor with his fire.” Putting convictions, vision, and structures down on paper has a way of unifying and building a shared vision amongst your core team.
For these reasons, it's important that you put your prospectus together with care and diligence. But if you’re anything like I was a couple of short years ago, you’re not exactly sure where to start. I hope these 10 steps help you get the ball rolling in creating a prospectus that will serve you in your church planting endeavors.
STEP #1 — PREPARE
Firstly, you need to prepare yourself. If there is one step that you absolutely cannot skip, it’s this one. Prepare not just to create a church planting prospectus, but to plant a church. The sort of preparation it takes to plant a church happens over the span of years. It involves a lot of Bible reading, prayer, character formation, theological training, and mentoring from older, wiser pastors. This will lead to planting a church and writing a prospectus from a place of conviction and compassion, rather than being subject to whatever the cult of the novel has served up this month. Pray, read the Bible, and submit to godly leadership before you consider planting a church.
STEP #2 — RESEARCH
Next, do some research. While your vision, calling, and context will be unique to your church, there’s also no need to reinvent the wheel. Read other church planting prospectuses and ask a lot of questions of leadership who have experience with writing or reviewing this sort of document. Others have likely thought of certain elements of vision and implementation that you haven’t. The Church has been planting local churches for a very long time and have a figured a few things out. Don’t be afraid to learn from others.
STEP #3 — OUTLINE
Writing is as close as we humans get to creating “ex-nihilo.” You begin with a blank page and end with document filled with words, sentences, paragraphs, ideas. Something that makes this process flow with a little more ease is creating an outline and then filling in the content. Think about the creation account in Genesis 1. The first three days, God creates the heavens, the earth, and the seas. The next three days are spent filling the heavens, earth, and seas with planets, plants, and animals. It helps to follow this pattern by creating chapters and outlines, and then fill the chapters and outlines with content.
STEP #4 — WRITE
After you create your outline, you can begin to fill in the content. There’s no need to make everything just right in this step—just write. If you’ve been through a period of preparation and have done a fair amount of research, you probably have a lot of content rolling around in your head already. Don’t worry about communicating perfectly yet, just get the content on paper.
STEP #5 — SIMPLIFY
After you’ve finished writing your prospectus, go back and shorten sentences, paragraphs, and pages wherever you can. Exchange big words with smaller words. Clarify sentences that are clunky and confusing. Make everything as simple, understandable, and concise as possible.
STEP #6 — EDIT
It would be wise to send your prospectus to several competent editors at this point. You’ve likely committed grammatical and spelling crimes that need correction. No matter how gifted and precise you are, you won’t be able to catch them all. Ask the friends that are always correcting your spelling and grammatical errors. As annoying as they may be, they will serve you well in this step.
STEP #7 — REVIEW
This document is going to help remind you of your vision, goals, and timeline over the next few years. So make sure it is comprehensive, yet clear and concise. Specificity and flexibility is a hard but necessary balance to strike. Review your prospectus at this step and make sure you are satisfied with it’s outcome.
STEP #8 — DESIGN
I handed this step off to someone much more competent and gifted than I. The reality is, people will be more likely to read and enjoy your prospectus if it’s aesthetically pleasing. Fill it with photos of your family and your city. Lay out the content in a way that’s easy to look at and read. The folks who will be reading this document are possible core team members, prayers, and financial supporters. Make sure your prospectus is deigned in a way that serves them well.
STEP #9 — PRINT
Send it to the printers or if you have access to a decent printer and a binder, print and bind it yourself. I know that things are increasingly becoming more digitalized, but many will appreciate having something solid in their hands.
STEP #10 — SEND
Send it to everyone you can think of. Possible financial supporters, prayers, core team members—anyone who might be interested in what you’re doing. Don’t be shy, you never know where members, prayer, or support might come from.
Going through these steps and creating a church planting prospectus is well worth your time. By giving proper thought and communicating your vision in this form you will keep yourself from making big decisions on the fly, care for your core-team by letting them know what is central and expected, and keep your eyes on what God has called you to.