IMPLEMENTING LEADERSHIP IN A YOUNG CHURCH PLANT

What do you notice is the greatest void in the ministry of a brand-new church?  Frequently, it is a void in leadership that finds the pastor and his family “doing everything.”  While that is often to be expected in the early months, it becomes lethal if not addressed and resolved in subsequent months and years. While there are several key components of a church plant “that makes it,” none are more significant that an expanding plurality of leadership under the inspiring vision and disciplined oversight of the senior pastor.

 

Here are few key steps that enable every church plant to implement a leadership pipeline:

 

The first step is that the church “planter” himself must transition into becoming an effective, Spirit-guided “pastor.”

 

It is time to do more than talk about “what we are going to do as a church” and simply start doing it.  Long before you can mentor another budding leader, you must first model it!  Fleshed out, this looks like door-to-door visitation and one-on-one discipleship amongst other leadership disciplines. (It is very likely that someone you lead to Christ and disciple will become your most indispensable and influential partner in leadership because they will grow with you and under you.)  Being available and poised to counsel in the areas of personal sanctification is a must for those attending.  Visiting the elderly and shut-ins must be a regular, frequent part of your weekly rhythm. To raise up additional under-shepherds, those very same people must first be a part of a flock of well-fed and cared for sheep.

 

The second step is to read broadly, listen intently, and dig deeply into the Word to refine your philosophy on becoming a “leader of leaders.”

  • Read and reread Acts, a book that repeatedly addresses the challenges and contexts of this very transition. (Act 6:1-8; 14:23; 16:4)
  • No matter how far off it sounds, start with the belief that there are people in your local community that God has gifted to lead in your church.
  • Spend less time recruiting distant Bible college graduates and church staff and look for blossoming leaders in the assembly…who probably are not fully developed yet. (That is a good thing; it permits you to train them in the unique culture and context of your ministry!)
  • Some of the problems and burdens that stress out the point man and demand more leaders affirm your growth.
  • You don’t develop leaders to get tasks done; you get tasks done to develop leaders.
  • As one pastor put it, “Leaders develop best when they are in the game.” (Don’t wait for them to be perfectly qualified before inserting them into a need-to-know, need-to-go area of responsibility.)
  • Listen to other pioneers that transitioned successfully from a start-up to a flourishing business or ministry.  (One of the best secular resources I have found is a podcast by NPR called “How I Built This with Guy Raz”)
  • Always remember the indicative levels of your pastoral maturity: “I” is entry level, “you” is immature at best, and “we” is the highest level of leading with consensus and partnership.

 

The third step is to tenaciously begin to practically invest large amounts of energy and time into that one or two or more that God has gifted to your church in spiritual leadership.

  • When given an honest choice between attracting a “crowd” or investing in the “core,” go with the latter EVERY TIME! (It may not be as flashy and attractional, but it will most assuredly lead to a more sustained and fruitful ministry.)
  • If possible, have a LOCAL MAN fill the void of treasurer and secretary who has the potential for more.  (Our current administrative pastor who is almost a full time paid staff member started out in this role.)
  • Don’t be in a rush with deacons.  (I learned this office must not be rushed and filled only with those with the right temperament.)
  • Use a church management software from the jump.  (While we use Planning Center for services, giving, and people, whatever you use should enable leaders with full-time, off-site jobs to seamlessly coordinate during the week.)
  • Pick your volunteers; don’t ask for them.  (This allows you to pair up responsibilities with those who are biblically qualified and have a sustainable passion.)
  • Schedule an annual leadership retreat the moment you have one other family onboard to serve/be accountable at a higher level than the attendees. (This has been a key component of building a leadership team of 11 couples who love to be together and share a mutual vision.)

 

The fourth step is to learn how to maintain and encourage those who begin to log some years in leading the church with you.           

It is not enough to start a leadership team; you must learn to maintain it, or it will often implode in a costly way to your fledgling church.  One the biggest mistake the church planters like us make is that we tend to burn out our volunteer leaders and have way too much turnover creating unnecessary flux.  If you are looking for it, Paul, in the opening chapter or closing chapter of his epistles, consistently takes the time to encourage the elders and servants in the local church.  Here is one example in Philippians 1:
 
  • Encourage not just the upfront leaders but the behind the scenes servants who truly form the backbone of your ministry. (You will “outrun your coverage” if you forget to support those who staff your entry-level and essentials like nursery, greeters, cleaners, deacons, etc.) Ph 1:1 “Paul and Timotheus, the servants of Jesus Christ, to all the saints in Christ Jesus which are at Philippi, with the bishops and deacons:”

