It has been said that ‘beggars can’t be choosers’, and nowhere is this more true than for a church planter who is trying to gather people to their team.
The reality of a church plant is that you always have a few less people than you would consider ideal. Come to think of it, this doesn’t ever really change as the church becomes more established. In a church planting context though, the pressure feels more acute than ever. When a new family could increase your numbers by 50% or a few people away could make it so your meeting is barely viable, then you want all the people that you can get.
This is important. People are your most precious commodity in a church plant, and at this stage we need to work hard for each and every person we are able to gather to the cause. It would be neither strategic nor godly to be too discriminating about our team. Part of the challenge of church planting is figuring out how to build something using what we have in front of us.
Nevertheless, there are certain types of people who are absolute dynamite in a church planting setting. Where possible you should be looking to add these kinds of people to your team, and you should do what you can to foster these qualities both in yourself and in those alongside you.
- Some People With a Bit of Faith
In a recent Broadcast, Geoff Surratt said that church planters are just a little bit crazy and arrogant – because they can see something that doesn’t exist yet. Another way of saying this is that church planters are people of faith.
When you plant a church there is a God-given dream in your heart of what could be, but it is not easy at all to carry such a dream on your own. The discouragement of setbacks, the monotony of routine, and the questions of doubt can all chip away at the vision that we carry, and keeping hold of the dream can be a fight.
This fight becomes a thousand times easier when there are others who can see the same thing that you see. If there are people who share your dreams of what God can do, and have a positive outlook that can interpret setbacks in light of the big picture, break through the routine to lift your head, and reassure you that you are not mad when doubts come, then you have found church planting gold-dust.
People like this breathe life into your group, they inspire fresh dreams and faith in others, they help you press into your calling as a pioneer and they make things a lot of fun. They may not necessarily be people in leadership or even people who have been believers for very long, but what they bring to your team is priceless.
- Some People Who Are Social Superglue
Have you ever met someone who always seems to be right at the heart of whatever community they are part of? They seem to naturally hit it off with almost everybody. They are on the guest list for every wedding. If there’s a meeting or a group at their house, it is cram full of people.
People like this are gatherers, or as I think of them, ‘social superglue’, and if you are able to get somebody like this in your planting team, lean heavily into their gift – they can be what transform the 0-30 stage of you church plant from a hard slog to something that seems to come naturally and effortlessly (well maybe not effortless, but way easier than in would otherwise be).
It is not always easy to find people like this for your team as they already tend to have lots of things that they are involved in, but when they do turn up it is easy to see them – just look for the people who always seem to be bringing mates to stuff and who everyone else wants to hang out with.
It can often be effective if this kind of person is asked to actually get the group going, and then for a more established leader to be brought in alongside them a bit further on in the process.
Sometimes a leader can feel threatened when the social dynamic of the group seems to pivot around somebody other than the primary leader, but the wise leader will make space for these people to use their gifts and will reap the benefits in a vibrant, fun and growing community in the church plant.
- Some People You Really Like
I get it. You are working hard to have a great relationship with everybody on your team – and that’s a really important thing to do. Chances are when there are just a dozen of you in a room you won’t be attracting people in through flashy programming – they will join because they feel a connection with the community that is forming, and often this boils down to a connection with you, the leader.
Still, within the general idea of liking everybody, there are some people who you really like. Are there a couple of people in the group who you would think of as your friends? People who you would still hang out with even if you weren’t church planting? People who cause your soul to feel a bit alive just by being in the same room as you.
Church planting can often be a lonely business. And many church planters who go in expecting that their existing friendships outside the plant will carry them through it often end up disappointed and disillusioned when those friendships are not able to carry the weight they placed on them. Having friends outside the plant is good, but when they are your only (or primary) sources of friendship and support is when trouble can begin.
You need to find those people within your group with whom you can get together for an evening, grill a steak, open a bottle of wine and talk about everything other than the church plant and come away from it lifted.
For the sake of your sanity, find those people.
- Some Warm Bodies In a Room
People attract people.
When somebody first walks into one of your meetings, they are quite quickly weighing up a lot of things. They want to know whether God is at work. They want to know whether it will be fun to stick around. They want to know whether it is a safe place. They want to know if they are likely to make friends.
And so people look for clues. And one of the clues is whether there are other people there or not. This is called social proof. It’s like if you turned up at a restaurant on a Saturday night and there was nobody else there at all – it would probably make you suspicious that it wasn’t very good (whether this is true or not).
It is important that you are able to gather some people as you start holding your meetings. These may not necessarily be the people who end up as part of the plant long term (Geoff Surratt makes the helpful distinction between people who are ‘scaffolding’ for the plant and people who are ‘bricks’). If somebody is up for giving you a few months, turning up to your meetings, engaging with them, enjoying themselves and helping your community to form, before then going on and doing something else, you should snatch their hand off.
You need all the people you can get!
- Someone Who Can Play a Few Chords
When you launch your public meetings, music is one of the things that you need to consider.
People (rightly) would expect there to be sung worship in a church gathering, so you need a way to facilitate this happening.
The best and most obvious way of doing this is by having a worship leader within the group. How good they need to be depends on the context that you are planting into. In some settings, a passable voice and basic guitar skills serve fine. In other contexts (particularly when you are trying to reach creatives) it can really help connect with people if you could up your game a bit, and you would ideally have a more accomplished leader, perhaps accompanied by other musicians or even a full band.
