3 Things To Do Instead of Looking for a Church Plant Core Team

One of the most common questions I get is “where did you find people to come help you plant a church?”

“How did you find people for your team?”

Today, after over 2o years of ministry and 10 years of church planting, I believe there is a systemic problem that can arise from these types of questions.

Parachuting in to Recruit a Team

Maybe you can relate. We were what most would call “parachute church planters.”

My wife, two kids and I moved into a city 10 hours from familiarity in the dark of the night. No one was  expecting us when we landed. We had no churches on the ground waiting for our arrival, no team waiting for us to lead them, and certainly no one hoping for a new form of church in our city. In fact, in most situations I found many saying there was no need for us to be there and no need for a new church to be planted; they would say after all that you are talking about is everywhere.

Fortunately, with the conviction of the Holy Spirit we knew our new home was dying for a new church to be birthed. A church that reached beyond the center of Christian Culture and towards the edges of a Post-Christian Culture. A church where it seemed like the authentic messiness of life, trouble, brokenness and lost dreams resided, not realizing they were crying out for an in-breaking of the Kingdom of God.

If we are not careful people at the center of Christian Culture can ask questions like, “how do I get the people I need to start this new Church?” This can unknowingly turn into, “how do I get the people I need to develop the program I have in my head?”

People at the edges, however, ask questions of trust, purpose, and community formation. Questions of “who will come with me to plant a church?” are different than questions of “how do we begin a life-giving community?” We do not begin with programs and structure, but rather a diversity of thought, open dialogue, and a place where every person can find their voice in the advancement of the Kingdom of God (not that structure and organization aren’t needed at some point). I had to begin thinking of myself more of an Architect of Community rather than a Pastor Planting a Church.

'Who will come with me to plant?' is a different question than 'how do we begin a life-giving community?' Click To Tweet

Here are some ideas of where God started to work in drawing people, not to begin a Worship Service, but rather create an authentic community that eventually lead to the proper practices and rhythms that built a sustainable healthy community.

Build Relationships With People Who Want Community

One danger that lies within many who lead in the local church is that the cord which connects us to our city becomes thinner over time rather than stronger. Many Church Planters (unfortunately, I was one of them) are looking for the quickest route. I had to learn to incarnate myself within my city to not only hear the wounds of my city but to also build relationships with those that I found had an interest in creating a different kind of community. Many people even had serious questions about God and reservations about Jesus.

Yes, our community (Church) has always had people who were unsure about Jesus but bought into the community. They felt the freedom within this community to openly wrestle with their questions about God and His Kingdom. This foundation was laid at the beginning when we decided to incarnate into our city through kid’s sports, dance classes, local gym passes and frequenting the same malls, stores, and restaurants.

One of the greatest compliments I’ve received is when a visiting ministry leader from another city remarked on how our Church had been built off people from coffee shops, restaurants, street corners, etc. We didn’t settle for finding the right people for the quickest startup. We sought to become one with our city. We took the longer approach of being present and developing a community of people rather than a Worship Service.

Making Disciples Instead of Seeking Leaders

When we started the plant, I had aggressive timelines in place to build, grow, and multiply. In all this, however, I forgot one key example and command of Jesus’ ministry: make disciples. He made disciples and He left us commanding the same; and yes disciple-making takes time, sometimes lots of time.

When I landed I wanted to find the right people to join us ready to go, rather than find people who God had allowed to hear my voice and begin the sometimes often-long process of developing. I had to shift from trying to discover the right people who I would have identified as high-level leaders, “A” and “B” level people, to asking “who are the people God has given me a voice into?” and “how do I go about developing them?”

Because of my aggressive timelines, this was frustrating. But the Lord used this season to help me mature as a disciple. Now ten years later I see myself more as a discipler first and community developer second and maybe church planter last.

What seems like the long approach to disciple-making and people developing actually has a multiplication effect over time. Today, this has lead to many remarking at the level of developing leaders that the Lord has produced through our church plant. Instead of asking “who are the sharpest people that may join me?” begin asking “who are the people that hear my voice that may be invited into a disciple-making community?”

10 years later I see myself as a discipler first, community developer second and church planter last. Click To Tweet

Listening to the Spirit as You Plan

Many times our strategic plans are built off of what we’ve seen God do in different places, with different people, at different times. Now, I am not one to deny the importance of Strategic Planning. This is a natural part of who I am and some might even say it is a hobby of mine. Yes, a mature approach to Strategic Planning is learning to listen to the Holy Spirit as you lay out a picture of an ideal future and goals.

The key is learning to listen. As we listen there needs to be a posture of patiently seeking what the Lord has in store, rather than our ideal future. Without a posture of patience and listening to the Holy Spirit, we are lead to many frustrations and disappointments.

As an ENTJ in Myers Briggs and a 3 on the Enneagram I am all about efficiency. My initial approach to finding the “right people to help plant a church” seemed like the natural way to plant. I wanted to see a result for every ounce of energy expounded.

Fast forward years later I found there is nothing more efficient in the long run than learning to live rooted and incarnationally within my city, raising up leaders from the harvest and living with a posture of patience. All the while, having an ear for what the Lord was up to, not only for what is happening in our church plant for today, but what could become part of a multiplication movement tomorrow.

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Mike Pumphrey

Mike Pumphrey

Mike Pumphrey is a church planter, strategist, coach, and cultural architect who works with existing churches and church planters, helping them reimagine what the church can look like in our day. He has worked as a Strategist with the Bridge Network of Churches and currently works with V3 Coordinating a Church Planting Movement within the State of Virginia. Passionate about the potential for movement within the Church, he is constantly looking at unleashing the Imago Dei that resides within all humanity. This has become the constant pulse of Awaken Church, which he planted in the Virginia Beach (Hampton Roads) area, as they have seen the expression of the church extend from the Neighborhood to Navy Ships.
Mike Pumphrey

2 Comments

  1. William Jan 18, 2018 Reply

    Convincing and well written.
    I still see church plants comprised of a husband up front and his wife singing or playing music and doing children’s ministry. Has anything really changed?

  2. Marc Jan 22, 2018 Reply

    Thanks for this, Mike. I’ve read it and re-read it. I’m six months in to a new plant and am in the place where I instinctively feel the need to meet more people. Thinking about who is open to hearing my voice seems like an important new way of seeing the work I’m doing in this part of the process. So many good insights here.

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