The Two-Way PAC Relationship
Making church multiplication work for everyone
You should be careful when you invite a missionary to speak. It might just change how you see everything.
Several years ago, a veteran missionary spoke for our annual missions emphasis, talking about how he saw parts of American culture. He saw whole swaths of culture, both ethnic and sociological, that were invisible to the local church. Did we know that the nations were living and working in our neighborhoods?
Our church staff set out to do the work of seeing, praying for, and initiating ministry aimed at those parts of our city we might have grown blind to. We analyzed our surrounding neighborhoods demographically and geographically, and as a church we began praying for a vision about how to reach them.
If many of them were unlikely to come to us, we thought we ought to go to them. As a result, our church of about 200 people has helped start three Parent Affiliated Churches (PACs).
We made the philosophical decision early on not to simply throw money at a team of planters and let them go. We wanted to build a two-way relationship into each PAC so the churches could help each other over time. This model of planting has the potential benefit of strengthening the ministry of each church in the relationship and increasing our reach to our city.
Why We Should Do It
We all know it is easy for a church to become an island. And the bigger it is, the easier it is for that church to take care of itself and disconnect itself from other congregations. This does not always happen intentionally, but it happens far too often.
Instead of doing this, we can build the DNA of collaboration into our churches and help one another catch a vision for God’s larger kingdom. When we support the planting of a new PAC, we can do it in a way that does not turn the parent church into an ecclesiological prima donna or abandon a church planting team to fend for itself.
Starting a PAC with the vision of a two-way relationship helps accomplish several things. Each congregation can develop a larger vision for what needs to happen in a community and the role of each church in meeting those needs.
One of our PACs is a house church that has developed through building intentional relationships with people who would never darken the doorstep of a church building. They are reaching people we might never bring into our sanctuary.
Being deliberate about keeping them engaged with the parent church encourages evangelism within an established congregation. We often have one of our PAC pastor couples speak in our classes or to our volunteer leaders, and their gift for friendship evangelism always creates excitement among our congregation for what is possible through their relationships.
One of the best things our church can do to reach our city is help a church in another neighborhood.
The PAC arrangement also helps pastors build supportive relationships with one another. With each PAC, we established roles for the lead pastor. The position sometimes comes with work within the parent church, but the relationship is primarily for accountability and support.
And while I might be able to lend some support as a senior pastor, I have learned that the other leaders’ zeal and gifts keep pushing me to grow in new and exciting ways. I have probably learned as much from them as they have caught from me.
How We Can Do It
Because we decided from the beginning that a two-way relationship was valuable, we sought out potential church planters who saw the benefit of this kind of relationship. My wife and I helped or led two church plants ourselves and knew the hardships of starting a church from scratch.
We wanted to give new church planters support that lasted past the first infusion of cash and enthusiasm. And in my experience, church planters were often excited to find the right balance of relationship and autonomy, knowing they would not be left alone.
As a matter of practicality, it is easy to list ways a parent church can support a new church: money, people, worship leaders, technology, etc. But a staff may need to be a bit more creative in a long-term two-way relationship.
We began by folding the planting teams into areas of ministry in our church. They did several things for us, from helping with our greeting and host team to doing missionary spotlights to teaching classes.
At the same time, I had to avoid the trap of letting their help become free skilled labor for me. We made it work by encouraging relationship. Their exposure to the parent church created opportunities for our people to support them financially or in other ways that fit their gifts.
When this starts happening, a pastor learns quickly whether they have a Kingdom vision or not. During any given week, someone might give the church plant some time and resources instead of giving them to me. But we learned that can be a good thing.
And as the PAC progresses, we work to keep the congregations apprised of each other. Members from one of our PACs spent their summer rebuilding an older church. Along the way, several folks from both churches helped the other with our physical projects, one of our teens did an internship at the PAC, and we stay involved with each other’s activities.
At times, there has been a temptation to put our congregation ahead of all others and simply walk away from the work it takes to build and maintain healthy relationships between churches. But we became convinced that our church, while it will strive to reach and disciple as many people as possible, will simply not be attractive to a lot of folks.
So maybe one of the best things our church can do to reach our city is help a church in another neighborhood with a different personality do their job really, really well.