13 essential characteristics of effective replanters

By JimBo Stewart

Replanting a dying church is a unique undertaking, and over the past several years a new excitement and vision for this work has started to awaken and gain momentum.

Far too often I have seen churches and pastors settling for “what they can get.” The dying church feels they cannot hire a top-shelf pastor, and men who have struggled to find a church that will hire them settle for a dying church.

We are, however, starting to see a trend that brings me great joy: God calling some top-notch men to this gritty and glorious work.

The challenges of replanting require certain qualities in a pastor. The Replant Team has put together eight essential characteristics of effective replanters, but I would like to argue for five more.

I have been doing a lot of research on this particular subject and I came across some beneficial research from Steve Hudson, a Ph.D. graduate of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. His research identified competencies regularly found in men who have excelled at this work. I spoke with him, and we combined much of his research with the list NAMB already had.

Here is our updated list:

Visionary Shepherd — A visionary shepherd has the ability to sense and see God’s next steps for a congregation and the capacity to lead the church forward as a loving shepherd. He is patient, wise, strategic and relational.

Gospel Orientation — Gospel orientation refers to aligning the culture and practice of the church in such a way that the core doctrine of the gospel drives its mission and practice in preaching, managing conflict and leading organizational change.

Missional Focus — Replanters with a missional focus make it a priority to equip and mobilize the congregation to live life on mission in their community and beyond for the sake of Christ and His gospel.

Organizational Awareness — A replanter with organizational awareness is adept at understanding how power dynamics work within the church, anticipating how changes would be received, recognizing where change may produce friction and showing an awareness of how current practice and changes affected their position in the community in which they served.

Pastoral Grit — Pastoral grit is the ability to persevere through the inevitable difficulties of replanting and remain steadfast to shepherd the church forward as God uses the replanter to turn a dying church around.

Spousal Perseverance — The replanter’s wife possesses a love for Jesus and the church. She is emotionally and spiritually prepared for the challenges that come with replanting a dying church.

Resourceful Generalist — A resourceful generalist possesses the ability to speak into and lead in a variety of areas in order to lead the church well. There is no task beneath him.

Tactical Patience — Tactical patience is the ability to skillfully implement change at a pace that is appropriate to a specific congregation’s health and needs. It is about having the discernment of knowing when something must be changed and how it should be changed.

Initiative — The replant pastor with initiative leads the church with a passion rooted in biblical convictions and demonstrated in a bias for action. He proactively works to avoid problems, as well as finding or creating new opportunities.

Emotional Intelligence — Emotional intelligence is the capacity to be aware of, control and express one’s own emotions and to handle interpersonal relationships judiciously and empathetically.

Affinity for Multi-Generational Ministry – A Replant pastor with an affinity for multi-generational ministry is able to connect easily with both the young and old in his congregation so each group knows they are loved, valued and heard and so all ages are pastored well.

Respect for a Church’s Legacy – A pastor with respect for a church’s legacy knows how to love and build off of a church’s past without allowing people in the congregation to idolize it in an unhealthy way.

Willingness to Confront — The Replant Pastor with a willingness to confront is able to willingly (not eagerly) navigate conflict with directness, love, humility, patience and wisdom – driven by a love for the church and her members.

This website provides many resources for most of those traits, and I would highly encourage you to pursue them. We have some blog posts to fill in the gaps on these updated characteristics. We also are working on ways to equip and empower local associations to assess and develop potential replanters, based on this research.

I am praying that God will continue to increasingly call men who possess these characteristics and the biblical qualifications of a pastor to the work of replanting dying churches.

Published March 16, 2022

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JimBo Stewart

JimBo Stewart is a follower of Jesus, husband of Audrea, father of three, Replant Pastor of Redemption Church, Revitalization and Replanting Strategist for Jacksonville Baptist Association, co-founder of replantbootcamp.com, and currently pursuing a D.Min. in Church Revitalization at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary. He’s also a classic car enthusiast and (unsolicited) amateur food critic.