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Building a Strong Church Planting Team

Steve Nicholson

Steve Nicholson

Pastor, Evanston Vineyard
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A foundational assumption of any church planter should be that it is up to God to do the work of putting your church planting team together. It’s an assumption that comes out of a genuine expectation of the Lord to build the church.

Thus, the first thing to do is not to make a list of names, but rather to start praying about who God wants on the team, and asking him to supernaturally work to put the team together. When planters pray like this, many times they end up with people on their teams that they would never have met, let alone thought of.

Below we’ll share tips on what to look for in potential team members, how to respectfully recruit from an existing church, and pitfalls to look for in the motivations of those interested.

What To Look For
As you begin to look for potential team members consider their character, their support of your vision, and their potential functional role on the team.

Character
Don’t make the mistake of valuing abilities over character. Always, always, always go for character first.

Vision
When a diverse group of people come together on one team, there’s great potential for disagreements and splits. The secret is to bring them together under the same vision. You need to spell out your vision to them and they need to be on board with what you want to do.

Function
After praying that God would build the team, it is then time to start asking the pragmatic questions. What functional places need to be filled to make this church plant happen, bearing in mind the strategy and your two year plan? List descriptions of these functions without any names (E.g., worship leader, children’s pastor, administrator, etc.). Then begin praying that God will fill the slots even as you begin thinking through potential people.

Recruiting From An Existing Church
If you are going to recruit from an existing church, you should first be talking to whoever the pastoral leaders of those people are. There are some important reasons why the senior pastor or their team of pastors should know before you talk to the person.

It makes it a lot easier for the sending church to feel as though they are giving the people to you, rather than having them just being taken away. It makes it possible for them to be generous, to have their own sense of ownership in the process. It is a way of respecting them. They might also know things about people that you don’t – things which might affect whether you really want them to be on your team or not.

Pitfalls To Look For
People have a lot of different motivations for wanting to be part of a church plant – not all of which are the kinds of motivations you want in the initial stages of your plant. Here are some issues of which to be wary:

Some people believe that if they can be part of something new or small, they will have a higher degree of control, power, or influence over things than they do in their present church.

Some people are looking for adventure. Church planting looks exciting, a way to be a hero. Unfortunately, however, church planting is heroic only from a distance. There’s a significant amount of pain and drudgery in the process that feels anything but heroic. Some people are merely trying to escape situations, relationships, or other problems.

Avoid recruiting people for the team with specific or implicit promises of a guaranteed role in leadership long term or an expectation that they will be on staff at a certain point, or that they will have a close relationship with you for years to come. Also avoid taking a team primarily composed of pastoral, small group leader types. Focus primarily on having gathering, evangelist types on your team.

Recruiting With Vision
After your share the vision with those you would like to join the team. Ask them to pray about whether God would have them be a part of planting this church. Don’t neglect to let them know the commitment you’re asking of them and to let them know there are no guarantees of any position at the end.

As people start saying yes and the team starts forming, you’ll begin to adapt your strategy to maximize the strengths of the team you have, as well as looking where necessary to add people to the mix. Continue to use a prayerful, spiritual and pragmatic basis for building a strong team that will help you grow a healthy, thriving community of disciples making disciples.

This piece was first published as a part of From Coaching Church Planters: A Manual for Church Planters and Those Who Coach Them by Steve Nicholson.

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Steve Nicholson is the pastor of the Evanston Vineyard in Illinois and was previously the head of the Church Planting Task Force for Vineyard USA.  
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