We value who we are—most seminaries are led by theologians, rather than missionaries, so they tend to lean that way in seminary programs. Denominations can help exhort seminaries to make space and place for church planting emphases as well.
As church planting has replaced mass evangelism as the most popular evangelistic strategy in North America, seminaries could promote multiplication within required evangelism courses. In this way, every student would be exposed to church planting as a popular, effective evangelism strategy. Mission courses could include one session on North American planting.
There are many options—if the willingness is there.
One difficulty in leveraging seminaries to promote church planting is that most of the people teaching in seminaries do not have experience planting churches or serving on the mission field. One strategy to remedy this would be to get a church planter to come in and work with the missions and/or evangelism professors. Professors could set aside a day in class to interview the church planter and let him field any questions students may have.
While church planting may not work as a required course, it could definitely be offered as an elective. When I was a seminary professor, I taught a church planting course every semester. I brought in people to talk about church planting—people the students really wanted to hear. Having dynamic, passionate and effective individuals promote church planting proved to be fruitful.
Establishing a Church Planting and Multiplication Emphasis Week
Because oftentimes the seminaries cannot simply eliminate one class and add a church planting course in its place, they could have a week dedicated to church planting to help advance church multiplication. Use chapel services to highlight church planters, successful plants and other real-world manifestations of a Church Multiplication Movement.
During those days, related classes could take one hour to present information about church multiplication and church planting, as well as opportunities for students to get involved—both during their time on campus and after graduation.
Denomination and movement leaders could also provide church planting resources for professors. They can serve as the conduit to connect instructors with local church planters who can have a presence on campus during the emphasis week and beyond. With on-site resources and readily available planters, seminaries will spark a greater interest in church multiplication among their students.
After graduation, students will take their seminary-endowed passion for church multiplication to the established churches they will pastor and various ministries in which they will serve. Some may even decide to become church planters themselves, or even lead their church to become a sponsoring or planting congregation.
The Right Role for Seminaries
It is not the job of the seminary to create the right elements for a Church Multiplication Movement. But, the seminary can play a strategic role to form and inform students with the vision to multiply God’s Kingdom through the local church.
Movement leaders and seminary leaders can partner together in training and creating a church planting ethos and praying for a multiplication movement to erupt.