Phases & Steps for Planting

In the Forest Lakes District we believe that God's mission is best advanced through the making of disciples and the multiplying of churches. In order to multiply new churches, it is important to understand that the planting of a healthy church is not only a miracle of God's grace, but the fruit of qualified and well-equipped leadership. For this reason, we aren't interested in simply rubber stamping the plans of enthusiastic planters. Instead we carefully and prayerfully come alongside planting candidates through our three-phase process.

Phase #1: Assessment

The following six steps are part of the assessment phase for becoming a church planter within the Forest Lakes District.

Step #1: Establish Relationship

When it comes to making an initial connection, we want you to make contact with district leadership via a phone call or an in person meeting. If you are a planter and haven’t done this, please email Scott Sterner, Director of Church Multiplication for the Forest Lakes District. His email is and he will set up a meeting to connect with you on the phone or in person.

Step #2: Written Application

This initial application is our way to get general information about you such as contact information, your resume, where you are interested in planting, and references of people who would recommend you as a church planter. In this step you will also need to submit a PDF or Word document of both your resume and a general planting overview document which should give us an understanding of your desired planting location, vision for your church plant, strategy for planting, timeline, etc.

When your resume and planting overview document is ready, you can begin the application by clicking here.

Step #3: Phone Interview

Once you have completed your written application, please email Scott Sterner ( to schedule a preliminary phone interview. Following the phone interview, Scott will assess your interview and invite you to either continue or discontinue Phase #1.

Step #4: Church Planter Profile

After getting clearance from Scott to proceed in Phase #1, you will go to Church Planter Profiles and complete the initial profile and screening assessment. When creating your account, please do so under the organization, "EFCA Forest Lakes" found in the final drop down box. Once you finish the initial assessment you will complete the full Church Planter Profile for $99. This and the Couple Checkup fee (see step #5) are the only expenses you will be required to cover in the assessment process.

Step #5: Couple Checkup

If you are married, you and your wife will need to complete a "couple check-up" assessment through Couple Check Up. The fee for this assessment is $35. When you receive your results please email them to Scott Sterner (

Step #6: Assessment Interview

When the preceding steps are complete, a 2-3 hour assessment interview with you and your wife will be scheduled with a district assessment team. This interview will include questions regarding your knowledge of church planting, personal life, ministry calling, and your desired location to plant. Much of the interview will be guided by your application as well as the results of your Church Planter Profile and Couple Checkup. At the end of this interview we will discuss the district's policies and district and church planter’s covenant.

Step #7: Assessment Results

After the assessment interview, the results will be compiled into a document that you will receive via email. That document will contain the results from your assessment in the form of full approval, approval with conditions, or a recommendation that you not continue as a planter with the Forest Lakes District. Most planters at this point of the process will be approved with conditions that often include some form of continuing education, assignments, coaching, or the recommendation of a residency or internship. After you receive the results you will be contacted with information regarding the next steps in your process.

Phase #2: Preparation

The preparation phase will look different for every prospective planter based upon the recommendations of the assessment team. For some, this phase could include a residency or internship, for others the reading of books and attending a boot-camp, and for others it could include specific training in bi-vocational or rural planting methods. At the end of the preparation phase, Scott will review your investment of time in this phase and he will determine if and when you should proceed to the next phase.

Phase #3: Launch

The launch phase consists of several steps, many of which will be customized for each individual planter because each planter and planting situation is fairly unique.

Step #1: Fund Raising Training 

Depending on the church planter’s prior experience with raising funds, we will either give you training materials to read and discuss with your mentors or we will set you up with our in-house fund raising trainer in the Forest Lakes District. 

Step #2: Start Fund Raising 

This process will look different for for almost everyone and we are committed to walking through it with you in accordance with our in-house fund raising trainer in the Forest Lakes District. 

Step #3: Start being Coached

Nate Hobert is the Director of Coaching for the Forest Lakes District and he will be coaching you as you begin planting your church. Nate is a really great ministry coach having him as part of our team is an incredible asset. 

Step #4: Establish transitional governance model

You and the director of multiplication will determine which transitional governance model best fits you and your church. Below are the three primary models we typically use. 

Leadership Model

This model of transitional governance is typically for plants that are starting with few core group members and no parent church involvement. The leadership model is designed to empower and guide the planter through the turbulent waters of planting while concurrently maintaining the value of autonomy for the plant and consideration for the unique leadership gifting of the planter. Providing accountability for finances and other key areas is another function of this model. Transitional governance in this model will be provided by a small group of leaders outside the plant who are hand selected by the planter and district leadership.

