Strategy Suggestions

Choose from the following options when developing your leadership team strategy. Remember that they are in no particular order.

Pray. When Jesus selected the Twelve, he spent all night in prayer (Luke 6:12). When Barnabas and Saul were called by God as church planter missionaries they, along with other prophets and teachers in Antioch were in prayer (Acts 13:1-3). No strategy for church planting is complete without prayer at every stage of the process. But nowhere is it more important in terms of impact than in the surfacing of the team that God will use to bring a church into being. Remember, the Lord acknowledged that the harvest field was white to harvest, and called upon us to pray that the Lord of the harvest would raise us laborers for that harvest (Luke 10:2). It is His job to raise up leaders; it is our job to pray.

Some important prayer strategies include: 1) enlisting an intercessory prayer team (not just local pray-ers; they can be from anywhere in the world) who will pray for the team and for the needs of the new church start. The leadership should not even attempt to begin until this team is in place; 2) group prayer meetings should be held to surface concerns and needs of the team and if possible the sponsoring church, to allow the Holy Spirit to guide the team in applying God’s wisdom to their situation; 3) prayer walks, defined as “praying on-sight with insight”, should take place throughout the community once decisions have been made regarding the ministry location and target group of the new church start.

Study the area chosen for ministry. Secure demographic and psychographic material on the chosen geography in which the team will minister. Study it for trends and patterns. Pay particular attention to growth projections, age group breakdowns, average income the type of housing used by the residents. Psychographics also enable you to learn about the lifestyle of the people, their preferences in spending their time and their money. Surveying the community door-to-door or at gathering locations, like a mall, is also advantageous in learning about the concerns of the people and their felt needs. A stop at the library and the town hall will help you learn volumes about the history of the community, as well. This information is important in helping you determine your target(s) mentioned below.

Determine your target(s). Under the direction of God, determine whom you are trying to reach. Be as specific as you can. Understanding the need, receptivity and resources will help you in forming your team. For example, if you are trying to reach Baby Busters, a larger team becomes necessary because of their concerns regarding group leadership. If people are in responsive in an area, you may not need as many in the initial stages, but more team members later. Do not neglect any of these three factors in determining your target. If, for example, you do not have all the resource personnel you need to start, then the best advice is to wait and pray until you do. Remember God is raising up the leaders.

Determine God’s vision for the new work. By vision here we mean to suggest the composite understanding of the core values, the goals and the mission of the new work. Purpose will help you establish the parameters (boundaries) of your selection, and to a large degree, your resulting congregation, so you need to ask many questions. Are you trying to establish a church or just a ministry? Will the team start many churches or only one? Will it be a off campus location of the mother church, a “second service” or an autonomous entity? Do you want the primary church planter to remain as the pastor after the initial foundation has been established or to move on to new fields of service? Are you hoping to have a large church (over 200) eventually or a smaller church? Will the team members be lay people, bi-vocational or fully-salaried? How you answer these questions will determine the makeup of the team. Remember, you are seeking God’s vision for the congregation, not your own. Note also that the bigger the goal or vision, the more complex and specialized the team needs to be.

Locate potential team members. Check at least the following sources for church planting team members.

Seminaries and theological colleges. Theological students or dedicated believers at this level of education could be an excellent source of personnel. They are well-versed in many basic theological and Biblical issues that may save time in the training stage listed below. They may even send their resume out to you, instead of you having to hunt for them. But be warned! There are many drawbacks to this source, as well. For one, there often are not schools like this close enough (especially if the church planting project is denominational) to help your efforts. Second, their theology may or may not fit with the sponsoring church or other team members. Third, many of these students will not be able to function as bi-vocational team members. Finally, most of your team members from this source will be approximately the same age. This could also be a liability, depending on your determined target.

Other schools. Don’t neglect to check at other schools for experts in music, child education, technology and marketing, to name a few.

Denominational resources. Some denominations have “clearing house” organizations to help one find church planters or team members. Their networking and extensive knowledge of a person or a location may help you find the right person.

Your own church(es). Often the most ignored possibility for church planting team members is your own church. Many lay people have a burden for missions and for their “own backyard”, as well. Coupling the two can provide fulfillment to them and success in church planting, too. The advantage is that they are indigenous, they have passion and you know something of their experience and abilities. Note that this is “raw” talent, though; assessing and training becomes crucial with these individuals to make them viable team members.

Other churches. You must tread carefully here. Some denominations and church polities would not permit overtures made to other churches. It would be seen as an intrusion into their own understanding and fulfillment of God’s will for them. Some churches, with a larger Kingdom vision, might welcome the opportunity to pool their personnel with yours to do something together that they could not do on their own. This synergy can be significant, whether it be a combination of two, three or more churches. Whenever possible, though, go through the pastor of the other church to attempt to access this source.

Other sources of God’s own doing. God may lead a person or persons to you in His own particular way. Recently a young man appeared at one of our new church plants. He explained that he lived in an area 15 miles from the nearest SBC church, and was looking for a place to serve God. In the future, he may actually become a church planter himself.

