When it comes to church planting, it should begin with prayer, identifying potential leaders, training them and sending them out. At least, that’s the way Risen Life Church does it — and church plants like Redeeming Life Church have benefitted.
Risen Life Church in southeast Salt Lake City, Utah, raises up leaders to plant and strengthen churches. As part of that, leaders also help churches with guidance in finances and more.
“Our basic strategy is to pray, ask God to bring us guys we can work with to plant churches, and then we will help at whatever level is comfortable for them,” Jared Jenkins, the church’s executive pastor, told Utaho/Idaho Connections. “We just want to spread the gospel in Utah.”
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Bryan Catherman was a member when then-pastor Kevin Lund of Risen Life started working with him.
“We joined the church late in 2008 and were faithful members,” Catherman said. “Kevin asked me to teach the third grade [Sunday School] class and started meeting with me a couple times a month.
“He cast a vision for what could be, brought me under his wing and in 2009 said, ‘How about we figure out how to do something more for the Kingdom?’ He started giving me more responsibility: small groups, discipleship, evangelism, missions. He moved me around to work in every area of the church so I would be prepared for church planting.”
Catherman took 15 members to a missions conference in 2014 during which church planting was discussed. That led to a small group at Risen Life studying the New Testament book of Acts.
A new launch
By September 2014 the group had outgrown a house and began meeting in Risen Life’s fellowship hall under the name Redeeming Life Church, “to be started somewhere.” In May 2015 the church launched in the Rose Park area of downtown Salt Lake City.
Finances were a major concern. Catherman didn’t know financial management and no one on the Redeeming Life leadership team did either. But Dave Pelton, Risen Life’s finance manager — he had a background in business management and banking — did.
“Dave became our accountant — he is so knowledgeable about it — and Risen Life elders became our borrowed elders to help what we were doing with our church plant,” Catherman said. “They were like a safety net when we were getting started.”
Redeeming Life grew and merged with Good Shepherd Church in Bountiful when pastor Mike Pless retired. About 100 people now attend Sunday worship services, 49 people have been baptized, and Catherman, following Lund’s example, is raising up more new leaders to advance God’s Kingdom work.
One of the things the potential leaders learn is the importance of error-free financial stewardship.
“You have to do it right because you can tank a church if it’s wrong,” Catherman said. “The people we serve with in ministry must trust we’re above reproach. When the finances are called into question, whether they were done correctly or not, there is potential doubt. If our members won’t trust us – if we’re not above reproach as it says in 1 Timothy 3:2 — we’re going to have problems.
“I don’t think people in our society realize what it means to manage money without reproach,” he continued. “It’s not your grandma’s checkbook. For payroll, if you don’t get every box checked off right, you’re in a year-long mess with the IRS just trying to fix it, and it could be costly. Dave knows how all that works and taught us how to do it well.”
Catherman noted, “We had to change insurance providers, and just the application paperwork was over two dozen pages. All that has to be done right or the church will suffer for it if there’s a claim or a lawsuit.”
“The church’s money is all God’s,” Catherman added. “If we’re going to be a healthy church, we need to steward His money well.”
Redeeming Life Church is one of nine church plants so far that Risen Life Church has helped.
“We pray to the Lord of the harvest,” Jenkins said. Risen Life elders help however they can. This might be financial, leadership, vision-casting, preaching, worship assistance, training and more, both for church plants and existing churches.
“Financial services is a major task,” Jenkins said. “How to put together a church budget, how to run finances in a way that is both legal and accountable, and how to keep up with the day-to-day tracking of finances is a big task.”
Keeping focus on ministry
Risen Life Church also helps with pastoral expertise, decision-making, emotional/spiritual support and friendship, Catherman said. Especially in the first few years of his pastorate, “Kevin and Jared stayed in touch with me. They were my friends. They cared about me. Dave was a serious friend too. He just graciously kept walking with us.”
Church planters are stretched thin with multiple needs and too little time, Jenkins said.
“I think for a lot of church planters finances can be one more thing on a long list of to-do items,” Jenkins said. “Often planters don’t have the time to do the ministry and run the administrative parts. For us to help with their finances helps them focus on ministry in the critical early days so they can get started much better.”