Don Stewart, executive pastor of Hope Chapel in Hermosa Beach, California, coined the term “pastor factory” to describe a model of ministry that rapidly trained proven lay leaders. These leaders became founding pastors and lifelong learners through intense mentoring and small group interaction. Using this method, Hope Chapel started 50 new churches ten years, the last 25 of which were planted by laypeople.

Entry into the pastor factory depended on God validating that individual’s ministry within the body. That is, potential planters must have previously demonstrated their ability to evangelize, disciple and multiply group leaders. Once accepted as a trainee, he or she joined five to seven other candidates in an intensive nine-month training process. They focused on biblical and theological reflection, studying pastoral ministry, church growth, and leadership. They also met once a week for three or four hours of intensive interaction.

On those evenings, each student was expected to come prepared to lead discussion. The mentor might say, “Sue, why don’t you start off our time today?” After she facilitated the interaction for a while, the mentor may say, “Thanks, Sue. Don, now would you pick it up and carry us a little further?”

At the end of the nine-month period, each student would present a complete church planting proposal, including their vision, values, mission statement, model of ministry, strategy, plan, and budget. The plans would be scrutinized before approval was given, then the church would give the planter an opportunity to recruit people from the congregation to go with them to plant the church.

This approach has been reworked by Neil Cole and his team in Truth Quest to serve as a wonderful process to get lay leaders ramped up on theology in practical ways.