Assess potential team members. Having located potential team members from among the above sources, you must assess their own expertise and their ability to work together as a team. Remember, desire always precedes ability. Just because they are passionate about the opportunity doesn’t mean they are ready to assist in the project. Assessment should include the following:

Character. Character is best assessed over time. Since this is impossible for most who interview potential team members, checking with references, including close colleagues, family members, former pastors and work associates become very important. Look for growth and patterns of strength and weakness. The most important experiences to note are areas of sexuality and finances; these are indicators of significant flaws in character. Nothing can sabotage a church effort of any kind more quickly than these.

Behavior. Chuck Ridley of Indiana University has devised a Behavioral Assessment interview that is based on the premise that behavior is fairly predictable. He argues that open-ended questions regarding entrepreneurial events and experiences (for example, “tell me about a time in your life when you…”) in prior life are more helpful that hypothetical questions about ideas (“what would you do in this situation”). Correlating this information with the thirteen key church planting indicators will help you predict behavior that is at least 80% accurate.

Giftedness. Spiritual gift inventories and assessments, coupled with confirmation from those who would know, provide a rich source of understanding regarding the candidate and their God-given role on a church planting team. Inventories can be secured that meet the leader’s need, differing according to theology, mostly in regards to the “sign” gifts.

Personality and Leadership style. Inventories regarding personality (Myers-Briggs Temperament Analysis, DiSC Profile, etc.) and leadership style (Leadership/Management Inventory) are invaluable for team synergy and growth potential of the new church. This is especially true of the preacher/leader who may remain as the founding pastor of the church.

Theology. Basic beliefs should be received from candidates and analyzed. Check to see whether they match the denomination and sponsoring church’s doctrine (if necessary). Check also to see if there are major conflicts with other potential church planting team members.

Experience. This is not as important as usually thought. Experience can be gained if other things are in order. Experience simply tells you the value of training needed (or retraining); not the ability of the person involved.

Teamwork. This is crucial if a team is to function as it should. A Team Decision-Making Inventory should be given to each potential member. In addition, part of the process should allow for a group interview time in which potential members are given some meaningful team exercises to demonstrate their ability to work together. This can take many forms from relay games to the creation of a skit or project. Watch the ways in which the team members interact.

Compile the team. Depending upon your goals and mission, your team should ideally be made up of between three and twelve members. Five to seven is a good size for most situations and projects. Members should include a preacher, a worship leader and a children’s worker, at the minimum. In addition, an evangelist and an administrator would be significant additions. Add other musicians, age group workers/teachers, a public relations/marketing specialist and/or a ministry specialist, as needed, to focus the strategy as desired. The interviewee or the sponsoring church leader should do the selection, if possible. If not, then the selected team leader (usually the preacher, but not always) should select the other team members. Do not take everybody you can get!

Train team members. Team members must be given the training needed to compete the job ahead. This includes: an understanding of their roles and responsibilities (job descriptions), an understanding of the “church field” where they will work, including the target group (“exegesis” of the community), an understanding of the dynamics of church planting (a “boot camp” experience), and the dynamics of team life (group dynamics). Theology and denominational polity should also be included in the study based upon the makeup of the group (lay or seminary-trained). Special attention must be given to the parameters of the team: who’s got what authority in making decisions, how long will the project last, the role of the denomination and mother church, etc. A covenant relationship is the best way to do this, explicitly stating expectations and group dynamics (see Appendices for many of the above items).

This process may take from a couple of months to two years to complete, dependent upon other factors. Do not short-circuit the process! It will only cause you grief in the long-run.

Multiply the team members. The writer believes that it should be an intentional part of the process to plan to “leave” certain team members with each new church start. (You may plan to leave them all within the new church, while others may choose to return to the sponsoring church after the new church has been established, usually 2 or more years in New England.) Multiplying team members allows some to rotate off and remain, adding to the stability of the new congregation, while at the same time raising up new leaders to use their gifts and assist in future church starts. Adding members can be done at any time, provided they do not hurt the synergy of the team already at work. At the very least they should be added when it has been determined that one of the members cannot continue or will be remaining with the church newly started. This gives some overlap in ministry and experience and provides continuity for the team, as well as for the church.

To this end, a “farm system” of cultivating future members must be developed, with someone in charge of scouting/recruiting future team members, assessing and training them until they can enter the life of the group at the team’s continuing pace.

Determine the initial strategy for reaching people. Once the leadership is in place and determinations have been made about responsibilities, the group must develop a strategy for reaching out within the community. For example, will you start with evangelistic outreach or ministry activities?, and when will you try to start worship and in what setting? Much of these strategic decisions are discussed in the subsequent sections of this material. A multi-dimensional (if you have multiple team members) time-line should be developed to keep the group on target, with regular intervals scheduled for evaluation and modification. Two years is the normal suggestion for the time-line. Think through, “what do we want this new work to look like that time?” Then back up, with the end in mind, and plan accordingly. Be ready, though, to make adjustments. Every church planter knows that one of the great marks of any successful new work team is the ability to be flexible and adapt to the changing environment and circumstances met.

Build a network of support. Church planters need to build and cultivate relationships with those that can support their work. This group would include the sponsoring church, the Director of Missions and the association of churches in the area, as well as any partnership churches in other areas of the country that might be enlisted to assist the new church start in any way. These resources of encouragement, wisdom and stability will aid the leadership team in more ways than one could imagine. Always be looking to expand this team, and be sure to keep them informed of the progress and the needs you have.

(copyright 1997, J. David Jackson; used by permission)

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