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If you are interested in seeing God’s kingdom expand and local communities transformed, then this article is for you. Whether you are a church leader, an aspiring leader, or simply a catalyst for positive change, please read on. The hope of the world is the gospel, and the world needs more gospel-centered churches!

Church planting, like many activities of the local church, became somewhat dormant in the midst of the pandemic. As local churches attempt to navigate a post-pandemic ecosystem, many feel there is a shortage of qualified leaders. Thus, there is a reluctance to send out top-tier talent to plant another church. So, I would like to consider four tools to cultivate church plants in a post-pandemic ecosystem, tools that are adaptable in almost any size church anywhere in the world.

Before discussing the tools, it is helpful to understand the following: planting churches benefits the kingdom and the local sending church. It creates excitement and attraction. Gifted leaders and future leaders are drawn to churches that plant churches. Training future church planters is arguably the most holistic leadership training. Most ministry training is silo-specific (e.g., youth or children’s ministry), but conversely, training church planters encourages a 360-degree understanding of the local church. So, while some trained leaders will actually go and plant churches, others will remain and greatly help the local church where they are trained.

So, here are 4 tools to cultivate better disciples, better leaders, and church plants in any season and any ecosystem:


1. School of Discipleship (aka School of Ministry):

A School of Discipleship (SoD) is a means to provide a more formalized method of making disciples, developing leaders, and leveraging a leader’s time. At Calvary Nexus, we use a curriculum that covers devotions, worship, servant leadership, use of time, Bible teaching, ministry and people, missions, equipping, evangelism, church history, planning, vision, and Calvary Chapel philosophy of ministry and systematic theology. A link to our curriculum is available here:

We offer a class one evening a week, for one hour and fifteen minutes. Each participant is expected to complete one hour a week of “lifework” (really just homework, but it sounds more spiritual). Each participant volunteers an average of one hour a week (four hours a month) in an area of ministry at the local church or a para-church organization. The curriculum takes about fourteen months to complete.

Each module is independent, which allows you to enroll new participants every six months. Participants who excel are recruited (after they graduate) to grade papers and mentor new students. This SoD model creates tremendous leverage, because the primary leader spends less than ninety minutes in class and can train a relatively large group. Each mentor disciples up to ten students and provides feedback on papers and helps participants grow as they learn to follow Christ and serve Him.

The SoD approach develops a broad foundation of growing disciples and leaders. Like a pyramid, this foundation will support narrowing tiers of future leaders and prospective church planters.

2. Teacher Training Class:

The Calvary Chapel movement has a rich history of expositional Bible teaching. We recognize that making disciples, developing leaders, and preparing church planters is more than training to teach the Bible. Yet, a class that teaches participants how to more effectively proclaim biblical truth is an important tool.

Expositor’s Collective ( has an abundance of wonderful resources. Their training events are effective at helping Bible learners communicate gospel-centered truth so that people can understand and apply the Bible to their lives and glorify Christ.

At Calvary Nexus, we offer a class usually every other year. The class will generally have eight to twelve students. Most of the participants have roles teaching in youth ministries, kids’ ministry, small groups, or another ministry context, but some aspire to teach and want to be trained beforehand. We spend about four to eight sessions explaining principles of biblical hermeneutics (interpretation) and homiletics (communication). The students learn elements of Bible teaching and become aware of some traits that can make teaching more or less effective.

Then the participants begin to present thirty- to thirty-five-minute messages and receive feedback from their peers regarding what they did well, and then, what they (and the class) can work on to be more effective. A seasoned pastor-teacher or two will provide a more nuanced or sophisticated level of critique. We seek to provide critique that is sensitive to the experience level of each individual participant. The Teacher Training Class is explained at length as a step-by-step process in the Appendix of the Calvary Church Planting Manual:­­­­

3. Internship:

Internship provides an opportunity to grow as a disciple and leader in the context of a healthy local church. Internship provides participants who are interested in ministry an opportunity to glean practical experience in a local church that can help prepare them for a future of full- or part-time vocational ministry. Internships are often useful to college students and recent graduates as many internship programs provide college credit rather than an hourly pay rate. Yet, older interns can also benefit from the experience. Internships may also offer individuals insight into a particular church’s culture and daily operations.

At Calvary Nexus, we offer six-month and one-year internships. The primary ministry areas are kids, youth, young adults, tech, worship, and administration. Yet, any area can be ripe for an internship. At the beginning of the internship, we generally define three to four ministry objectives that seek to align the gifts and passions of the intern with the needs of the ministry. Then we identify three to four spiritual growth goals that are related to the ministry objectives. For example, a Children’s Ministry intern may have objectives to see a new classroom started, recruit volunteers, or discover new ways to express appreciation to volunteers. The spiritual growth goals could relate to attending a Children’s Ministry conference, listening to podcasts related to children’s ministry, researching appreciation, and identifying ways parents can better disciple their children.

The great majority of staff positions at Calvary Nexus have been filled by people who attended our School of Discipleship and participated in an internship. They proved themselves as having Christlike character—and being capable, faithful, and interested in vocational ministry. The internship is also explained at length in the Appendix of the Calvary Church Planting Manual.

4. Church Planter Training:

Cultivate by CGN has created a somewhat distinct approach to cultivate church plants: The primary garden to train church planters is a local healthy gospel-centered church. A healthy gospel-centered church of almost any size anywhere in the world is an ideal environment to be trained. A disciple who has demonstrated proven Christlike character, gifting as a Bible teacher, and leadership qualities can discover a 360-degree understanding of the local church by being trained in the local church.

Cultivate is not a para-church planting organization meant to take the place of the local church. Instead, we are part of an expanding global family of churches that provides resources and coaches to help local church leaders serve as mentors to aspiring church planters.

Cultivate offers training videos that provide a comprehensive understanding of the vision, values, philosophy, and theology of the CGN family of churches. Cultivate provides effective assessment tools that help an aspiring church planter discover ministry gifting as well as theological understanding, strengths, and areas where development can be targeted. This also helps a planter recognize the value and benefits of building a team of people with a common mission and complementary gifting. Online classes provided through Western Seminary enhance theological training. The Calvary Church Planting Manual serves as a comprehensive resource for a pastor-mentor to train a prospective planter in the local church.

At Calvary Nexus, we offer a class where we primarily invite disciples to participate who are interested in church planting. They are often people who have proven themselves in the School of Discipleship, teacher training class, and internships, but invitations need not be limited to only those with these experiences. We include men and women because there are several roles on a church’s team, and we have found that spouses of church planters are better prepared for challenges as a result.

We use the manual as a resource/curriculum for the class and simply walk through the step-by step training described in the manual. Those who continue to feel called, and are recognized as being qualified by God to plant, will then be sent through Cultivate’s assessment process to refine, equip, and further mentor, coach, and prepare them to church plant and transform a community for Christ.

The class does not create any undue burden for the teacher-mentor (I spend less than two hours a week), and it ensures growing disciples and leaders for the kingdom and the local church.

We, along with several other churches, have discovered that these are effective tools to cultivate church plants in any ecosystem. So, whether you are presently a church leader, an aspiring leader, or a catalyst for positive change, contemplate how you can use these tools—or share these tools with others. The hope of the world is the gospel and the world needs more gospel-centered churches!

Bruce Zachary is the senior pastor at Calvary Nexus in Camarillo, California. In addition, he is a member of the CGN Executive Team and core initiative Cultivate team. Bruce is also a church planter, having previously directed the Calvary Church Planting Network, a global church planting initiative. Visit his website (