Our Church Planting Pipeline

Our mission at Cities Church is to make disciples of Jesus from all nations. That’s what Jesus tells us to do in Matthew 28:18–20, and therefore that’s what we’re aiming for — no frills or additives. We think it should be simple. And at the same time, words have meaning and each part of our mission is loaded with conviction. If we were to unpack it a little more, our aim is to: 

multiply and mature worshipers, servants, and missionaries of Jesus who live faithfully in the home, the church, and the world. 

This mission gets lived out in our discipleship structures of Community Groups, and so when the mission is working, disciples are increasing. And as disciples increase — and leaders are developed — then Community Groups multiply.


And as Community Groups multiply — and the developed leaders are equipped for church planting — then churches get planted. That’s the vision of Cities Church. It is to multiply local churches in the Twin Cities that are theologically-driven and committed to relational discipleship. One way to talk about it is to say we’re doing spiritual formation that leads to cultural replication for geographic saturation. We want to plant more churches like ours in the cities.

And that can’t happen unless those churches are started by teams who share that goal. And those teams don’t happen unless they’re built. And they’re not built unless the “material” is available. At the most basic level, our leadership development initiatives — both the mens’ initiative through the planting pipeline and the womens’ initiative through the First Principles cohort — is designed to give us a church that is full of church planting material. We realize that not everyone is going to join a church plant sent from Cities Church, but we want as many people as possible to be equipped for church planting if God should call them. 

Three Tracks Toward Planting

The vision of our church is bound up in our developing leaders, and in particular, our developing elders and deacons. That is the goal of our Church Planting Pipeline, which is a competency-focused discipleship regimen for men that seeks to equip and deploy future elders, deacons, and global missionaries at Cities Church or in one of her plants.

Overall, the pipeline functions within the leadership matrix of willingness, competency, and opportunity. 

Willingness asks “Is he interested?” It’s the first step in discovering leaders. Is there a “leaning in?” Is there a kernel of leadership acumen here that God might use?

Competency asks “Is he qualified?” First and foremost, is he a man of character? Is he on the trajectory of becoming a mature Christian? Does he walk in the light? (1 John 1:7) How might his gifts be stewarded for elder or diaconal ministry?

Opportunity asks “Is he needed?” The answer for us here is an unequivocal Yes — if we are planting churches. Hands down here, if a church is going to discover and develop leaders, she must have somewhere to deploy them, and the shoes need to be loose. The vision for how God might use these leaders should stretch them — it should demand faith. Like church planting does. Our church planting pipeline seeks to raise men up to send them out. 

The pipeline is comprised of three tracks that each correlate to the leadership matrix:

Track I

The first track is focused on the theological foundations of Cities Church. The course is built around the heartbeat of our Leader Affirmation of Faith — that Jesus saves sinners. 

Track II

The second track delves into a variety of competencies that have been identified as integral to church leadership. There are three different focuses that grow in their application on church planting.

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Track III

The third track is our Church Planting Residency, which is a 12-month residency at Cities Church that is aimed at equipping the lead planter in team leadership and in honing his planting strategy. The residency also includes a part-time staff role at Cities Church to serve in the day-to-day needs of the church and to gain a vantage into the inner-workings of church planting. This residency is in partnership with the Send Network, the leading church planting network in North America for assessing, resourcing, and supporting church planters.

The residency is available to the men within Cities Church who are sensing God’s call to become a lead planter, and it’s also available to applicants outside our church who resonate with our vision. We are currently seeking applicants for 2019–2020.

Planting and Beyond

So what about after the residency? What does it look like when our church plants are launched and in motion? A lot of this stuff is still being built while we’re in the air, but the next steps involve ongoing planter training and coaching, as well as collaboration in the pipeline. Our hope is that the church planting pipeline fuels a network of churches by discovering, developing, and deploying church planters in the Twin Cities.

By 2040 the experts say our metro will be home to an increasing 3.7 million people. We know that not every person of that 3.7 million will believe in Jesus, but we want Jesus to be impossible to ignore. And impossible to ignore, in part, because there are more churches in these cities who are committed to the supremacy of Jesus and relational discipleship.

Because increasing disciples and developing leaders means multiplying Community Groups, which leads to planting churches.

To the King of ages, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory, forever and ever. Amen. (1 Timothy 1:17)