Behind the Scenes with Church Planters: How Community Can Save Your Plant

We can’t do it alone.

That’s why V3 follows its model. There’s nothing more exasperating than trying to fill all the roles in a ministry, trying to white-knuckle your way through ministry, dealing with all the hopes and fears you have—without a community. That’s an easy recipe for disappointment and burnout.

V3 had the opportunity recently to hear from two church leaders about how they strategize for success in planting, both emotionally and pragmatically. Kurtley Knight and Andy McNeely are leaders who partnered with a Learning Cohort in their planting efforts. Here they are opening up about their ministries and what the cohort meant to them. To learn more about the Learning Cohort, click here.

Meet Kurtley Knight 

Kurtley Knight is the pastor of Epiphany Church, a newly forming parish church in the Lower Greenville neighborhood of Dallas. TX. Kurtley earned his D.Min in Leadership and Spiritual formation from Portland Seminary of George Fox University, where he also serves as a Faculty Advisor for the D.Min program. In his spare time, he enjoys fitness training, basketball, reading, exploring new places, and live music (Classical, R&B/Funk, and especially Jazz) with his wife Ivah.

Tell us a little about yourself, your hobbies and your calling to plant a church.

The call to plant Epiphany came in the summer of 2015. We had been attending Irving Bible Church in Irving, TX for about a year when one of the teaching pastors, Dr. Barry Jones, approached me about joining the staff as a church planting resident. Having previous pastoral experience (I had pastored a church in Pittsburgh for nearly 4 years) and in the final year of completing my D.Min degree, planting a church was in the back of my mind.

Although Dallas has a lot of churches, I noticed that a lot of people had abandoned their Christian faith or had never experienced it at all. I became convicted that new churches were needed to help people envision God, faith, and the Christian life in a fresh way. So, I joined the residency and took the plunge. I am so grateful for IBC, our sending church.  

Where are you planting your church, and why did you decide to plant there?

I decided to plant in the Lower Greenville neighborhood of East Dallas for two reasons. First, I simply loved the neighborhood. The area is walkable, has a strong relational culture, and has recently experienced revitalization. I felt compelled that we needed to be a part of the neighborhood’s story. Second, I felt that LG would be a good fit for the type of church I was being called to plant.

What is the missional strategy of your church plant?

Our missional strategy is best summed up in Our Mandate, “to cultivate a community of belonging that makes God’s Story known.” In short, we want to invite people to belong to the life of our community, even before they believe. Our Community Groups (missional communities) are central to this approach.

There, we want people to connect over food, drinks, and stories. Our ultimate hope is that the corporate rhythms that shape our life together as a community will enable those we connect with to have an “epiphany” concerning God, faith, and the Christian life.

In regard to the five-fold typololgy (Apostle, Prophet, Evangelist, Pastor, Teacher), how has God wired you for ministry, and how are you helping the congregation you serve live into their five-fold?

According to my assessment, I’m an Evangelist-Pastor (i.e. I’m gifted at inspiring people towards mission and nurturing others towards spiritual maturity). And in many ways, these gifts are at the core of our cultural ethos as a young church plant. Moving forward in a healthy way, however, will require that I do a better job of helping the congregation to serve within a five-fold framework. I’ve got some work to do in this area.

What has been the most significant piece of learning in your time with the V3 Learning Cohort?

The V3 Learning Cohorts have been great! One significant takeaway for me has been the emphasis on understanding the Spaces of Belonging. This helped me to intentionally plan the strategy behind each space within our church structure. Our Community Groups, for example, are not tasked with creating intimacy (our Triads are for that) but just social connection. I don’t have to force purposes into spaces that aren’t natural.  Brilliant!

[Tweet “The V3 Learning Cohorts have been great! “]

Another takeaway for me has been that church planting/Kingdom work begins small and grows slow. This emphasis, in contrast our cultural values quick, exponential growth, has been deeply formative for me.  

What excites you about the future in regard to your plant and the V3 Tribe?

I’m really excited about the opportunity to invite people into spaces where they can find belonging, even before they believe. In fact, we’re seeing this already as a few sojourners are beginning to connect relationally with our community and have even showed up to our liturgy on Sundays.  Exciting!

Concerning V3, what excited me the most is the people! Whenever you have a diverse group (ethnic, racial, gender, denomination) of compassionate, neighborhood-oriented, theological practitioners you can’t go wrong!  

Now, here’s Andy McNeely

Tell us a little about yourself, your hobbies and your calling to plant a church.

Andy McNeely (Evangelist/Pastor), wife Janet (Teacher/Pastor), 2 sons (Caleb- 7, Noah- 5). I enjoy working with my hands in the yard and on the house. I also enjoy running, hiking, and museums. Janet and I were invited to look into planting a church in 2014 by my childhood pastor. The more we looked into it, the more we felt the Holy Spirit inviting us into a type of ministry where the APE were encouraged to live into our gifts. Through a series of answered prayers, we jumped into a Church Planting Residency at a missional church inside the DC beltway (Restore Church).

What is the missional strategy of your church plant?

We have seen how the incarnational presence of Christians can change the face of a neighborhood. For the past 2 years we have lived it out in our DC neighborhood. So we intend to live in our front yard and engage our neighbors, chasing persons of peace with tenacity, and being available and present to our neighbors, school, and local businesses. We also intend to invite folks into our Sunday expression of church. 

Listening to our neighborhood is incredibly important to us, so we have built in 6 months of learning time to ask questions of our neighbors, observe people’s rhythms, and to pray on the streets. Ultimately, our strategy is to engage the neighborhood (also Missional Communities) so we have folks who want to be intentionally discipled through 3DM materials. We see discipleship as the engine that drives the church, so that will be our focus. 

In regard to the five-fold typololgy (Apostle, Prophet, Evangelist, Pastor, Teacher), how has God wired you for ministry, and how are you helping the congregation you serve live into their five-fold?

I am an Evangelist Pastor who loves people and is learning how to be alone with God intentionally. The 5-fold has created for me a new paradigm to operate within and it’s amazing! I listen better to my wife now (who’s a Teacher/Pastor), I engage neighbors better, and I lead better. It’s a big part of my Discipleship Huddles and I encourage daily those around me in their gifting (even my “lost” neighbors!)

[Tweet “The 5-fold has created a new paradigm for me—it’s amazing!”]

What has been the most significant piece of learning in your time with the V3 Learning Cohort?

Learning Polycentric Leadership has been the best thing I gained form my cohort. The church I am at is leading in a polycentric way, but I learned a ton from the other guys in my group. Scott’s story (friend in my cohort) showed me how to truly submit to the 5-fold, and Tebbe taught me how to teach it better.


Click here to learn how you can become part of a cohort.

V3 Movement


  1. Josh Jun 21, 2017 Reply

    Though not part of V3movement (though watching from afar) if it was not for friendship we would have
    possibly given up in our first Church plant. Though we only moved a hundred kilometres from home we felt a world away from
    family and friends at times. Another pastor, locally had an open door policy with us and we would just rock up to vent, or pray
    or just have a coffee. It made all the difference 🙂

  2. Rev.Cyprien Afrika Nov 19, 2017 Reply

    Dear Brother,
    I thenk you for the work of God you do.
    I created the movement named : Disciples making disciples movement, our goal is to plant the new communities of faithful disciples obeying to the Great commission ( Matthew 28:19-20).I am missionary and I live in Kenya ( Nairobi)
    We can be together in this work

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