Effective Church Planters

Church plants can thrive or fall over. A major factor in the resilience of the plant is the ‘team leader’. In the Seeds of Hope movement we take seriously the recruitment, assessment, placement and coaching of team leaders.As part of our commitment to new church planters we offer an assessment process, helping identify strengths and areas for future development. We spend five to six hours with the prospective team leaders, and their spouse where applicable, to work through 13 characteristics.

Dr Charles Ridley published a report on the characteristics of effective church planters, based on research with thirteen denominations. Dr. Ridley did an extensive job analysis field study of successful planters. From this research he developed a Church Planter Performance Profile (CPPP). Out of forty-eight behaviours identified, thirteen are found to be critically important.An essential truth which Dr. Ridley shares related to these behaviours is, “The best predictor of future behaviour is past behaviour.” This is another way of saying, “By their fruits you shall know them. Prayerfully reflect on these behaviours together with your spouse or a close friend and ask the question, “Is this a reflection of me?” The ideal church planter is one who possesses the following qualities:

1. Visionising capacity

  • being a person who projects into the future beyond the present
  • developing a theme which highlights the vision and philosophy of ministry
  • persuasively selling the vision to the people
  • approaching challenges as opportunities rather than obstacles
  • coping effectively with non-visionising elements
  • not erecting artificial walls or limits either overtly or subconsciously
  • establishing a clear church identity related to the theme and vision
  • believing in God’s capacity to do great things

2. Intrinsically motivated

  • having a desire to do well and a commitment to excellence
  • stick-to-itiveness and persistence
  • having initiative and aggressiveness without the negative connotations
  • having a willingness to work long and hard
  • being a self-starter with a willingness to build from nothing
  • having a high energy and vitality level;
  • physical stamina

3. Creates ownership of ministry

  • helping people to “buy in” and feel responsible for the growth and success of the church
  • gaining commitment of the people to the vision
  • establishing a congregational identity
  • avoiding stereotyping of congregation by imposing unrealistic goals for which it cannot claim ownership

4. Relates to the unchurched

  • communicating in style that is understood by the unchurched
  • understanding the “psychology” or mentality of the unchurched
  • moving and functioning in the “personal space” of the unchurched without fear
  • quickly getting to know the unchurched on a personal level
  • breaking through the barriers erected by the unchurched
  • handling crises faced by the unchurched

5. Spousal cooperation

  • having an explicit agreement regarding each partner’s respective role and involvement in ministry
  • having explicit rules regarding the use of home as an office
  • evaluating the consequences of ministry demands upon the children
  • functioning as a team through individual and collective action
  • having a strategy for dealing with strangers
  • modeling wholesome family life before church and community
  • agreeing upon and sharing the ministry vision
  • deliberately planning and protecting private family life

6. Effectively builds relationships

  • responding with urgency to expressed needs and concerns of people
  • displaying Godly love and compassion to people
  • getting to know people on a personal basis
  • making others feel secure and comfortable in one’s presence
  • not responding judgmentally or prejudicially to new people
  • appreciating and accepting a variety of persons
  • spending quality time with present parishioners without overstepping them for new people

7. Committed to church growth

  • believing in church growth as a theological principle
  • appreciating steady and consistent growth without preoccupation with the quick success factor
  • committing to numerical growth within the context of spiritual and relational growth (more and better disciples)
  • recognizing that non-growth is threatening and self-defeating
  • establishing the goal of becoming a financially self-supporting church within a specific period of time
  • not prematurely falling into a ministry of maintenance
  • seeing the church project within the larger context of God’s kingdom

8. Responsive to community

  • understanding the culture of the community
  • identifying and assessing community needs
  • responding to community needs on a priority basis such that resources are most efficiently used
  • determining successes and failures of other organized religious attempts to respond to community needs
  • not confusing what the community needs with what the church wants to offer
  • acquiring and understanding of the character and “pulse” of the community
  • adapting the philosophy of ministry to the character of the community

9. Utilizes giftedness of others

  • releasing and equipping people to do the task of ministry
  • discerning of spiritual gifts in others
  • matching the gifts of people with ministry needs and opportunities
  • delegating effectively in areas of personal limitation
  • avoiding personal overload by delegating effectively
  • not prematurely assigning ministry assignments before people are adequately equipped
  • not placing unwarranted restrictions on other’s spiritual giftedness

10. Flexible and adaptable

  • coping effectively with ambiguity
  • coping effectively with constant and abrupt change
  • adapting oneself and one’s methods to the uniqueness of the particular church planting project
  • shifting priorities and emphasis during various stages of church growth
  • doing “whatever” is necessary “whenever” necessary

11. Builds group cohesiveness

  • developing a nucleus group or groups as a foundation
  • quickly incorporating newcomers into a network of relationships
  • engaging others in meaningful church activity
  • monitoring the morale of people
  • utilizing groups effectively
  • dealing with conflict assertively, constructively and tactfully

12. Resilience

  • experiencing setbacks without defeat
  • riding the ups and downs (i.e. attendance)
  • expecting the unexpected
  • rebounding from loss, disappointments and failure

13. Exercises faith

  • possessing a conviction regarding one’s call to church planting ministry
  • believing in God’s action
  • having expectation and hope
  • having a willingness to wait for answers to specific prayer requests