 

  • Show gratitude…all the time. (Every request and response you offer should be tempered with thankfulness. Do it until they ask you to stop, and then give them more. This gratitude also bears fruit when those same leaders begin to oversee their own leaders and mimic the grateful tone you have inaugurated.) Ph 1:3 “I thank my God upon every remembrance of you,”

 

  • Make them know that you enjoy them and their fellowship. (If you are only around your leadership team when formal ministry is done, you are missing out on a level of expanding comradery that can only occur when you are laughing, playing, and “just shooting the breeze.”) Ph 1:5, 8 “For your fellowship in the gospel from the first day until now…For God is my record, how greatly I long after you all in the bowels of Jesus Christ.”

 

  • Regularly communicate Christ-centered confidence in their potential. (Believe in them; they have enough others in their family and the community who remind them that they are “novices and nobodies.”) Ph 1:6 “Being confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ:”

 

  • Pray for them. (Whether they realize it or not, the moment a man or woman who surrenders to greater leadership responsibilities in the local church, they will predictably begin to experience more spiritual resistance and attack from our mutual enemies: the world, the flesh, and the Devil. The responsibility for leadership turnover rests as much upon the prayerless pastor who recruited them as the individual who commitment falters.) Ph 1:9 “And this I pray, that your love may abound yet more and more in knowledge and in all judgment;”

 

Every local church pioneer must quickly and thoroughly go from “planter” to “pastor” if their fledgling work is to be grounded and grown.  In no area is more intentional time and focus required than that of developing leaders to maintain and expand the gospel ministry.  Without this key transition, not only will the church die, but you will burn out your dear wife, kids, and anyone else that you “dump on” when you should have learned the art of sanctified delegation.  While you see nowhere Paul instructing Titus or Timothy how to build massive crowds, he does command them, for the sake of their churches, that their primary responsibility is to develop leaders:  2 Timothy 2:2 “And the things that thou hast heard of me among many witnesses, the same commit thou to faithful men, who shall be able to teach others also.  Until you obey this command, you are not pastoring.  Maybe planting.  But not pastoring.


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FROM PIONEER TO PASTOR

Many times a church planter, because he is naturally a pioneer, will have a difficult time adjusting to the composition of a more established church. It is at this transition time that many decide to “move on” when they should “move up” in their relationship and commitment with the Lord.

 

1. Reasons for the adjustment
  • The church begins to “stabilize” and “settle”
  • Pastor is used to constantly evangelizing and motivating but now has to spend more time visiting and nurturing. You are now more of a grower than a sower
  •  Pastor is now spending more time putting out fires. People = problems
  • Pastor has to spend more time studying to better “feed the flock” and focus on spiritual growth
  • Pastor has to switch from “doing it all himself” to “delegating”
  • Pastor has to “take the oversight” and trust others to do the work
  • Pastor goes from “people person” to “personal trainer”
  • Pastor realizes his work isn’t the day of Pentecost but will take time to grow just like everyone else’s church

   

2. Reactions to the adjustment
  • Frustration with the situation
    • Church isn’t growing as fast – numerically or spiritually
    • Congregation loses its zeal
    • Not as many members out soul-winning
    • Pastor is putting out more fires
    • Not as exciting because there are real issues to deal with
    • Wife sees her husband as a “baby-sitter.”
    • Pastor realizes he was too quick to announce he is “self-supporting” and to have churches cut support
  • Rethinking of a long-term ministry in that church
    • Pastor begins to think God is moving him on
    • Pastor and his wife question if the ministry is for them anymore
    • Pastor begins to prepare an exit strategy
 
3. Reasons to stay beyond the adjustment
  • Because God put you there – renew and reclaim your calling
  • Because God wants you to grow and mature with the church
  • Because you will see more fruit that remains
  • Because you can multiply more for world evangelism by staying and reproducing churches
  • Because you will learn to enjoy the fruit of your labor

 

4. Steps to making a successful adjustment
  • You and your wife make a spiritual decision to stay
  • Realize the church isn’t your church but it’s God’s church
  • Seek advice from others who have successfully transitioned
  • Focus on discipleship, training, and developing leadership
    • Preach and teach on serving
    • Focus on the mentoring the faithful members
    • Focus on one person at a time, don’t expect too much
    • Display areas of service and include new areas
    • Give a spiritual gift test
    • Meet with the faithful men on a regular bases in order to train and discuss church-related needs
    • Share your vision often
    • Bring on an intern or assistant
    • Pray that the Lord will give you patience and resolve

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LEADING A CHURCH TO REPRODUCE ITSELF

Understanding that churches reproduce churches, it is the responsibility of every church to oversee the birthing of baby churches. Reproducing churches isn’t a passive decision but a purposeful one. The Biblical mandate for the local church is to “go.” Reaching Judea, Samaria, and the uttermost is not conditional but imperative. Below are two practical, helpful, and Biblical phases churches should go through to reproduce.

