The following quotes come from Tom A. Steffen in his book Passing the Baton, Church Planting that Empowers pp. 12-19
Church planters who leave prematurely may harm the church. But they can also harm it by staying too long. In the following pages I will discuss ways to maintain the delicate balance between these two extremes by: (1) surveying various perspectives of phase-out; (2) isolating its components; and (3) defining responsible phase-out.
For an accurate definition of responsible phase-out, a church planter should isolate all related components of the ministry, including: (1) a definition of a local church; (2) the number of local churches to be planted in a given area; (3) the generational cycle of a local church; (4) the roles of team members, local believers and God; (5) theological training for leaders; (6) when to begin phase-out; and (7) ways of maintaining relationships after phase-out.
First, let me say what I do not mean by phase-out. I do not mean abruptly abandoning maturing believers, even when they reach a certain level of maturity and Bible knowledge. Or when they appoint their own leaders. Or when things seem to be going well, with problems at a minimum.
Responsible phase-out does not mean abrupt pull-out. Rather, it is the planned absences of church planters, protracted over time, so that national believers can immediately strengthen their spiritual roots and wings, as responsibility for the church shifts as quickly as possible to them from the church planters.
Responsible phase-out begins with a strategy of closure for the overall people group, and for each subculture within that community. The strategy includes: (1) the definition of a local church; (2) the number of churches required to finish the task in that area; (3) the cycles of a local church; (4) the different roles of the church planting team, the churches and God; (5) theological training; (6) the timing of the phase-out; and (7) maintaining relationships after phase-out.
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