Starting a Joint Church Movement

Connect with other faith-based leaders

The faith community in your community is a valuable asset for change. In every city the greatest volunteer base sits inside the walls of churches each and every Sunday. Too often churches allow their differences to separate them instead of focusing on the things that they have in common. Here are some practical steps that you can take if you want to gather faith based leaders in your city.

  • Determine who can and should call the meeting. You may not be the right person to organize and facilitate the faith-community in your city. You need to discover who the people of greatest influence and favor are within your community. Often they are the people that have the largest churches in a city, but sometimes they have great influence by other means. Maybe they have been in the city a long time and have a strong reputation, or they have had a prominent position within the life of the city at large such as an athlete or non-profit organizer. It is important to do your research and seek out the right leader to pull the others together.
  • Find a date to meet together. Reach out to the 5 leaders in your community that have the most influence. Find a date and time that works for them. You won’t be able to get everyone in your city to agree to a specific meeting time, however, it will serve you well to make sure that the influencers are in the room the first time that you meet.
  • Make personal invitations. The invitation should be made from the person that has the greatest influence to call the meeting (see step 1). And it should be made to the senior leaders that you want to have in attendance. The invitation should be short and to the point, but full of vision and inspiration. There should be some sort of a “benefit” for coming to the meeting ex: Lunch provided, the mayor in attendance…something that will make the meeting beneficial. Be sure to let them know that this is a “closed meeting” and that only a select few are being invited (you might even want to include the specific number of people being invited). Be sure to end your email by listing off the names of the 3-5 influential leaders who you know are going to be in attendance.
  • Make follow-up phone calls to the initial invitation
  • Have the meeting. Make sure that you have the following ready:
    • A sign-in sheet where you collect their most up to date contact info
    • Name badges where they write their name and what organization they are with
    • A person to check them in and greet them
    • Show Jay’s personal journey towards neighboring.
    • Whoever called the meeting should introduce themselves and share a short 5-10 minute vision statement about why they called the meeting. They should share about why they care about neighboring and feel that it is valuable (if this was a result of the book, it might be wise to pass out copies).
    • Show a youtube video from another city.
    • Ask those who are in attendance if they have interest in doing something similar in your city? Give them a way to indicate this by sending something around the room that allows them to commit to meeting again.
    • The goal is to leave this meeting with a plan to invite senior leaders from all of the churches in your city to the next meeting. Use the Art of Neighboring Invite Letter.
  • Pray and end the meeting
When working with pastors and civic leaders, it is always a good idea to end your meetings early. This will go a long way to ensuring that the leaders show up to the next meeting.


  • Follow-up immediately with a thank you email to all that attended and give a summary of all that happened at the meeting. Tell them when the next meeting will be and attach the Art of Neighboring Invite Letter that you plan on sending out to all of the pastors in your community.
  • Try to meet up with the few leaders in the room that seemed the most interested in what was going on. Also follow-up with those that are the greatest influencers in the city. Ask for their feedback and criticism.
  • Meet again and begin to lay out a plan for a joint-church sermon series.  See the Church Resources section of this site in order to do this.
  • You won’t be able to lead the whole group with 100% participation but you will be able to get a few that will serve on behalf of the whole. You will need to clarify what the boundaries are for going forward. The following boundaries are important to determine:
  • Theological boundaries: In our group we decided that anyone that was ok with the Apostle’s Creed and the centrality of Jesus was ok for our group. That was the lowest common denominator we were willing to share.
  • Geographic boundaries: We decided to take on a small part of the larger metro area we are in. This enabled us to be more specific and close knit. We’d recommend not going after too large an area.
  • Continue to meet together and form relationships
  • The key to longevity is relationships. Initiatives will come and go, but the relationships will endure. If you simply jump from project to project you won’t be able to keep the momentum over the years. Try to create contexts where stories are shared and leaders grow in their vulnerability with each other. It is tempting for leaders to get together and simply share their successes and excitement, but this doesn’t draw people together in the end

The Second Meeting

Once you have consensus among some of the faith leaders it is time to reach out to some of your civic leaders.

Most civic leaders are excited and honored to come and address a group of pastors and faith-based leaders. The majority have never been asked to do so. In many cases, their only interactions with churches has been around zoning and building issues..

Here are a few steps to inviting your city leader to participate in starting a neighboring movement:

  • Try to reach out personally. If you know the city leader personally, ask for a meeting to discuss a way that the city and a group of pastors could work together. If you know someone that knows your city official, ask them to personally set up a meeting on your behalf.
  • Send an email showing him what a neighboring movement could look like. Check the “About Us” Page.
  • If he or she shows some interest, set up a one on one meeting to share more. Ask he or she might be willing to call the meeting.
    • MAYOR LETTER – Duluth
    • MAYOR LETTER – Midland
    • In our experience, the best case scenario is for the city leader to call the meeting. This creates credibility and will help you avoid concerns about one church dominating the movement.
  • If they aren’t willing/able to call the meeting, you call the meeting and invite them.

Get agreement from the civic leader on some times that he/she is willing and able to meet with a group of pastors. Then begin engaging at least three pastors in the city about the meeting time and place. The goal would be to get three pastors that are leading larger churches in your city and represent different streams of the church.After you get agreement from those three, invite every other faith based leader in your city and make sure you include the names of the other church pastors that will be in attendance as well as the civic leader that will be in attendance. Unfortunately, most pastors won’t come unless you tell them that a few influential leaders have already committed to come.”

Click here to download our “Cast a Vision” Letter

Getting Pastors Committed

When it’s time to get commitment from pastors to join the initiative you need to make sure you have the following things in place to give them confidence to commit.

  • The proposed dates for the series
By this point you should have run the dates in front of those that are most committed. We have seen the few weeks after Easter to be very successful dates for the neighboring series. Mostly because they end up being the dates that pastors are most in need of material and help. They also like those dates because it sets people
  • Have the sermon outlines and helps ready
You should be prepared to hand the pastors sermon outlines and video clips they can use for their talks. We would recommend putting all the helps on a dvd and having it at the meeting you make the ask for the commitment.
  • Give them permission to be flexible. Some pastors will only want to give one week to it. Others will only want to do 2 weeks. A few will want to dedicate a whole month to it. You want to make sure that they feel the flexibility of the series. The information that you are giving is only there to help them, not to restrict them.
  • Suggest a prayer opportunity leading up to the series. Find out which pastors would be willing to take 2-3 minutes of their service to pray for another church in the city. It is really exciting to have every church in the city praying for one single church on a specific Sunday. Leading up to the prayer Sunday for the specific churches make sure that they give you prayer requests that fulfill the following criteria:
    • They don’t look good: It can’t be a bragging moment in disguise
    • They share something that shows a value of their church
    • They include a specific need or desire
  • Immediate Follow-up. Have each pastor show their interest on a sign-up sheet. Follow-up with every pastor in attendance, regardless of their participation.
    • Check in leading up to launch
    • Check in with the pastors at least every month leading up to the launch. Have a more thorough check-in the week of the launch. Make sure that each church has the resources they need and is prepared for the upcoming series.

Provide sermon resources and videos (pdf and links of mp3’s and videos)

Click here to view CHURCH RESOURCES

Celebrate the big and small wins along the way