12 Characteristics Of A Church Planter
The following information is designed to help potential planters and pastors develop a better understanding about what characteristics potential church planters need to have in order to be healthy. There are the twelve characteristics in our co-discernment process. In the same way that we use this resource as an discernment tool before releasing a church planter, this resource can be applied to the pre-assessing of potential planters. Use this tool to help identify strengths, weaknesses and other areas where growth is needed. (Download the PDF)
- Exercises a Sense of Call: Clear Sense Of Calling & Confirmation From Overseers
Church planting can be incredibly difficult. The decision to plant will often be deeply and sometimes painfully tested and often in the midst of hard times when growth is slow, leaders you’ve developed decide to leave and the next steps forward seem very unclear. It is during these times that the planter will only endure if they have the sure, unshakeable conviction that, “despite what I’m experiencing now, God has called me to this!”Such a calling runs deeper than thinking church planting is just a “neat idea” or something you “try out” like you would a diet. In contrary, church planting is such an enormous venture that it requires a clarity of calling that, while not immune to doubt, provides the foundation for tenacity in the midst of adversity and disappointment. Wise pastors will do well to discern the depth and conviction of call in those they are considering sending out into the wilderness adventure of church planting.
- Possessing A Faith Driven Vision: Has A Vision & Clear Philosophy Of Ministry
As the God-given ability to “see” what could be, vision is an essential part of the spiritual gift of leadership. It is the necessary component needed to cast a compelling vision for a church that inspires others to want to join. It not only draws people to what lies ahead, however. Vision also communicates and clearly articulates the path to that destination. In that light, simply wanting to “plant a church” is not a “faith-driven, inspiring vision.” You must ask the questions: “What kind of church? What will it look like? What kind of people will it reach? How will I gather people to get on board with that vision?” A church planter must not only be able to describe what kind of church they desire to plant, but they must be able to articulate it in a way that engenders faith, honors God, sell it to and inspire other to get on board. True faith-driven, inspiring vision will accomplish that.
- Disciple Making Skills: Creates Opportunities To Develop Leaders & Give Ministry Away
The undeniable truth is, it takes a person with a certain mix of gifts and catalytic abilities to pull off planting a church. Among the most important qualities that they must possess is the ability to attract and lead other leaders. This entails not only the internal spiritual authority, but also the basic, pragmatic competence it takes to grow a church and attract, motivate and train others around them to lead, as well. If a church planter can lead people to Christ and nurture them, but at the same time cannot develop and lead leaders, he will not be able to build much more than a large home group. The church will never grow beyond what the church planter himself can directly oversee and lead.
- People Gathering Skills: The Ability To Gather People & Call Them Into Action
The process of gathering people happens in different ways in different people. Some accomplish that well through one-on-one conversations where their gifts and attractive qualities are best revealed. Others find that large groups where they can communicate, teach and cast vision is their natural arena for gathering people. Regardless of what facet is used to express this ability, having the skills to gather people is one of the most fundamental abilities required of a church planter. If the potential church planter experiences difficulties in being able to attract and gather people before planting a church, it is unlikely that they will be able to do it well once they’ve started.
- Healthy Communication Skills: Applies Scripture In A Genuine & Effective Manner
A church planter needs to show the ability to communicate and apply Scripture in a compelling way. Keeping in mind that people have varying levels of skill and style in this area, requiring healthy communication skills does not mean requiring the planter to deliver “sermonic pyrotechnics” or have the verbal affluence of those leading America’s largest churches. Yet, it is clearly evident that church leadership is a communication-intensive enterprise and that healthy church culture is created through effective communication. Having this ability does not mean they are great and does not mean that they will improved significantly or even dramatically during their first few years of ministry. But it does mean that, as a pastor, they are first and foremost one who preaches the Word. And as Scripture unyieldingly recognizes, a pastor must be “able to teach” (1 Tim 3:2).
- Creative Evangelistic Skills: Showing Significant Evidence Of Gathering The Unchurched
The church planter must show evidence of being able to reach the unchurched, the prime people with whom we hope to build churches. As the Vineyard continues to “up the ante” in this area and intentionally wave the flag of evangelism, we want to identify those potential planters who have a lot of heart and at least some skills for growing churches by way of evangelism. While core gifting and skill in evangelism vary from pastor to pastor, good news has been discovered by a study conducted by George Barna and included in his book, Evangelism That Works (Gospel Light Books, 1995). He found that churches growing by way of evangelism were led by senior pastors who do not have the spiritual gift of evangelism. This fascinating and liberating statistic revealed that to have effective evangelism, one must only be passionate about it, which overpowers any natural giftedness and is enough to motivate their churches to be evangelistically focused. They consistently find ways to make heroes out of the natural evangelists and gatherers who are part of their congregations and have worked heard to learn to communicate the gospel in relevant and compelling ways to unbelievers who are coming to their Sunday services.
