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AWWWWWWWW!!! I was wondering what happened to this church. I used to read his blog and I know people in the area so I was routing for him from a distance. Obviously I stopped reading the blog but I wondered what he was up to. I'm glad he landed on his feet in MI.

Ben, These "how they started" posts have continually grown a question in mind. If the key to "church planting" is these three things, why not just join with pre-existing churches and assist those who have done the work of growing roots, pushing rocks, and tilling the soil? I know there are good answers to this question, but I'm wondering if your book addresses them?

I do a lot of work with the demographics of northeast state colleges and see some common threads across them that might be applicable to church planting.

One is these colleges have a high turnover, few students complete a degree in four years, and alumni affinity is weak. I think a church plant could be a catalyst to help students achieve, and complete. Once completed (and in a paying job), alumni could send money back to the church to help minister to those still there.

This college, like many is 60 percent women. A church planter needs a visible, educated, active wife as a presence. Comedy is often a guy thing, a women's touch is a counterbalance. On a more technical note, a high concentration of ISFJ's (found here) requires a very specialized ministry.

There are plenty of professors and working professionals nearby that have an open heart (and open wallet) to students. IVCF, Campus Crusade, etc., often will point them out. Try to recruit them.

This is a big mission field - anybody working in it that wants to network and share more? Let's talk!

David, thanks for your question. I think it presupposes that if these factors aren't in place, they aren't there at all for the planter. But I really do think they are. It may take waiting longer, building more relationships, ministering to more people... but these factors can and will develop.

In the book, I don't condemn planting in tough soil... (after all, I did it) but the activity is different there. You aren't trying to build an organization right away. You're acting like a missionary.

Mike, that's very interesting...

let me just begin by saying that i have never visited your blog and have no familiarity with your work, so i am commenting here with zero context...

however, i was highly involved with the catalyst church planting team for two and a half years and have a deep love for the community and people of kent.

i will say that your post paints a nice picture... but, that it does not properly portray reality:

1. good ground did in fact exist... it just wasn't a carbon copy of the ground found at other successful churches around the country. unfortunately, revelation took a back seat to imitation...

2. rocks were indeed rolling... however, catalyst wasn't interested in rolling with/beside/or on the same hill as these rocks... which caused alienation and left many people rolled over and flattened.

3. deep roots were definitely present within the local area and university. the planting team had a deep rooted desire to see the love of christ spread throughout the community in which they themselves had deep roots. not to mention the few local ministries and churches that for years have used their deep roots to till the soil, plant seeds and harvest the crop. the only ones who were not deeply rooted were acts 29 and their plant analyzers.

please know my heart. i am not angered by or embittered with the launching and failing of this church plant. my husband and i pray for and love the herrons and are excited to see that god has led jonathan to what seems to be a perfect fit.

i simply have a hard time believing that the oversimplification of what broke this new church is beneficial to your readers or an accurate analysis of the situation.

peace and love.

Alicia, thanks for your comment. I can tell you were wounded by the experience, which is certainly understandable. It was the death of a dream not just for Jonathan, but for you.

Every pastor has blind-spots, short-comings, makes mistakes. No planter can come into a new community as an outsider and get it right out of the gate. So grace and mercy are needed along with your peace and love.

In post-mortem, I'd encourage you to recognize the great sacrifice that was made by the Herrons in even coming to the community, which cultivated the ground even more than it was.

If you're still in the community, I pray for great opportunities to continue the work that was started there. After all, God doesn't need the Herrons to reach Kent.

Mike mentioned, "This college, like many is 60 percent women. A church planter needs a visible, educated, active wife as a presence."

It might be helpful to understand that in the story of Catalyst, I was extremely visible and active as the church planter's wife (even though I had a newborn son to take care of!). I am also educated with a Master's Degree. I do not think this aspect of the comment applies here. In addition, we did have several other highly-educated women on the team who did complete degrees - such as Alicia who commented above.

KSU does have many active parachurch ministries and that is where we first looked to partner. We successfully connected with The Navigators and they were a HUGE support to Catalyst.

