December 11, 2014

Tips for Church Planting in the Schemes: Identifying Potential

Although we have three main full-time positions we would like to fill for each scheme we engage in—church planter, female outreach worker, and ministry assistant—our fledgling ministries are always on the lookout for potential team members. A solid team of people committed to the gospel and the same vision have a far greater chance of success on the ground than the lone ranger.

The temptation from the get go is to panic into recruiting, allowing just about anybody who shows interest to join the initial team. This can be because of internal pressure to succeed and look like something is happening, or because of the unrealistic expectations of the mother church (where there is one) to get the thing moving so that they have something positive to report to their church and/or denomination.

We must not give in to these subtle pressures and distractions, otherwise we can find ourselves in real trouble almost from the off dealing with all sorts of crackpots who can become a real strain, not to mention a drain, on the church planter and the rest of his team. Things will be difficult enough without the added complication of dealing team members who are a constant drag on the vision and momentum of the work.

The right team members, on the other hand, can be a breath of fresh air and a real boon to the ministry. Here are some things to look out for (not in any specific order):

  • Local people are an absolute must. Nobody is going to understand an area like the person who has lived there for his/her life. Their perspective will be invaluable.
  • Failing that, cultural insiders are the next best thing. They may be from another scheme (or council estate if from the rest of the UK) but their insights and way of looking at the world will be of real value.
  • If not local, will they move into the area?
  • Do they love the Lord Jesus? I mean love him enough to sell all they have and live and die among the people they are trying to reach.
  • Are they teachable? Watch out for the ‘experts’ who have all the answers and want to join you to ‘save’ the locals. You are looking for team members who will listen to, understand, accept and, sometimes, enhance the vision of the leader. The last thing we need are ‘competitors’ always looking to undermine the team with their ‘opinion’.
  • Are they prepared to serve the tea and pick up a sweeping brush?
  • Do they understand the gospel? Never assume this.
  • Are they in agreement with the statement of faith and theological distinctions of the group?
  • Do they love and see the importance of the local church? Never accept anybody on the run from their last church or who has a patchy past when it comes to having been part of a local body. Church crawlers and spiritual nomads love new things, but their commitment never lasts. Do they have a good history of service from their previous church(es)? ALWAYS take references.
  • Are they motivated by a desire to honour God rather than a romantic notion of what ministry is all about?
  • If married, is it happy? If single, are they stable? A new work can seem like a ‘new start’ for some couples just masking their real issues, and some singles can be so caught up in finding a mate that you spend all your time counselling them rather than releasing them to ministry.
  • Do they understand the notion of generous giving?
  • Are they flexible and adaptable to change? Always make it clear that doctrinal distinctives won’t change but the methodology might according to events ‘on the ground’. A good team member will understand this and go with the flow.
  • Do they trust you as the leader?
  • Are they godly?
  • Can they tell you how they have grown in grace over the last 12 months, three years, five years?
  • Will they make a 10–20 year commitment?
  • Do they want power or authority? Watch out for those who want the world to know how gifted they are by being given a position of leadership. Never make anybody a leader until you have seen them in a consistent area of humble service and submission to leadership.

Don’t make the mistake of picking and choosing people who are only like you. Deliberately seek out those with different personalities and gifts. Allowing them to flourish and using them wisely means your group are likely to grow, not only numerically but culturally as well. This process could take years in the schemes, so settle in and don’t be in a rush. Keep in prayer and the Lord will provide in the right time. However, be proactive and constantly on the lookout. Take risks on people but make sure the biggest risks you take are with new believers and those with a teachable spirit.

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