The same has been happening with help offered to families from children's centres and the like. The initial promise looked good but then the funding was cut, the case load piled up, promises were made and broken simply because there was so much to do. And now many of these centres have shut with nothing realistically in their place within the locality. Another promise of support that was no more than a promising castle quickly washed away by the tide.
The church must be different. It must both launch, learn, and relaunch but also anchor itself within such communities and commit for the long term. It must both change and adapt and yet stay and remain. We must expect suspicion about how long we will last, we must be careful to promise no more than we can deliver, and we must commit to loving no matter the initial rejection (which so often is just a fear of being let down again when you move on).
Gospel ministry, especially in hard to reach or Yorkshire places, needs stability and that stability starts with the leadership. Pastors are you called to ministry within that area or just to the ministry? Will you still be here in 15 years or be off when a bigger church comes calling? That's a question I would ask all pastors, not just planters. Elders, are you committed to the area and the people? Will you move here and commit your family to living in and among this community? Will you turn down a promotion if it means a move across country away from the church or are you only here until something else comes along (if so I'm not sure how that fits with biblical eldership)?
I wonder if there is also something else we need to think through in terms of planting off the back of this. If neighbourhood based communities need long term stickability I wonder if they need churches that are planted into permanent buildings rather than rented accommodation. Rented accommodation does not say commitment and stability it says short term and changeable even if that is not what our plan is. I wonder if, in those communities, having a building would go some way towards making a statement about commitment and perseverance? Almost saying I'm all in.
So what does this mean for church planting? It means we need to plant where we can into buildings. That raises the bar in terms of resourcing church plants if we need to buy a building or it means we ought to look for where existing gospel resources are. Either revitalising an existing but dying church or entering into a coalition with us that gives us use of the building. Both of those have their struggles and complexities but they also come with the bricks and mortar that offer opportunities and permanence.