- Intentional Planning Skills: Demonstrating The Self-Confidence To Be A Lead Pastor
As church planting itself is a very large, long-term project, the church planter must show capabilities of being able to plan out such large, long-term projects in a prayerful and intentional way. Too often people begin a church plant only being able to envision and have clarity to pursue the first few steps without a big-picture idea of exactly what it is they’re trying to build. It might also be that, while they have a big-picture vision, they may lack the abilities to strategically and measurably plan out concrete steps necessary to carry out that vision. Similarly, some people have mistaken notions regarding the role of planning. Rather than recognizing the Biblical mandate for human plans done under the leading of the Holy Spirit, the counsel of others, in submission to the sovereignty of God, they take a more “mystical” or “spiritualist” approach which suggests that “planning” is somehow contrary to faith or walking in the Spirit. Our understanding, however, is that such an approach is neither wise nor Biblical and that the best planters are those who pray for God’s direction ahead of time, plan prayerfully and then execute the plans.
- Financial Management Skills: Debt Free & Self-Disciplined Use Of Money
Church planting doesn’t require you to be a financial genius, but it does require that one knows how to handles money wisely, is out of debt and has a realistic understanding of the financial needs of a church plant in the beginning years. Debt or irresponsibility with money are prime “plant killers,” as there are typically financial pressures that accompany the first few years of a church plant. Additionally, financial planning and management skills are a must. Many church planters overlook elements that require additional capital in the first year or two of the plant (i.e., buying a sound system, renting space, purchasing children’s ministry supplies, paying for printing and advertising, obtaining necessary office and computer equipment, etc).
- Vineyard Values and Methods: Understanding & Familiarity With Our Values & Methods
As the church planter desires to reproduce a Vineyard church, they must understand firsthand the essential values of the Vineyard church life. Vineyard values and methods include our theological commitments to be “empowered evangelicals” who are committed to conservative, evangelical theology, expository preaching and an emphasis on Scripture, evangelism, thoughtful discipleship as well as ministering the power of the Spirit and spiritual gifts. A grasping of our style is also necessary, meaning an approach that avoids hype, believes that you can’t manufacture the work of the Holy Spirit who, with the church, is able, willing and free to break in and carry on his work in a non-spectacular, non-manipulative and surprising way. We follow hard after God and believe that his grace and mercy change people’s hearts more powerfully than human or religious “regulations.”We value contemporary worship that connects people to God in ways that change us and reorient us. We value taking risks. We value ministry to the poor. We value leadership in the church as a result of functional reality, not a position or reward.
- Solid Marriage and Family or Healthy Singleness: Family Involvement & Agreement In Ministry Roles
A married church planter must be in a solid marriage and with a spouse who supports and agrees to be involved some way in the church plant. The husband and wife need to be on the same page in regards to God’s calling for them and God’s timing for the things of their call. Waiting until there is solid and agreed footing for the couple is better than undertaking the church planting process and paying the consequences in the marriage and the church.
- Emotional Maturity: Adjusts To Changes, Challenges & Correction
The church planter must have the tenacity and desire to adjust to changes, challenges and corrections. This means they have a track record of teachability, learning from their mistakes and attempting at it again. Do they have it in them to overcome failure and return? As changes, challenges, mistakes and failures are all one piece of the experience of church planting, these characteristics must be present for the planter to survive.
- Vital Spiritual Life: Has A Personal Lifestyle Of Worship & Intimacy With God
The planter has to have evidence of a strong lifestyle of worship and prayer, starting the plant with a depth of spiritual strength and at a spiritual “high point.” We should be cautious when someone deeply questions their faith, are in spiritual deserts or has not genuinely grasped the whole idea of intimacy with God.The heart habits in which one learns to walk in God’s presence and hear God for themselves have to be developed to be sent out to plant. A vital spiritual life is, in fact, fundamental to all other components and the “well” out of which ministry must flow for years to come. If that well is dry or has never been dug properly, the spiritual resources so desperately needed in church planting will be inadequate to the task that will be required in the days ahead.