I can only echo Ben's comments - grace, mercy, peace and love are what is needed at this point of the journey. God has a heart for the people and students of Kent - He does not NEED us to continue this work. I know in my heart that for a season, He did use us and lives were changed. I rest in that.

The things we experienced while planting Catalyst will forever echo into our future. While hindsight is 20/20, it is through these sanctifying experiences that God grows us into the men and women He's calling us to be.

Ben - thanks for sharing our story and highlighting others similar to ours. We're excited about the research in your book and believe you represented well the full picture of Catalyst's story.

The statistical reality is that 80% of church plants falter within 2 years (in our case 4). I feel it is time that people start talking about this unashamedly for the benefit of those in the church planting trenches.

I absolutely have NO regrets over our decision. Each week, I see a new blog post or story of pastors who are strung out and extremely unhealthy, whose families are suffering and even some who are unfaithful. We chose our family over the church - a decision we will make every time!

hi ben, would you be willing to share the research process that led you to the above conclusions about catlayst?

Emily, before I answer your question, are you someone who attended catalyst and was hurt by your experience there?

thanks for your response ben. i have no desire to share personal details here and if that is contingent upon your response, i will politely decline to engage further. thank you again.

Every pastor leaves a wake of hurting people in our path because we're all sinners. And I mean every pastor. We try our hardest to do what's right but human nature interferes. Pastors aren't different than everybody else; we're just held to a higher standard.

But what's extraordinary... what's refreshingly uncommon is when someone offers us grace and forgiveness instead of darts.

I pray that God will give you the strength to forgive because I think then your soul will find healing, and God's grace and love will fall fresh over you...

Amber, I apologize for interpolating your Caro website to your KSU plant. A long time ago, I was driving from Cincy to Buffalo, and listening to a Sunday night radio program out of Cleveland. The host was interviewing the singles pastor of an eastside church (possibly Highland Sixth Pres?) and she described a highly missional and relational ministry. As the show ended, the address was given, and I was only a few miles from the freeway exit of that name. I turned off, and since it was mid evening, I did not expect to find the church open, but hoped to catch a Denny's where members went after the meeting. I searched around the church, but no luck. I was familiar with the Western Reserve, and its Connecticut roots, and further research revealed the plethora of outstanding ministries around Cleveland spearheaded by women.

That's deep in Cleveland's DNA, and I would expect KSU to reflect the maturity and intelligence of Cleveland women. KSU has a high percentage of nursing students ( much more than most state colleges) and this is good for a church. KSY is somewhat remote from Cleveland, so it's probably a mix of residents (from all over Ohio) and commuters (with long commutes who may not want to drive back on a Sunday?) Many of the commuters are well settled in their home churches, unlikely to join a new church. And, I can see how Acts 29 is not a good fit.

Indeed, the 80% failure rate is sometimes "the elephant in the middle of the room", but I often think the best preparation for a successful second plant is a failed first plant. But, it's something we need to talk about, and not hide. Certainly, in this case where there was no moral failure, financial malfeasance, etc.

Like Emily, I'd like to see the analysis. I see that finances was a big factor, and Cleveland is not immune (last week's Plain Dealer featured a bunch of downtown office buildings in foreclosure). College students are basically poor, but most students come from a suburb that has churches with money. And any college leaves a swath of alumni that will send money back.

Amber, how much were you able to develop small groups? Or was that something your Navigators friends developed?

This has been a good thread, and I don't want it to die. My thoughts are that Ben's book is focused on the foundational issues of church planting, while many of us have commented on the operational issues? If that's incorrect, help me understand?

Amber, how much was Catalyst oriented to the "typical student" (single) and how much was it oriented to "young married students with children"? Neither group has much money, especially young parents. How much did the denominations, or their wealthier nearby congregations help?

Here's one denomination's view of church plant money -

I'm cutting off comments here and unpublishing the few last ones that have come in...

This post wasn't meant to serve as a dumping ground for the angst of Catalyst team members. I'm truly sorry for the demise of the church. Clearly, there are a lot of hurt people.

I really encourage you contact Jonathan in a spirit of humility to confront him on any issues you feel are outstanding. This is not only more effective, but more biblical.

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