Stephenson and Parmelee will kick things off by recording live from Converge Pre-Con + Exponential 2018 in Orlando on Feb. 26-March 1. Topics of discussion will include “Creating a culture of generosity,” featuring Converge president Scott Ridout, “Moving from portable to permanent,” and “Walking through seasons of pain in ministry.” There also will be a question-and-answer time with conference attendees.
Stephenson, who started and led Harvest Community Church in Mesa, Arizona, from 2009 to 2015 before becoming executive director of Church Planting for Converge, said that there are a lot of podcasts available that are intentional about how-to’s when it comes to church planting, but there aren’t a lot of conversations taking place about the “in-between-the-lines type of stuff.”
“We wanted to create a conversation about the oftentimes missed conversations that church planters benefit from—of just the process of planting and the mundaneness after you actually get the church up and running,” he said. “Dealing with people, dealing with the things that happen in the planter’s life. You may not realize that they’re actually normal—that everybody goes through them—because they’re not talked about.
“One of the reasons we named the podcast Unfiltered is because we just want to have really honest conversations, not tiptoe around issues, but just say, ‘Hey, this is normal. This is what I’ve seen in my life and other people’s lives. This is what I’ve overcome.’”
Stephenson said they plan to have special guests on the podcast, and he hopes it will be a beneficial resource to planters and those who are considering becoming a planter.
Starting in March, a new podcast will be released on the Converge website on the first and third Tuesday of every month.
“We will consider it a successful podcast if planters listen and go, ‘I resonate with that,’ or ‘I’m glad someone was willing to say what I was feeling and thinking,’” Parmelee said.
Parmelee served as pastor/planter of epikos Church, with three campuses in Milwaukee, before becoming vice president of Church Planting for Converge MidAmerica in March 2017. He said there isn’t “one strategy” or “one model” that works for all church planters.
“The diversity of communities, cultures and norms has forced planters to contextualize their strategies. There is no doubt that this is a challenge. You can’t just pick up a playbook, run it and expect results,” he said. “I actually think that even though this is a challenge, it’s also a very healthy thing. This has forced church planters to become missionaries in their community and seek God on how to best establish a church.”
Parmelee said another challenge is that as the country overall becomes more post-Christian there is more resistance to church in general. “You can’t just open the doors and expect people to show up.”
Stephenson said church planters often feel under-resourced, specifically financially. He said understanding leadership development is key for church planters—knowing who to invest time in, what to do with them, how to move forward, and how to raise them up to be high-level leaders in the life of the church using their gifts to help facilitate the mission that God has given us.
Stephenson said having church planting experience makes it easier for him to talk with other church planters because he’s “been in the trenches.”
“When I meet with church planters, I can say I’ve been there,” he said. “That obviously gives you a level of credibility right off the bat being able to speak about the context that they’re in.”
Michael Smith serves as Converge’s content specialist. He has nearly two decades in the newspaper publishing industry. Michael worked as a copy editor and designer for the Tampa Tribune for more than a dozen years, and has also been a member of the editorial staff of Florida Baptist Witness and other publications across the Southeast.