October 2, 2014

Church Planting Basics: Selecting Your Launch Team and Future Leaders

These are two separate issues. A start-up team, also known as a launch team (avoid the term core group), is composed of those persons who initially partner with the planter to start a new church. This team will do the hard work, including community research, completing surveys, preparing materials, speaking with unbelievers, building relationships, initiating discussions, and asking questions that encourage spiritual conversations. Since many new churches (i.e. traditional or attractional models) start in temporary facilities, when the new church goes public, it is the responsibility of the launch team to set-up and put away, as well as offer hospitality to individuals and groups whenever and wherever the church meets. They are the first one’s‘over the top’ in this new work.

Future leaders, on the other hand, may or may not come from the launch team. There are two criteria for leaders in the early days (the biblical qualifications being a given):

  1.  Someone who understands the work to be done and is able to train new people (multiplication of ministry) to assume the responsibility for work; and
  2. Someone who understands the DNA of the new church. For instance, if a core value is reaching “unbelievers”, a person who does not engage or relate to them on a regular basis would not make a great choice for a leader. In the long run, a person who is not a model disciple in the new church should not be chosen as leader. Also, a person who is not training others for ministry should not become a leader.

Who will be on your launch team and who will be your future leaders? Key questions to be churning over in the early days. How will you measure and assess who is who? Don’t be too eager to promote people too early just because things are slow. On the other hand, don’t ignore a person because they may not be quite there yet. It is a delicate balance that requires wisdom.

Don’t be rushed into rash decisions in the early days. Feel your community out. Don’t impose outside values in the early days. The leadership team’s structure should flow out of the mission and ministry of the new church and take into consideration its unique ministry setting and missional needs.

In most instances, the initial vision for the new church belongs to the planter, who must convince others to adopt the vision. The planter’s success depends upon his ability to persuade others to accept the vision of the new church as their own. Owning the vision will motivate and keep the launch team and the leadership team on target. Be careful to assess the extent to which a person “owns” the vision. Verbal assent is not enough. A person who fully owns the vision and the values of the new church will demonstrate this by his life choices, time commitments, ministry commitment, and energy level. The planter needs to make regular assessments of the launch and leadership team members as to their true commitment to the vision.

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