Preparing to start a church plant can be a daunting task. There are so many needs to fill and sometimes the enormity of it all can feel paralyzing. One of the keys to successfully planting a church is to recruit a good launch team. (Remember, in our language today, a launch team and a core group are a little bit different. A core team is the team at the onset of the church who typically sticks around for the long term, contributing once the church has already been started. A launch team is developed before the church plant and in preparation for the core group.)
Below are four tips for recruiting launch team members for an upcoming church plant.
First, start by praying.
Where do you start? You start by praying. Pray for the upcoming church plant. Pray about it with close friends, other pastors, and other people you’ve connected with in your journey—perhaps those you’ve met through education (Bible college, seminary) if you’ve done that. God may guide others to join your launch team in the process of praying.
But more than anything, seek friends who will go to God with you as you seek direction. Establish a prayer team that helps you begin to pray for the development of your launch team and your core group.
Sit down and decide what you need. How will your staff team be funded? Will they raise support or work a job themselves? What about a worship leader? Typically, I think you should start a launch team with someone who will lead worship, someone who will help with assimilation and groups (I often put those together), someone who leads the children’s ministry, someone focused on evangelism, and someone to do finances.
Notice that some things that may develop later in the church are not essentials to start the church. For example, student ministry is likely not the first thing you need. However, in many cultural contexts, someone who works with children is a must.
Plan out what you need and start to plan how you will meet those needs.
Third, make the ask.
Once you have prayed and planned out what you need, you need to make the ask. This is where you are going to sit down with people and ask them to join. Don’t be afraid to ask. Be bold. You’re planning for a great cause.
The people you ask can be drawn from a lot of different places. Don’t be afraid to ask unchurched people. Of course, you don’t want unchurched people to lead Bible study, but they can play a critical role elsewhere. You can ask your friends and family or those you meet at community events. You can also ask those at the churches sending you out.
Typically, when I ask someone to join, I share why I am asking them to do it. I think you’d be wonderful helping us with keeping evangelism at the forefront for this reason or I think you’d be great helping us get people in small groups for that reason. Make sure you’ve really thought through which people you ask and why. I never ask someone to do something if I haven’t been able to say sincerely that I’ve been praying about that person in this role. I want to make sure the person I ask to fill a need actually lines up with that need.
And just a note that you might be turned down. I’ve been told no more times than I’d like to count. I’ve planted multiple churches; I get told no a lot. But I’ve also been told yes a lot, which leads me to our next step.
Fourth, develop your team.
Once you’ve had people say yes to meet the needs you’ve anticipated and planned for, the next step is to develop your team.
Part of developing your team is to provide training for those you’ve asked to fill certain roles. Don’t just ask someone to lead your small groups and not give him or her some resources or training. Ministry Grid at LifeWay is a helpful tool for that. You can use it to assign specific training to people and track their progress on it.
Back in the day, before resources like Ministry Grid were commonly available, I trained my whole team myself. Today, the training is still key, but I can assign my team specific training through a tool like Ministry Grid, then we can spend the time I have to meet with them debriefing on what they’ve already learned.
It’s important to keep meeting in person. Using a tool like Ministry Grid allows you to develop your team further in your meetings by providing them with outside resources for training. That way, you don’t have to take your whole meeting time to tell them what they already watched online.
Also, do some things together as a team. Do some evangelism projects. Visit churches during the time when you don’t yet have a church meeting. Read some books together. These books don’t have to solely be about church planting. You can also read books on theology from whatever tradition you are a part of, whether that’s charismatic, Reformed, Baptist, or a mix of things.
An important note
It is important to note that the launch team doesn’t always stay with the church long term. The core group tends to stay. But the launch team can function like launch booster rockets. When I recruit people, sometimes I ask them to make a specific time commitment. I try to stagger them if I am talking to a bunch of people at the same time.
I might ask one person to make a 6-month commitment to help us get launched, and to someone else a 12-month commitment, and someone an 18-month commitment. That way, if they do leave, they don’t all leave at the same time.
A lot of church planters get hurt because they don’t anticipate people leaving, so they aren’t prepared for it. We need to be aware early on that a lot of people love the idea of a church plant, but they don’t like the church plant as much once it is really there. It is wise to ask people to make a time commitment and then give them permission to go or to stay.
Recognize that some people are going to be the booster rockets. Thank God for them. Some people are going to be the scaffolding that eventually you take away and the building continues to be built up. Many people stay long term, but don’t be caught off guard if a significant percentage do leave.
May God bless you as you consider launching a church plant.
Ed Stetzer holds the Billy Graham Distinguished Chair of Church, Mission, and Evangelism at Wheaton College, serves as Dean of the School of Mission, Ministry, and Leadership at Wheaton College, is executive director of the Billy Graham Center, and publishes church leadership resources through Mission Group.