Advisory Model

This model of transitional governance is typically for plants that are starting with some semblance of core group members and perhaps some parent church involvement. The advisory model is designed to advise and counsel the lead planter and to provide accountability for the plant’s finances and other key areas of need. This model is a middle ground between the Leadership and coaching models. Transitional governance in this model will be provided by a small group of leaders both inside and outside the plant who are hand selected by the planter in conjunction with district leadership.

Coaching Model

This model of transitional governance is typically for plants that are starting with a strong semblance of core group members, plurality of leadership and competent and active parent church involvement. This model typically doesn’t require leadership from outside the plant like the previous two models. Instead, it typically has one key district appointed leader from outside the plant who regularly meets with the planter for coaching, advice and financial accountability.

Step #5: Develop Core Team & Launch Gathering & Groups

The timing, nature, and circumstances of this will depend on a range of variables and we are committed to helping you carefully and prayerfully think through your decisions about this. 

Step #6: Legally Establish Church 

There are six primary steps you need to take to legally establish your church in the state of Wisconsin. These steps shouldn’t necessarily replace consulting with a knowledgeable attorney but it should help you understand the basics of the process. 

Legality #1: Articles of Incorporation

The first step to legally establishing your church is to write your articles of incorporation and submit them to the state. We recommend you retain the services of an attorney in Wisconsin to assist you in the writing and submission of your Articles.

Application for Articles of Incorporation in Wisconsin

Application for Articles of Incorporation in Michigan

Legality #2: Obtain Your FEIN

The next step is to obtain your FEIN from the IRS. FEIN stands for Federal Employer Identification Number. An FEIN is like a social security number for your church and it’s required for your church to open a bank account and pay employees.

Apply online to get your FEIN

Legality #3: Obtain Your Federal Tax Exempt Status

The next step is to obtain your federal tax exempt status. This is important because a church needs to obtain 501(c)(3) status in order for their donors to receive tax deductible receipts. To come under the EFCA’s group exemption with the IRS, once you receive your FEIN please call the EFCA’s national office as soon as possible (800-745-2202) and they will walk you through the simple process of coming under the EFCA's umbrella of tax exemption.

Legality #4: Write your Constitution and Bylaws

The next step is to write your constitution and bylaws. Church planters often make two major mistakes with constitutions. They spend an inordinate amount of time researching and writing what they feel will be the perfect document that will address all of their problems once and for all. Unfortunately there is no such document because we are dealing with fallen people.

The second major mistake planters make is they simply borrow a constitution from their parent church or a neighboring church. These churches are often much larger with more complex ministries than the plant and they also require more leaders than you currently have. If you copy and paste these constitutions, make sure to carefully and prayerfully tweak them to make them fit your situation, your philosophy on church polity, and make sure that you can grow into them over the next several years as your plant grows and changes. 

The principle is to keep the constitution simple. There are only ten things you absolutely need in a constitution. They are:


Statement of faith




Property rights





The basic constitution should not change that much. Where you make most of your changes is in the bylaws and amendments section. The bylaws should be a dynamic document that is changes as your church grows. But even in this area, start out simple. Below are some samples for writing your constitution and bylaws but if you'd like something more specific we'll provide that for you as well. 

View a sample of a basic constitution

View a worksheet for writing your bylaws

Legality #5: Obtain State Sales Tax Exemption

The next step is to obtain state sales tax exemption. As a purchaser of goods and services, you are obligated to pay the state sales taxes at the time of purchase unless you complete the state sales tax exemption paperwork.  

Application for State Sales Tax Exemption in Wisconsin

No sales tax application is needed in Michigan. 

Legality #6: Keep Accurate Corporate Records

The next step is to create and maintain a corporate record book. Click here for detailed instructions about what this means. 

Step #6: Licensure or Ordination with the EFCA

Becoming licensed or ordained with EFCA involves reading a few books, writing a paper, and discussing your paper with an ordination committee. In the EFCA, we want you to pursue ordination or licensure because it further deepens our collective alignment and accountability with each other. For those with a credentials from another denomination, they must commit to transferring their ordination within three years. 

Step #7: Voted in by Forest Lakes District

The last step is to be officially voted in as a member church at the Forest Lakes District's Fall or Spring Conference.