In 2022, Ben Ho was a pastor in Brisbane and his church was discussing planting a church and were looking for a suitable pastor. Ben was listening to the Reach Australia podcast and driving through the suburb where they were hoping to plant a church. It suddenly dawned on him, “Hey, maybe I should be the planter?!"
Tim and Jessica Bones were in a different position. They were unexpectedly presented with an opportunity to lead a church plant. “An opportunity came up and then it was like - whoa - we've actually got to think about this,” said Jess.
14 couples went through assessment with Reach Australia in 2022, a months-long process leveraging experienced church leaders across the network to identify planters and evaluate their suitability. “Ministry and planting have eternal consequences,” says Derek Hanna (Director of Church Planting), “so the assessment process is a bit like open heart surgery - what we’re doing is too important to do anything less.”
The process starts with a 20 hour Assessment Questionnaire. Ben’s wife Faith remembers, “I was very reluctant to do the very long questionnaire when I started doing it. And Ben kept saying, ‘you have to do it. You have to sit down and do it. It will take you a significant amount of time. Just don't just leave it to the last minute.’ I was overwhelmed by how many questions there were and how they were questions that required a lot of self-reflection.
“But when I was doing it, I felt like the forced self-reflection was just what I needed. It helped me be more aware of how my weaknesses could affect Ben, my family and the church plant. So I soon repented of my reluctance.”
Tim recalls, “I was sitting there night after night filling out that long questionnaire, but it is worth it. It's really helpful that the people assessing you love you, and want the best for you and for the kingdom.”
Some questions from the form
Next, they had to do a 2.5 hour assessment interview with experienced church planters, resulting in recommendations made. “We’ve never planted and felt incredibly out of our depth, so to have them and their support really felt like we weren't alone. The assessors are very sincere and generous and giving in their efforts to understand you, your family and your church situation, and they're doing it all to help you,” says Faith.
2. Recommended with condition(s) - slow down (the most common outcome)
3. Potential with strong conditions - stop and wait
4. Not recommended - change direction
“When we did the whole assessment process, we got [recommended with condition(s)]. This was helpful for us in working out whether we go ahead with an opportunity straight away or wait a few years. Everything from the assessment and our own reflections helped us decide it would be better for us to wait and work on some of the things that were suggested before jumping in,” shared Jess.
They weren’t discouraged. Tim explained, “They connected my strengths and weaknesses to particular parts of ministry. They showed me, ‘Tim, you're good at this. That's actually going to really suit this kind of ministry. And if you want to keep going forward with that kind of ministry, you have to work on these areas a bit more.’” Tim was given actionable steps to keep working towards planting, and an insight into which sort of planting model would suit him and Jess’ personalities best.
Ben and Faith got the green light to proceed with planting. Ben shared, “The assessment showed me that God has made me and worked in my life in such a way that there actually are things I can bring to the church plant as a church planter.”
Tim now sees how helpful the process is. “My boss planted [a church] by himself. His reflection is that if he had done it with people who had gone ahead of him, he would've had a far more successful church in the end. Going alone you can go so far, but going with friends you can go much, much further.”
Both couples found the assessment process intense but extraordinarily worthwhile due to the personal insights it provided and the ongoing support of being part of the Reach Australia network.