As you think about church planting the first thing that probably comes to mind is people. After all, people are the church and helping people connect with God and one another really is a big part of why we do what we do. As we began to think through our launch here at LifePoint, we were encouraged by some experienced church planters to initially think about leadership in two areas: Staff Team Members and Core Team Members.
Staff team members — I know it’s not always possible but as you make plans for your church launch do everything you can to gather a staff team around you. If you can find one or two people to take a leadership role over each of your key areas it will help you to be more efficient, more effective and more encouraged as you move forward in your launch. As you think about your staff team, we have found that it’s helpful to think about chemistry, competency and character.
Think staff chemistry - Chemistry is super important when you are forming your staff team. While it’s probably unrealistic to expect your staff team members to all be best friends, it is important that you prayerfully choose guys and ladies who work well together, are willing to humbly encourage and challenge one another and who can move forward together with a unified vision.
Think staff competencies — As you begin to pray through your staff team, I would recommend that you do your best to build a team with skill sets that differ and complement one another rather than skill sets that overlap one another. For instance, as a general rule, it’s better to have one team member who has a strong teaching gift and another team member who has strong administrative or music skills than it is to have two team members who are strong teachers without any administrative or music skills. Complementary skill sets will allow you to each focus on and give specialized oversight to 1–2 key areas which will strengthen the foundation for your launch.
Think staff character — This one probably goes without saying but if a potential team member has questionable character steer clear, even if they are highly talented. Inevitably it will cost you and it’s not worth the price that you will eventually have to pay. At LPC, we keep our finger on the pulse of our staff team’s character by agreeing to these things: We value consistent sensitivity to God and the practice of spiritual disciplines through a commitment to a daily devotional time that includes prayer and God’s Word, a commitment to seasons of fasting and prayer, a commitment to staff community time, a commitment to tithing to LifePoint as a way of modeling biblical stewardship and a commitment to attend weekend worship gatherings with family. While this list is not exhaustive, we feel like it provides us with some basic expectations and building blocks that keeps our foundation strong and healthy.
Core team members — One of the things that has been most interesting to me in the church planting process is to see how God has shaped and drawn people (church members) to be a part of his vision for what he wanted to do through LifePoint, especially in the early days. I don’t know why but early on I tended to think more about leadership in terms of staff team members than core team members but I quickly discovered that God had shaped and called core team members to come along side of us and make his vision a reality. While their roles looked different than the roles of our staff team, these were the men and women who came along side of us early on in our different core value areas and helped to make those things happen week in and week out. Many of them were as talented and passionate about our core values as the staff team member who was leading that area and they often offered a unique skill and perspective that made things exponentially better than any of us ever imagined. Here are some things that we learned were important as we led our core team members in the launch process.
Clearly communicate the vision that God has given you — If God has called you to be the leader then he has given you a vision for what he wants you to do. While you definitely have to be flexible and at times adjust your approach to better match the culture and people that you are trying to impact, you have to be careful to stay on track with your vision. It’s so easy to get distracted or sidetracked because there are a lot of great ministry models out there but you can’t do them all and you surely can’t do them all well. So it’s important that you communicate and clarify what you believe God has called the church body that you lead to be about so that the people who join you in the journey know where you are (and maybe equally as important where are not) going as you move forward.
Be sensitive to input from core team members — As you try to fine tune your vision in the field I think it’s a really good idea to be sensitive to input from the people that God sends your way. This is definitely a delicate balance, you have to be the leader so don’t relinquish your leadership role but listen to the people who you sense are genuinely sensitive to the things of God and the Holy Spirit and who seem willing to link arms with you, follow your leadership and pursue the vision that God has given you as the pastor. While their roles are different, the right people with the right spirit and heart will be a major support system as you lead the church forward. I think it’s important to clarify that I’m not talking about the people who come with their own agenda (and those people will come) but people who seem to be in step with what God is doing in the church and local community that he has placed you in.
Understand that there may be an ebb & flow on your teams — As we have moved through different life cycles and stages here at LifePoint, we have discovered that at times, key leaders (both staff team and core team members) will come and go. Some will move, some will go to other churches and some might just fall away. It doesn’t necessarily mean that you are doing something wrong. It just seems that at times, God sends people to the body who have specific gifts and skill sets to lead in different phases. Some will come and stick but some will come and do what they do well for a short time and then move on, so don’t get discouraged or overly concerned if some people leave. Obviously you want to do everything that you can to create environments where people feel passionate about planting their lives long term, so don’t be abrasive or intentionally push people away but remember that God has called people to be a part of His vision for the church that He is building under your leadership so trust His timing and plan if your teams change from time to time in the course of your ministry.