As there are never two people who are identical in every way, neither are their two church planters built to plant the same way. But, there are some qualities that each planter must embody. We asked around to see what Vineyard pastors and church planters look for when identifying potential church planters.
Looking The Part
Jamie Wilson, pastor of the Coast Vineyard in La Jolla, California, shared that a church planter truly looks called to plant. “I’m not saying that the Father’s call is quite like wearing Tom’s shoes or red skinny jeans, but it is something that can be seen. Years ago, we had a visitor at Coast named Aaron Henderson. Before I even said “hi” to him, I said, almost accidentally, ‘When are you going to plant a church?’ We look back on that morning with both laughter and tears.” Today, Aaron is pastoring Dwell, a church he and a team planted a year and half ago.
Jamie continues by saying that church planters may not look like what life experience and tradition would dictate. “A lot could be said about what it takes to plant a church. A woman or a man might seem like a great fit to plant a church. She might be a great preacher and leader. He might be an outstanding gatherer and strategist. But, unless God’s call is there, it won’t work.”
Ability To Gather
Jay Pathak, the pastor of Mile High Vineyard in Arvada, CO shared that “A church planter is a gatherer.” He said, “Church planters come in all shapes and sizes, they can have a variety of gift mixes and temperaments. Regardless of how they are made up, they see that they must be able to gather people together in order to be an effective church planter.”
“You see, lots of youth pastors, associate pastors, and church leaders of all kinds dream about what they would do if they were in charge. They take their current ministry experiences and imagine what it would be like to be leading a church. They take those experiences and take a risk to live out their dream and try to plant a church, but there’s a slight problem, there’s no church. If they can’t find a way to gather people they won’t be able to live out their dreams of buildings, preaching, and leading.”
Most church plants don’t even get off the ground due to the fact that “they don’t gather enough people to do the things they always dreamed of,” Jay continues. “Successful church planters have a unique mixture that makes them sticky. They are the kind of people that others want to be around. They can articulate vision, be winsome, exhort while still being comforting. They have somehow managed to leverage their gifts and temperament to pull people together around the person of Jesus and his kingdom.”
Committed To Christ’s Cause
Mike Turrigiano, pastor of the North Brooklyn Vineyard says that church planters are often not your “usual suspects.” “Many of the successful church planters I’ve come across wouldn’t have made my ‘most likely to succeed’ list. They’re not necessarily the most learned, they’re not the most polished speakers, the most highly pastoral, the flashiest or even most experienced lot.” Mike continues by sharing that even though they may be lacking in these areas, there is some likemindedness in those he has seen succeed in leading a church plant:
“They’re connectable. People like to be around them. They like to be around people. They’re hospitable. This seems like a no brainer but many church planters have failed to gather a group of people simply because they’re not personable.”
“Church planters are a little crazy. Some call this a pioneer spirit or a taste for adventure. In a world where most people look to settle down and find security they’re a different breed. They’re risk-takers willing to put it all on the line for the kingdom.”
“They’re a thick-skinned bunch. They’re not crybabies. They’re tough. Low maintenance. They don’t need to be coddled. They’re not easily bothered or easily discouraged when things don’t go their way. They have a pretty high tolerance for pain, difficulty and discomfort.”
“As church planters they’re compelled. They’re driven, almost obsessed. Because of this they often don’t know the meaning of word ‘quit’. John Wimber used to say about church planting, “If you can do anything else do it.” Church planters think about doing something else but they can’t. They must plant. And the successful ones go into it with no plan B.”
“They’re enterprising. Words that come to my mind that describe this common characteristic are: self-starters, entrepreneurial, resourceful, innovative, quick learners, multi-taskers. They have this uncanny ability to build their rafts on the water.”
“All of them were extremely hard workers. Church planting is exhausting, sacrificial work. On top of the work of planting most planters I’ve known have had to work other jobs to make ends meet. They’ve had to exercise delayed gratification. They’ve been able to hunker down and work hard knowing that there was a payoff awaiting them down the road.”
Mike finished up by saying, “Above all else I’ve found church planters to be sold-out people. Committed to Christ, to his church, to his cause and to their call to serve him come hell or high water. Some call this devotion. Others call it passion. Whatever it’s called they all have it. And this, when push comes to shove and everything inside them is screaming “Quit!”, is the thing that keeps them going.
A Heart For People
We also talked to a church planter that God who has a heart for planting in small towns across the United States. Joel Seymour, the pastor at the Lancaster Vineyard in Ohio shared about a few of the church planters who have a similar heart. “A church planter looks like Jenny Gravely,” he says, “who after successfully raising children, completing VLI, and working towards her M.Div decided to plant in Fulton, OH, population 258. Her and her committed flock have redone an old church in the middle of town and are impacting the surrounding community as the Vineyard Church of Morrow County.”
“They also look like Dick & Maida Ray who pastor a Vineyard church in Mechanic Falls, ME, a town of 3031. It is because of their loyalty to Mechanic Falls and their ability to care for the area that the church is several hundred people strong. When looking at the number of church members vs. town population they are more of a mega church than any mega church I know of!”
Keeping It Simple
One of the last church planters we had a chance to catch up with was Rand Tucker, pastor of the Hyde Park Vineyard in Illinois. Rand grew up on the Southern California coast in Newport Beach. Rand tells us to just have a sense of calling to church plant really isn’t enough when it comes being successful as a planter. “All successful church planters have a clear sense that God has called them to start a new church,” he said. “Some of the church planters discover that sense through divine revelation while others see all the facts pointing in that direction. A clear sense of calling, however, is not enough. Fruitful ministry flows from an ongoing dependence upon the work of the Holy Spirit and a disciplined life that develops skills to disciple and lead others. Too many church planters head out with all sorts of ideas of what they want to try, but those who establish a church often keep it simple.”
“It is so important,” Rand says, “to prayerfully observe the people that God has called one to and ask him for a focused plan to reach these people with the gospel. Once the work has started it is vitally important for the church planter to constantly call others to Christ and ask others to join in what God is doing through this new church. Many struggling church planters are spending a lot of time with people in the community, but they are timid in asking others to commit to Christ, to commit to the church, and to commit to leadership. In addition, church planters may look very different from one another, but the ones who are successful are the ones who are continually working on their ability to communicate and develop their leadership skills.”
Do you feel like you are a potential church planter? Do you have members of your community that may be potential church planters? The Vineyard USA Church Planting team is here to help you seek out the possibility of planting a church and we have the resources help. Please contact us at [email protected] if you’d like to know more.