23 Apr 2020

Defining Success for a Church Planter

Bella Simonetti

One pastor’s journey in saying “yes” to God’s call to planting a church in an at-risk community 

God’s calling on Nick Jenkins 

Nick Jenkins started in ministry at the age of 21, where he served with Source Church. Not long after, he moved into part-time ministry with a church in North Carolina, for which he eventually became the associate pastor. 

While they were both serving with Source Church, Nick and his wife, Allison, both knew that God was calling them to start a church, but they didn’t know when. They continued to serve in the ministry God had placed them until He made it clear where they should plant their church. This church focused on missions and outreach, and it was during their time at Source Church that they did some outreach projects in North Chesterfield, Virginia, where Nick grew up. 

While they were doing outreach in North Chesterfield, Nick and his wife felt God stirring up in them the desire to reach the community. God put it on Nick’s heart to plant a church there.


God’s calling to plant a Church

Every church planter’s story is unique. You may be wondering what God’s calling on Nick to plant a church looked like. Well, his words say it best.

“For us, we had stuff lining up for us constantly,” explained Nick. “In the months leading up to us planting a church, God began to release us from what we were doing at our church. Everyone around us knew something was going to happen for us, and they could sense that a change was coming. There was no denying that God was moving. It was a strange thing, but we loved [the process] so much.” 

When the time came for them to go, Nick and his family packed everything they had. “Everyone told us how exciting this was, and weren’t we excited about what we were doing,” recounted Nick. “And we were, but it’s also scary! When you know what God is calling you to do, it’s exciting, but it’s also scary when you’re in it.”

Nick and his family moved to North Chesterfield, Virginia with no job and not much money in their savings. But the Lord provided for them. 

Early days of getting started

“There are two common ways of getting started,” described Nick. “There are those who have the heart to start a church or ministry and take a year or two to build capital. They take their time fundraising and getting a location. And then there are those, like my wife and I, who just jump right in.”

To be clear, Nick is not saying one is right, and one is wrong. At StartCHURCH, we have worked with all kinds of budgets, and we have seen both strategies create long-lasting and sustainable ministries. 

“You just need to understand what God is calling you to do,” said Nick. “There’s nothing wrong with either way to get started. What you have to decide is what a win looks like for you, or what’s your success indicator. You must understand what God is calling you to build. For us, starting our church wasn’t about having everything perfect; in fact, our ministry was messy, but we were comfortable.”

On February 4, 2018, they launched Ascend Church in an at-risk neighborhood on Jefferson Davis Highway.


Getting the help they needed

“Prior to us having our first service, I knew I needed to get 501(c)(3) for our church,” recounted Nick. “And I knew there was a whole process for bylaws and a whole paperwork portion for starting a church. I knew I needed some help.” 

Honestly, this is where a lot of ministries find themselves needing help. The number of hours it takes to start a ministry is daunting, but God will provide a planting team that will assist you.

Creating a strong legal foundation is where StartCHURCH came into Nick’s ministry. 

“Now, I do a lot of research,” explained Nick. “While I was working for the government, I came across some documents created by StartCHURCH, so I looked them up. The entirety of what StartCHURCH offered was incredible, so I made a call and got connected with Bruce, my church planting specialist.” 

While Nick and his wife had little in savings, they knew they were aligned with God’s plan, and He would provide a way to provide for their ministry. 

That provision came in the form of the StartCHURCH payment plan, a flexible payment schedule set up for beginning ministry planters. 

“That was one of the huge benefits about StartCHURCH for us!” said Nick. “StartCHURCH’s payment plans were easy for us to make monthly payments on, and we were paying for everything out of our own pockets. I can’t stress enough how helpful it was to work with a company that was not only helpful with the work they were doing, but also had really affordable payments.” 

This flexible payment plan helped the ministry take full advantage of the StartRIGHT Service. Through the StartRIGHT Service, Ascend Church was able to create their governing documents and obtain their 501(c)(3) tax-exempt status. 

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However, this was not the end of the partnership with Ascend Church because soon after that, their church planting specialist Bruce introduced them to the Bookkeeping service. 

Why the StartCHURCH Bookkeeping Service?

Nick started using our bookkeeping service back in 2019, and you may find this a strange decision because Nick had a solid background in finance. 

So why didn’t he do it himself? 

Two words: Accountability and Transparency.  

The StartCHURCH bookkeeping service focuses strictly on your organization’s finances with professionalism and without any biases. 

At StartCHURCH, our clients often tell us that having a third party bookkeeper with expertise in ministry compliance is invaluable to stewarding their finances correctly. 

See, Nick started with five people, and none of them were strictly focusing on finances. But he knew that they were going to grow, and he planned for the future by seeking out assistance in our bookkeeping service. 

Some may find it strange that Nick chose to bring in a bookkeeping service when he had expertise in the matter, but the Pastor’s time is one of the most valuable assets that the organization has.

The books need to get done, but that does not need to come at the expense of the ministry. By allowing StartCHURCH to assist him in keeping the books, Nick freed up time to serve his community and fulfill God’s vision on his life. 

To see how one of our bookkeepers saved a church over $8,000, check out this article. 

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Advice from one pastor to another

For Nick, the biggest thing God has had to walk him through in this process has been understanding what success looks like. Not by the world’s standards, but how God defines success.

“I thought we were going to go through this normal routine, but it ended up looking a lot different,” said Nick. “The biggest thing we had to learn was to define what success really looks like.” 

“In our western-church culture, we give a lot of glory to the fastest growing churches, you know, the megachurches that seem to hold 17 services every Sunday,” explained Nick. “And I am in no way saying what they’re doing isn’t right. But we have a way of looking at these megachurches and comparing ourselves to them. Instead of looking at numbers or comparing your ministry to another, let God define what success looks like for you in your ministry. Don’t let our culture distract you from what He’s leading you to do.”


The proof is in the pastoring

Every church can impact a community, regardless of size. If you look at Nick’s community, you can see the effect that his organization has on his local news. 

See, Nick’s town had some sad news when two drug labs were exposed, and instead of wallowing in tragedy, Nick and his organization did something about it. 

 Nick held a cookout to open up a dialogue between the organization and the local people. He saw the meth labs as a symptom of a much bigger problem and wanted to create a real relationship. 

According to the pastor, “We need to be willing to infiltrate and get our hands dirty and be a part of it and work with people and not operate with stigmas and misinformation.”

For the full story, read the article below.


Cultivating a lifelong relationship

Here at StartCHURCH, we are dedicated to meeting the needs of pastors, leaders, and church boards that have a vision to make a difference in their communities by establishing new churches and ministries. 

Our passion is to help you by assisting with compliance, bookkeeping, and empowering you as leaders of your organizations. 

We celebrate Nick’s story, and we want to celebrate you too! 

Call us today at 877-494-4655 or click the link below to sign up for a free 30-minute consultation with one of our specialists, and let's talk about how we can breathe life and experience into your ministry. 

You were not meant to do ministry alone, so let’s get started! 

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Please feel free to comment. We always appreciate good dialogue. However, we do moderate each comment to ensure that it is on topic and not derogatory to other participants. We ask that you keep your comments brief and pertinent to the topic so that others may benefit.

Raul Rivera

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