Phase 1 – The Church Preparing

 

1. Help the church cultivate a desire to reproduce

Since churches reproduce a new church, more than just the pastor needs to have the burden and vision to reproduce.  Cultivating a unified desire from the members of the church is crucial and can be done through a study on Biblical church planting or by having a special conference or seminar. BCPM could come in and teach the principles of why a church should birth a church. You can also bring in church planters to share what God is doing in their ministry. The church plant will die prematurely without the church having the desire and commitment to reproduce.

2. Make it a part of your budget

Start setting aside funds. You can do this through your mission’s budget, general budget, or special monthly or quarterly offerings. You will know if the church is “on board” if they give to reproducing themselves. These funds can be helpful to the start-up costs. Some have also designated funds monthly to help with the church planter’s support.

3. Have special prayer meetings throughout the year

Encourage the church collectively to pray over their Judea. Also, encourage your people to pray for areas as they travel around their community.

4. Get involved with a church plant close to your church
When a sister church plants a church, get involved. You can help by evangelizing the new area, supplying needs, and getting involved with the opening services.
 
 

Phase 2 – The Church Delivering

1. Select the Targeted Area
Pray earnestly about needy areas. A particular area might make sense, but there needs to be a clear direction from the Lord and a moving of His Spirit. A needy area doesn’t constitute a call to that area. The Apostle Paul was lead and also held back by the Spirit in Acts 16:6-7. Seek the Lord, and He will make the location very obvious.
 
2. Evangelize the New Area
Possibly go soul-winning twice a month for a few months. Take groups from the church and pray that the Lord will give fruit. People will come to know Christ as Savior, and there will be more excitement in the church for the new area.
 
3. Start an Extension Service

Begin to hold a service to minister to the new community. Although a Bible study can be conducted during the week, a Sunday afternoon service is preferred as this is the best time to reach the majority of people. Have church members from the reproducing church sign up and commit to travel over and help conduct the services each week. It is important for the guests from the new area to know that this is an extension ministry with a goal of establishing a local church.

 

4. Pray for a Church Planter

Begin to pray for the right man to pastor the church. This might be someone from within or someone who the Lord brings from without. Remember that churches reproduce after their “kind.” Even if the man has a college education and experience with other ministries, he needs to be mentored by the reproducing pastor, and this could take several years. The reproducing pastor has to be the one who approves the new pastor and his family. A novice cannot be placed into the ministry. The reproducing church also needs to notice that the man is ready and that there is no question that the Lord has His hand on him and his family.

5. The Long-term Finances

The church planter should be fully supported when starting the church as he needs to give his full time to reaching and pastoring people. The lack of finances is the number one reason why church plants die prematurely. It is very difficult to work, pastor, and be a good husband and father all at the same time. Although most support will come from other churches, pray about what the reproducing church can do long-term. The support can be reduced by 20% each year for a five-year term which will keep the church planter dedicated and dependent on the Lord. This term can be extended or reduced based on the financial state of the church.
 
6. The Launch Strategy

Once the above steps have been taken, it is time to prepare for the official start of the church. Because the church will only get one birth, much time and planning need to be given to a healthy beginning. Preparing a timeline with a checklist, organizing a cooperative effort with other churches, and establishing the best advertising methods are all important factors during this preparation stage. BCPM can help with this entire process.

 
7. Post-start Nurturing
Continue to find ways to nurture and be a blessing to the baby church. Send members over on Sundays to help with ushering, music, and nursery. Continue to help the new church with the evangelism and outreach. Provide resources such as curriculum and printing needs. The reproducing pastor can speak to the men of the new church about being faithful, supporting the new work, and taking care of the pastor. The nurturing relationship can go on for several years and is a vital source of strength for the new church.
 

Birthing a baby church in a needy area is very exciting, rewarding, and exhausting.  It is an opportunity to watch the Lord carry out His commission in reaching one more part of His creation. Churches should spend much time in prayer seeking the Lord and asking Him to establish local churches that will one day reproduce more churches.    

 

 

 


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