Other answers may include ‘borrowing’ worship leaders from a sending church, asking someone to learn (learning from scratch is probably too big an ask, but at Christ Church Manchester we have had a few singers who have learned to play guitar who in a short space of time have become really very good!) or even using a technological solution (such as iSingWorship).
However you do it, figuring out an answer to the music question is a necessary step before you are ready to go public.
- Gatekeepers to the Community You Are Reaching
When Jesus sent out his disciples two by two to the villages of Israel, he instructed them to look for a person of peace in that village who was willing to receive them, host them and give them a doorway into the community – and if they were unable to find one they were to shake the dust off their feet and leave that place.
This is the same approach that Paul used in his church planting. In various places we see him meeting people early in his stay (e.g. Lydia, Aquila and Priscilla), and then using their home as a base of operations to the church plant – and those people of peace ended up as a core part of the church.
When you are planting into a new community, one of the most essential people to recruit to your team is somebody who is already part of that community, and ideally somebody who is well connected and respected amongst the people you are trying to meet.
These people are gatekeepers. They will have the local knowledge to help you become familiar with the cultural nuances of the area. They will be able to show you around and let you know about things that are going on that you may not otherwise discover. They will be able to introduce you to lots of people and the very fact that they are with you will lend credibility to what you are doing in the eyes of local people.
If this person has a home in the community and they are willing to let you use it, then hosting your meetings there would probably be much more effective than using your own house.
Who do you know that is already a part of the community you are trying to reach? Ask them to be part of your team.
- Some New People
There are few things more encouraging for a church planting team than adding in new people, particularly when those people are not part of a church at the moment.
At Christ Church Manchester, we are currently planting a church in Manchester City Centre (launches in January if you know anyone who is interested…) and we started gathering a group with a desire to reach into some of the artistic, creative and entrepreneurial communities that exist in our city.
After only a few weeks of the group meeting, we received an email from a guy who was a creative entrepreneur who had been involved in a few start-ups and was looking for a community to be a part of in the City Centre. He hadn’t been going to church. We invited him along and he has been coming to our meetings ever since and is a key part of the group now.
Being able to reach and add people like this, even before launching publicly encourages the team, validates that there is an opportunity to reach into that community and clarifies exactly what it looks like to build a church that can reach the people you are going for.
When you are gathering your team, don’t worry too much about everybody being on board, or even everybody believing. Take who you can get, welcome new people, and enjoy the first fruits of your ministry (of course, being wise about what particular responsibilities you give to each person on the team!)
- Some Developing Leaders
In my last article, I wrote about the Five Phases of a Church Planting Team. In that article, I contended that you want to reach the ‘shared ministry’ phase before you are ready for a public launch.
In short, you are looking to draw one or two others alongside you who have the potential and appetite to grow into leadership, who can share some of the ownership for the plant and throw some love and energy at getting the plant off the ground.
One of the key qualities that you are looking for in these developing leaders is teachability. You want to be able to mould your key leaders according to your philosophy of ministry and the particular vibe of what you are trying to do in your church plant. In practice, it is often (though not always) much easier to bring through younger people who haven’t led much than more experienced leaders who have already developed a set view on ‘how things should be done’.
One of the most attractive things about a church plant is the opportunities that it provides. Leadership is much less locked up and bottle-necked in a church plant than in an established church, and you can leverage this as you ask young leaders with potential to join you. Be careful not to promise a particular role too early on, but offering opportunities (and then making sure you do in fact give them space to use and develop their gifts) can be a very compelling offer indeed, and these leaders will add a lot of depth and capacity to your planting team.
- Some People With a Bit of Time
As a church planter, you are probably not paid full time (or even at all) by the church, and so you are fitting in what needs to be done for the church alongside a job, your family and whatever else needs doing.
The more the church plant grows, the more things need doing, and eventually you hit a breaking point where you need to make serious decisions about your work pattern, and perhaps start getting paid by the church (if there is money in the budget to do this).
Before you reach this point, however, if you can find somebody who has a bit more time than you do who can share the load, this can make all the difference. This may or may not be the same as your developing leaders mentioned above, but it would be somebody who could perhaps commit to meeting up with some people, doing some admin, praying and generally helping out as needed.
There are different stages of life at which people have more or less time. If you can persuade somebody to do a gap year helping your church plant then this is a huge win, but if not then perhaps by looking at either students or people who have recently retired, you may find people who are happy to get involved and who have a bit of time to invest in it.
- Someone Who Is Good With Kids
This one depends a bit on what you are planting. If you are planning an inner-city evening congregation then you probably need to focus elsewhere, but for any morning or afternoon congregation where you would be looking to gather families, having somebody who is keen on taking a lead with kids is very important.
For most families looking to join a church, what is provided for their kids is very high on the list of factors to consider. By the very nature of being a small church plant, you are already disadvantaged in this respect by the lack of peers for children who turn up, so the last thing that you want is for parents to think that their children are treated as an afterthought.
If you are able to find somebody with a bit of vision for building some good kids work then it will help parents to see where things are going, and trust that the church that you are planting will be a good place for their kids to be.
It is not that likely that you will be able to find all ten of these people before launching (and sometimes the same person could tick several of the boxes). Often you will need to use what you have and work around what you don’t, but that is part of the joy and challenge of church planting.
Still, these are qualities that will help you a lot when you are able to add them to your team, and you should do what you can to identify, recruit and develop these kinds of people.
What other types of people would you add? Why not drop us a tweet and let us know your thoughts?